Phil Parry says Wales is failing in its care for people with disabilities.
The treatment of disabled people is a key area where Wales can be marked out as different from England.
We are failing.
A world renowned expert on disability law believes Wales is a poor relation to England. Specifically, Professor Luke Clements at Cardiff university, says guidance issued by the Welsh government is a pale shadow of the support notes coming out of Whitehall.
They do not stress the rights of disabled people to ‘independent living’, unlike in England, or make any ringing affirmation of the concept, as enshrined in Article 19 of the UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, attempts by the government in Cardiff bay to limit personalised direct payments he says, are quite wrong.
Professor Clements knows what he is talking about.
He is the lead coordinator of a project based at the university offering legal support for carers of disabled children all over Britain, who are unsure of their rights. A central issue is often ensuring disabled children have full and proper access to education. If he says we are doing worse than England, those in charge need to sit up and take notice.
It is shameful.
His shocking comments come hard on the heels of other disgraceful events in Welsh health care. On the Tawel Fan ward in Denbighshire’s Glan Clwyd hospital mentally ill patients were treated “like animals” according to their loved ones.
They were abused, taunted about their past loved lives and often injured themselves as they crawled across the floor which had puddles of urine. Families complained constantly to officials but nothing was done until footage recorded on a mobile phone, and smuggled into the ward, proved they were telling the truth. Journalists (not in Wales) exposed what was going on and, of course, an investigation and report then followed.
It comes as it is revealed the former head of the health board responsible, Mary Burrows, has moved to London in order to receive expensive cancer treatment which is unavailable in Wales.
The Welsh health minister, Mark Drakeford, has issued a heartfelt apology.
There have been at least three recent police investigations at hospitals in Wales into the way patients are treated.
The Eye has reported allegation at one Welsh hospital where it is alleged by a whistleblower that one elderly woman, suffering from a stroke, was slapped in her bed by the person who was meant to look after her. There are further allegations of assault, and it is said records were tampered with. Other whistleblowers, who recently worked at the hospital, have come to light.
Yet we go blithely on.
Devolution, we are told, has brought a “Welsh solution to Welsh problems”.
When practices in the Welsh NHS came under fire – it was not from our own media in Wales but from the Daily Mail in London. Attacks on their reports were tinged with Welsh nationalism. In other words – ‘how dare these journalists from outside Wales come here and tell us how to run our health service’.
But the root of what was being said – ignore the politics – was correct.
The NHS in Wales has major problems.
Some believe the Welsh Health Minister should go further than simply apologising and should resign. Professor Clements said on disability guidance there was an emphasis on “doing the minimum necessary” in Wales. This was “profoundly wrong”.
His verdict could apply to the whole NHS in Wales.