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'Truth revealed in Drakeford letters'.

Byline: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter

ATORY MP says letters between UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford prove the Welsh Government is trying to duck out of a commitment to co-operate with an inquiry comparing the performance of the NHS in the four home nations.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) wants to undertake such a study, with the results published before next May's General Election.

We have seen correspondence showing Mr Drakeford apparently agreeing to such a timetable.

Since then, however, the Welsh Government has objected, saying it is unhappy about a draft of the whole report being disclosed to the Department of Health in London before the Cardiff-based administration has had a chance to verify the facts in it.

It says this only became apparent during detailed discussions between officials and led to the Welsh Government putting off OECD officials from visiting Wales.

Monmouth Tory MP David Davies said: "These damning documents prove beyond any doubt that Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government will do anything to prevent their handling of the NHS in Wales being compared with its English counterpart.

"Labour has been running the NHS in Wales for 15 years. We have longer waiting lists, fewer cancer drugs and there have been signifi-cant cuts in funding.

"Mark Drakeford has been trying to spin that he is happy for an inquiry, yet despite signing up for one with a timescale that would see a comparative report published before the General Election, he is now trying to change the rules of the game to make sure an OECD report won't be ready in time."

A spokesman for Mr Drakeford responded: "The content of these letters prove only one thing - that the Welsh Government is fully committed to taking part in an OECD review of health services in Wales. That remains the case."

A Welsh Government source said: "The Department for Health in England should be above this. Sadly they're behaving like a backoffice of the Conservative campaign headquarters. The latest four nation review of the NHS nailed the Tory lies about health in Wales - it said all UK health systems were operating at a similar level. That's why they're desperate to stack the deck this time around, but they've been rumbled."

The Welsh Government says if there can't be agreement on the terms of the inquiry, it will commission an inquiry of its own from the OECD. But the UK Government says that would not be a comparative study of how all four nations deliver NHS services.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 10, 2014
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