Gibbons Urged To ‘Come Clean’ Over Health Trust Remark

Labour has been forced to clarify its plans for the NHS when the Health Minister was accused by the opposition of casting doubt over the future of hospital trusts. Brian Gibbons told a hustings that trusts had reached the end of their lives, opposition parties said.

Labour insisted it was not going to embark on a major NHS reorganisation or scrap hospital trusts after Dr Gibbon’s comments were pounced on. The party simply wanted to make trusts’ boards more accountable, a spokeswoman said.

The Liberal Democrats demanded Labour come clean while the Tories, who are proposing to scrap Wales’s 22 local health boards, called for urgent clarification.

It is not the first time Dr Gibbons, who was speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Healthcare Managers, has been involved in a misunderstanding. Last year he helped trigger an inquiry into the ambulance service, which he opposed, by accidentally pressing the wrong button on his desktop-voting console in the Assembly chamber.

A Labour spokeswoman said: “Our manifesto makes it clear that the governance of trusts in their current form needs reform, to make the boards more responsive to the local populations they serve and to the Welsh Assembly Government, and to clarify where accountabilities lie. It’s all about the way they are overseen and making them more accountable.”

The party manifesto says: “We will reform the way NHS trusts are managed so as to end for good the Tory model of competition for patients and resources and improve trust accountability to local communities.” It adds that the Welsh NHS will be defined by “collaboration, not competition” and an independent analysis will be commissioned into the way the NHS is managed.

Lib Dem health spokeswoman Jenny Randerson said: “We’re offering people a no-meddling guarantee at this election. We want to let doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists get on with the job.”

Tory health spokesman Jonathan Morgan said: “Welsh Conservatives have been up-front and honest in our manifesto about our plans for the structure of the National Health Service. It is absolutely vital that Brian Gibbons and the Labour Party do the same.”