Ann Jones, normally a fairly amelioratory character, is spitting blood over health issues in the North. Words such as “ridiculous” are ejected with venom against a decision by her own party’s health minister Edwina Hart.
Unfortunately, the disagreements by Mrs Jones, AM for Vale of Clwyd, combine with the weak devolution beliefs of some Labour AMs to produce a toxic brew that will no doubt cause trouble for the Yes campaign when it comes to mount a referendum for Scottish-style powers.
The issue came to a head over the past practice of patients from the North being sent to hospitals in Liverpool for routine treatment of heart complaints. As part of a gradual restructuring of the fiendishly-complicated NHS operative and financial regimes, Mrs Hart is trying to build up centres of excellence in Wales. Unfortunately, for heart-surgery (the big problem in the North, where patients are accostomed to being referred to Liverpool and Manchester), they are in the South.
Simon Thomas, senior adviser to Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, pointed out to me that the series of issues that have to be dealt with includes the “fiendishly high” charges that hospitals in England make for treating Welsh patients.
Mrs Jones’s weak-devolution beliefs had already been expressed in her attempt to delay the onset of the smoking ban in Wales from April 2 last year to the July date adopted in England. That (failed) bid was launched jointly with Karen Sinclair (Clwyd South), another devolution sceptic.
Now, I hear that Mrs Jones’s bile is reaching written form. She has completed a pamphlet for the Wales 20:20 devo-sceptic group run by fellow-sceptic, Merthyr and Rhymney AM Huw Lewis.
“It’s the next one,” Mrs Jones told me, “unless someone else beats me to it !” Now, with all respect to Ann, there can’t be that amount of competition. I’m sure she’s just winding me up.
And, in any case, there’s another way to look at the problems which exist between Wales and England over who pays for treating NHS patients, and how much. The short piece in The Independent yesterday was written in the context that Bristol hospitals seem at blame in refusing to accept patients from Wales.
But that is hardly the argument that a Welsh devo-sceptic would want to hear.