The NHS has been accused covering up “deeply disturbing” failings at Welsh hospitals, despite England’s most senior doctor calling for an investigation three months ago.

“Worrying and persistently high” death rates have been recorded at six Welsh hospitals, including University Hospital Wales in Cardiff, Royal Gwent in Newport, Princess of Wales in Bridgend and Royal Glamorgan in Llantristant.

The main issues have been attributed to waiting times, with A&E departments in Wales performing poorly when compared to England. There are also long delays for diagnostic tests and life-saving treatment.

For example, nearly 50% of patients in Wales are waiting at least six weeks for MRI scans and bowel cancer tests. Around 40% of patients had to wait as long for heart failure checks and basic ultrasounds. In England, less than 1% of patients are subject to such delays.

Last year the failings were brought to the attention of Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS England medical director. He received correspondence from Ann Clwyd MP, who believed the figures to be “extremely worrying”.

It has recently been revealed that Sir Bruce subsequently contacted his Welsh counterpart, Chris Jones, asking for an investigation to take place. In an email to the medical director of NHS Wales, Sir Bruce wrote:

“There are six hospitals with persistently high mortality rates which warrant investigating. Waiting times in A&E are considerably worse than in England, but the real concern is around prolonged waiting times for diagnostics which, of course, translates to delayed treatment.”

The email was sent over three months ago, but Sir Bruce did not receive a reply, nor was an investigation ordered. The revelations have sparked a political debate in Wales, and Labour (which has been in power since devolution) has been accused of covering up the failings.

Mrs Clywd, a Labour MP in Wales, said: “The situation is deeply disturbing. I have been calling for an inquiry into death rates for some time because several of the figures are extremely worrying.

“People in Wales ought to be able to have as good care as anywhere else, but instead here are people dying on hospital waiting lists, and suffering appalling failings in care.”

Unacceptable hospital care

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