Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Column, February 15, 2005

THERE are a lot of things you need when you have heart trouble.
The best possible care for a start, better diet, no cigarettes and less stress.
I’m no expert in cardiac care, but I’m willing to stick my neck out on this one. I’m guessing that a 200-mile round trip for tests is probably not high on the treatment options that heart specialists have at their disposal.
When it comes to quality care, they probably don’t say: “No what you need is a nice trip down the A55, then the M56, then a nice sit in a Manchester traffic jam just to get you good and wound-up.”
I’m thinking that they might prefer another treatment regime for their patients. And yet this is exactly what the shower masquerading as the Welsh Assembly Government have foisted upon the people of North Wales.
There’s a unit in Bangor perfectly capable of administering angiograms, it was built just three years ago at a cost of £1m, but now its having to do other work because the Assembly won’t give the funds to carry out the tests there.
So into your cars you get, and pray your test doesn’t fall on a Friday when just to compound your misery you will be spending the journey home in the stationary queues of holidaymakers travelling to the North Wales coast.
In Cardiff city centre stands a statue of Nye Bevan, architect of the NHS, and it’s a wonder it hasn’t been dragged down by the lackeys of the Welsh Assembly Government so intent are they on ripping up his legacy and depriving us of whatever benefits we might think a lifetime contributing to National Insurance might entitle us to. Not very much it would appear. Not a dentist certainly, despite the vain promises of Tony Blair, and certainly not heart tests on your doorstep, despite the obvious detrimental effect a 200-mile journey is going to have on someone with a heart condition.
Would anyone else in the country put up with this sort of thing? Would people in London happily travel to Birmingham for something as routine as an angiogram? I’m suspecting that if you started suggesting to Londoners that they would have to set off up the M1 for their heart test, heads would roll at the Deprtment of Health.
But in poor old second class Wales shuffling patients around the country like just so many cattle has become par for the course. It doesn’t matter if they complain because Welsh health is so poor the chances are they won’t be around for too long to moan eh?
Of course there’s a glib answer and that is that a unit for the whole region is being built at Glan Clwyd, but that won’t be open until 2006. And let’s face it the Bangor unit was only built three years ago and yet its now not getting the funding it needs to carry out the tests. It’s all very well building new facilities, but if you won’t fund the staff to put in them to do the work then they’re small comfort to the people who need them.
But then this is the latest mess with health that the assembly has made. Jane Hutt presided over the utter fiasco of waiting lists until she was shown the door by Rhodri Morgan.
I wonder if the Assembly is keeping track of the numbers of people suffering heart conditions in North Wales who die awaiting treatment and whether the journeys to Manchester cause a rise in mortality.
When the NHS was set up to care for us from the cradle to the grave I don’t think it was envisaged that it would shuffle us between the two quite as quickly as the Assembly is apparently planning.

FURTHER to the, not entirely surprising, revelation that Jesus had Welsh blood, in last week’s column, Iolo Griffiths, e-mails to remind me that Wales has more holy connections than that.
“You might also be aware of the allegation a couple of years ago that the Virgin Mary was buried in Llanerchymedd (perhaps she was visiting relatives!). King Arthur is allegedly descended from Joseph of Arimathea, so perhaps he could have been eligible to play rugby for Israel!
Do I believe these claims? As a born-again Christian I am very sceptical about something which has such tenuous historical and biblical support, but you have to admit this theory is quite fascinating, even if it is far-fetched.”
Far-fetched or not it’s all beginning to add up. Your head positively spins with the possibilities. Of course the clues have been there all along haven’t they.
Wales – God’s own country, where we speak, wait for it, the language of heaven. Coincidence? I think not.
Any publisher daft enough, sorry, willing to pay me a stonking great advance to cobble together the above into a farrago of cod mythology and conspiracy theory, please contact me at the above e-mail address.

I HAVE a theory regarding the stunning success of the Wales rugby team, who made short work of the Italians on Saturday.
Our neighbours appear to be ready to place an order for spoons, wooden, one for every ticket holder at Twickers, but I digress and intrude into grief so back to my theory.
The more like a boyband they look, the better they do. Gavin Henson is all spiky hair and shiny boots. Now the new hero is Shane Williams whose disturbingly-coloured hair is reminiscent of some exotic bird of paradise, a fast one at that.
Where the theory falls to the floor is in the pack, who, with the best will in the world, will not be adorning many a teenage girl’s bedroom wall. And it would be a brave man who suggested they start shaving their legs like Henson – if Adam Jones started now he wouldn’t be finished in time for the Stade de France.

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