Concerns have been raised this week about the Welsh Government’s review into the way the blood service – which deals with donations and transfusions – is organised in Wales.
Currently, the Welsh Blood Service operates in South, Mid and West Wales – but the North is covered by the UK’s National Blood Service, from its base in Liverpool.
A Freedom of Information request by ITV Wales’ Sharp End programme found that in December 2010, the then Health Minister Edwina Hart wrote to Anne Milton in the Department of Health, and in addition to the main subject of the letter, informed her that she’d already asked Local Health Boards in Wales to look into the costs and benefits of planning and securing a Wales-wide blood service.
Letter from Edwina Hart to Anne Milton:
Letter from Anne Milton in reply to Edwina Hart:
That review’s still ongoing – but this week the Shadow Health minister raised concerns in the chamber about the motivation behind it. Darren Millar AM, who represents Clwyd West says the Welsh Government needs to ‘come clean’ about its plans, and says he believes this has less to do with providing a better service, and more to do with making sure all health provision stays firmly within Welsh borders – regardless of the impact on patients.
His concerns are echoed by the BMA, who say they’ve yet to be consulted about any possible change in the way the system works. A consultant at Glan Clwyd hospital told Sharp End that he and his colleagues needed to be convinced that an all-Wales service would provide an equal or better service for patients compared to the ‘excellent’ one they already received, and added that there was always a worry that this could be a ‘political move’.
But this week First Minister Carwyn Jones denied that there was any intention to draw, in Darren Millar’s words, a ‘slate curtain’ along the border. He said his Government had no plans to make Welsh patients travel long distances for treatment that is best delivered closer to them – whether that’s in England or in Wales.
The new Health Minister Lesley Griffiths AM declined the offer of an interview. Her department said would be inappropriate to comment while the review is ongoing. The outcome is expected in the autumn, when we might find out whether this controversial idea is to become a relic of the old government – or a commitment of the new one.