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Findings are a pre-Assembly election present for Labour; Health Correspondent Mark Smith on the report which gives First Minister Carwyn Jones a major boost.

THE report from the OECD may be the best election present Carwyn Jones could have had.

The respected global body's conclusions may not be entirely positive for the Welsh NHS, but they give him the perfect answer to the ferocious criticisms levelled at his stewardship of it by the Conservatives.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have ruthlessly and consistently attacked Welsh Labour in the House of Commons over its handling of health services in Wales.

On numerous occasions, the pair have publicly denounced the Welsh Government's record on the NHS, with Mr Cameron controversially describing Offa's Dyke as the "line between life and death".

Mr Hunt claimed patients in Wales received a "second-class" health service, even describing the state of the NHS in Wales was "a national scandal".

Some Cameron supporters would argue the attack was justified after recent figures revealed waiting times for NHS treatments, such as cataracts, hernias and some heart operations, were longer in Wales than England.

But according to the OECD, "no consistent picture emerges of the United Kingdom's four health systems performing better than another".

It even goes on to state it would be "naive to imagine that any one of the four systems would ever emerge as plainly 'better or worse than another.'" ."

However, overall, this report is not uniformly positive about any of the nation's health systems.

The concerns over survival rates for many types of cancer is "average or disappointing", which is not what patients want to see. And the concerns raised about health boards echo the problems we see on a regular basis.

However, the report still helps Labour present a positive spin on the Welsh NHS at a time the Health Secretary is caught up in a heated contract dispute with junior doctors in England.

The First Minister has called on Mr Cameron and Mr Hunt to apologise to the 84,000 NHS staff in Wales for undermining their quality of care.

And Wales' Health Minister Mark Drakeford said the independent report, which analysed the last two years, said the report "put to bed the lie".

Both sides of the argument will admit neither healthcare service is perfect - far from it - but the report should at least put to rest the argument that one is outperforming the other.

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 13, 2016
Words:382
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