A Welsh government minister has accused the UK’s health secretary of “a cheap political stunt” after he suggested patients in Scotland and Wales could be treated in England to reduce waiting lists.
Steve Barclay said he was “open to requests” for patients who had been waiting a long time for treatment.
Health is a devolved matter and comes under the responsibility of the Labour government in Wales and SNP in Scotland.
Wales’s health minister Eluned Morgan said the offer from her English counterpart seemed “very odd”.
Recent figures showed 5% of patients on waiting lists in England had been waiting more than a year at the end of June.
The Welsh government said it did not have official figures on the number of individual patients waiting to start treatment.
NHS Wales figures show around 18% of patient pathways were waiting more than a year.
Patient pathways is the total number of waits not the number of individual patients on waiting lists and some patients may be on more than one pathway.
“I think it’s a cheap political stunt for the summer and it seems very odd for a man who’s got 7.5 million people waiting on lists in England to be offering this kind of service beyond his borders,” Baroness Morgan said.
“Where on earth he’d find the capacity from I don’t know, but if the offer’s free then I certainly would want to take it up but my guess is this is just a cheap political stunt.”
The health minister acknowledged Wales was “challenged” when it came to waiting lists but cautioned against direct comparisons due to the different ways waiting lists are measured either side of the border.
“The fact is that we are challenged in terms of waiting lists in Wales but we count very differently, we include for example the number of people waiting for therapies,” the minister added.
“The number of people waiting for diagnostics. None of that is counted so you do have to compare like with like and we don’t do that when it does come to waiting lists.”
Scotland’s health secretary Michael Matheson suggested Westminster should concentrate on the “many issues south of the border”, such as doctors’ strikes.
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Mr Barclay also suggested he would like to see closer working between governments on health, a suggestion backed by Baroness Morgan.
“We’re more than happy to cooperate,” she said.
“In the past we used to have weekly meetings with UK health ministers, but since Steve Barclay’s been in power since October, we’ve had two.
“So this is a man who suddenly seems very converted to the cause of devolution when he wants to score a political point.”