Aberystwyth came to the Assembly today. Well, not actually the town but the people in their hundreds. They came to demonstrate because rumours abound that their district hospital is to be downgraded.
Politicians are never slow to get on a band waggon and this one is no exception, so up step Plaid Cymru with an accusation that the government is putting patients at risk with their proposals. Quoting research conducted by Sheffield University which concluded ‘increased journey distance to hospital appears to be associated with increased risk of mortality.’
Carwyn Jones responded ‘I would like to make it perfectly clear, there are no plans to close Bronglais hospital. There are no plans to downgrade Bronglais hospital. District General Hospitals – like Bronglais – will continue to be District General Hospitals. Our commitment to Bronglais is clear – and reinforced by the £38m investment we have made in the hospital over the past few years.’
So there you have it, or do you? Because what the First Minister goes on to say is that ‘In order to deliver on this commitment, and create a world class health service, we must take into account the pressures placed on the NHS by an ageing population and the advances in medical treatment.
Any changes that are proposed by any health board across Wales will be based on clinical evidence – and on the need to improve services. Any changes will then be scrutinised by experts on the National Clinical Forum and by local communities as well as the Welsh Government.’
What he’s saying is, lets get real, there aren’t limitless resources. And he’s right. You know and I know that times are tough.
In the real world, which the voter inhabits there is an understanding that the cash just ain’t there to do everything. It’s the real world. But politicians live in some parallel universe where cash can be thrown at every problem.
In the last few weeks alone, Conservative Janet Finch-Saunders demanded a freeze on Council taxes. Her leader demanded that Carwyn Jones, ‘stopped dithering and playing politics and got on with the job of delivering improvements in public services for the people of Wales.’ In other words spend more.
Last week Plaid spokesperson Alan Ffred Jones wanted ‘The Labour government. Our Small Business Job Protection Scheme would directly help any business with a ratable value of up to £18,000 ’“ over 80% of businesses in Wales – and I call on the Labour government to reconsider their rejection of these plans.’
Now politicians across the Assembly have got to get real. There ain’t enough cash to go around. You can blame Westminster but there you have it. The cupboard is bare.
With cuts in both revenue and capital expenditure, priorities have to be decided on. Politicians can’t have the penny and the bun. For the first time they may have to take decisions. Unpleasant, but necessary. Priorities. Yes, priorities should be the language of the time.