Everybody needs good neighbours (allegedly)

It’s common practice for cross-border neighbours to share facilities and services. Denmark and Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, even across that Border on whose length nobody can agree in Ireland: hospitals, buses, sewers … they’re all shareable – and shared.

Looking at the Health Boards, it’s been encouraging to see Betsi Cadwaladr’s progress in repatriating services. It’s as important as it could be for patients to have the services they need within reach. In the normal course of events, it would still make sense for patients in both countries to be able to benefit from particular services provided in the other. It would indeed make sense for our Health Boards to make long-term plans predicated upon the availability of such services.

However, some of our administrators are contemplating co-operation with health bodies in a country where the politician in charge of Health is Jeremy Hunt.

The basic argument for cross-border collaboration would be, I take it, that the relevant clinical cohort in this country is not big enough to maintain certain specialisms at a feasible level. However, such collaboration will only be viable in more than the short term in normal circumstances. And what those of us of a certain vintage have considered normal circumstances for most of our lives are rapidly coming to an end. Jeremy Hunt is one of those people – common in the USA, and becoming alarming noticeable this side of the Atlantic – who consider the NHS a Bad Thing. They not only wish to abolish the slightest traces of public health care in the USA, but have an evangelical zeal for spreading their creed.

In this context, the new Welsh Secretary’s barrage of messages to all manner of voluntary organizations is a cause for concern. As Tories go, he himself is a minor irritant, rather than a clear and present danger to decent values. Many of you will, quite accurately, point out that the position of Welsh Secretary is, to a large extent, a non-job. I take the point, and indeed would confirm it with the fact that the astute Peter Hain has dropped the meta-non-job of Shadow Welsh Secretary in order to spend more time with his directorships. However, the post itself is not the germane to my concern. It is no more than a juridical conduit whereby the UK Government channels miscellaneous determinations into public life here.

Whether or not David Jones realizes that the organizations he bombards with messages are engaged in devolved matters is not the central point. His predecessor did not know who the First Minister was, and so we should not be surprised were Jones not to understand the provisions of the Government of Wales Acts. However, he is acting as if our National Assembly and Government did not exist. And he is a member of the UK Government. That worries me. It should worry all of us.

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