Dear Prime Minister,
During the recent election campaign – and even before the campaign started – you made a number of attacks on the NHS in Wales, claiming that the border between our two countries marked the difference between life and death, and that the Labour Party shouldn’t be trusted to run anything. All good knockabout stuff, and when it comes to the Labour Party I’m with you one hundred per cent.
Which means that I’m not writing this in defence of Carwyn Jones and his gang, many of whom seem to be abandoning ship ahead of next year’s Welsh Assembly elections (with three announcing in recent days that they’re standing down). No, my concern is that your regular attacks on the running of the NHS in Wales gives too many people the wrong impression of my country, suggesting that we Welsh are incompetent or incapable of running anything. So I think it’s time to put you straight.
You may have heard that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which covers the whole of the north, and its population (2011 census) of 687,937, has been placed in special measures by the ‘Welsh’ Government, with its chief executive suspended. That our largest health board is in trouble should surprise no one, once they’re acquainted with the facts.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that elderly people inevitably put greater demands on the NHS than younger age groups. In north Wales there are 138,325 people over the age of sixty-five, making up some 20% of the population, a figure well above the Welsh average of 18.4 per cent. But what is even more striking is that of the over sixty-fives in northern Wales 61,644, or 44.6 per cent of the total, were born in England.
Within that headline figure there are of course variations. In the local authority area of Conwy just 37.1% 0f the over 65s were born in Wales. Where I live, in southern Gwynedd, the five electoral wards between (and including) Barmouth and Aberdyfi have a combined population of just over ten thousand people . . . of whom nearly one fifth are English pensioners! Or to put it another way, in these five wards only 31.6% of the over 65s are Welsh. And only 43.9% of the total population. Do you think there’s an area of rural England where the English make up less than a third of the 65+ age group, and less than half of the total population? I very much doubt it. You English wouldn’t stand for it.
These figures are quite remarkable, and go a long way to explaining why the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is up Shit Creek. And of course it’s not just the NHS that suffers, other overstretched Welsh budgets must pay for home help and all the other services elderly people need, for many of them have no family living locally, having, effectively, been abandoned in Wales.
Though it’s not just the elderly from England that put a strain on Welsh services. Let me explain the next problem with a question. Where do you think you’d find Wales’ ‘hotspot’ for crime and anti-social behaviour? Some sink estate in Swansea or Cardiff maybe, or some post-industrial wasteland in the former mining valleys? Wrong and wrong – it’s Rhyl; sunny, seaside Rhyl or, to be exact, west Rhyl. Now why do you think that is? Save the old grey matter, I’ll tell you.
For decades Rhyl and the towns along our northern coast have been used as a dumping ground for criminals, paedophiles, drug addicts and others that Liverpool, Manchester and other places in north west England want rid of. These undesirables have been relocated by English local authorities, charities, the Probation Service and other agencies. Another route is social housing, for Welsh housing associations and councils are locked into an Englandandwales allocation system that sees someone making themselves homeless in Stoke on Trent ‘qualifying’ immediately for accommodation in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant ahead of all locals.
Those I am dealing with here are of course footloose, non-working and benefit-dependent; many with long-term health problems caused by substance abuse and a generally chaotic lifestyle. These, again, put a much greater strain on the Welsh NHS, and other services – not least the police – than others in their age groups. And again, this is a problem that is imposed on Wales (often surreptitiously), making extra calls on our already stretched resources.
These problems I have described are not confined to the north of Wales, they are merely worse there. The issues that afflict Rhyl are now spreading along our coasts, and even inland. The problem of social housing in Wales being used to accommodate white trash from England is now a national problem, but noticeable in rural and coastal areas because so many of the indigenous Welsh have left due to the lack of employment opportunities. And it goes without saying that this unwanted influx is having a very damaging effect on the Welsh language and Welsh cultural identity generally.
The only reason I’m writing this is because although everyone is aware of the problems I’ve listed most people are afraid to speak out in case your attack-dogs in the media start barking ‘racist’ or ‘anti-English’. Though there are also those who feign ignorance. Among these is your new MP for the Vale of Clwyd, Dr James Davies, who focused his recent election campaign on the decline of Rhyl and the state of the NHS in Wales. A campaign from which facts were scrupulously excluded – no wonder you’ve taken a shine to him!
There we are, I’ve had my say. Let me conclude by suggesting that if you and your government are genuinely concerned about the NHS and other deteriorating services in Wales, then there’s a simple option open to you. You can either cough up more money for us to look after people who are in reality England’s responsibility, or you can stop dumping England’s problems in Wales.
P.S. Pass this on to your boy Jimbo. He obviously needs to learn the truth about what’s happening in his constituency.
cc the Welsh media and the Welsh political class. Both too scared to speak the truth. They deserve each other.