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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 March 2013

New faces - same Welsh Labour NHS cuts!

Ronnie Job, Socialist Party Wales

Welsh Labour has been playing musical chairs with the ministers' positions in the Welsh Government.

The most significant change is the replacement of Lesley Griffiths with Mark Drakeford as Minister of Health.

The press in Wales has speculated that this is an attempt to head off demonstrations over NHS cuts at the Welsh Labour Party Conference on 22-24 March.

The conference is being held in Llandudno, in North Wales.

One of the Welsh Government's headline casualties has been the closure of specialist neonatal care units all across North Wales, meaning that the nearest provider of this essential service will not be in Wales at all but on the Wirral.

This has provoked a rash of demonstrations in Wrexham, Llandudno, Flint and Blaenau Ffestiniog among others.

Perhaps the fear of conference protests has led to the reshuffle and First Minister, Carwyn Jones, deciding to look again at the issue of neonatal care.

No confidence

Griffiths, the outgoing health ministe, only just survived a vote of no-confidence over alleged collusion between the Welsh Government and Marcus Longley, the supposedly independent consultant whose report is being used to justify cuts.

Her replacement, Drakeford, is a spokesman for the Welsh Labour Left.

But it's a token gesture. At his swearing in yesterday, Drakeford was quite clear that he will continue with Griffiths' cuts and "see the process through and bring it to a conclusion".

Drakeford warned that Wales's seven health boards will have to stay within their budgets. He said: "Health organisations have to work within their budget."

Health board funding has been cut by almost 300 million this year compared to last year - about 5% of their total budget.

This comes on top of 1 billion cut from the Wales NHS budget since 2005!

Labour might publicly announce a reversal of the North Wales neonatal policy at their Welsh Conference. In the context of the same cuts to budgets, then it will mean harsher cuts elsewhere.

But such a U-turn will send a clear message that the Welsh Government can be forced to retreat by communities fighting back.

Health campaigners across North Wales would take heart as would those in South Wales fighting the plan to reduce the number of A&E units to four or five (serving two million people).

We now need to link up all our campaigns to fight every Welsh Labour NHS cut.

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In The Socialist 20 March 2013:


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