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Friday, March 28, 2008

Who is protecting our health workers?

I have not had much time to refer to the current controversy over the protection of Welsh health workers until now. However, having reviewed all the reports and taken in the snippets of interviews I caught on Radio Wales, I have to say that I agree with Alun Michael, Baroness Ilora Finlay and a number of other commentators. It cannot be right that NHS workers in Wales have any less protection than those in England.

Health Minister, Edwina Hart, may well be correct when she says that the important thing is to have practical and effective measures in place to protect staff and I hope that she will have proposals to implement very soon. However, whatever her working party comes up with should surely be additional and complementary to the extra legal protection on offer.

I can see no logical reason why the Welsh Assembly Government might want to opt out of these criminal justice measures. It really does look like they were more concerned about making a point about devolution rather looking after the interests of the staff.
Legal protection is no protection at all. It will only instruct the judiciary to what sentence must be passed when some one has done x y an z to the victim. Or instruct a police officer when to remove some one from an A+E department when x y and z criteria have been encounterd, even though they have common law powers to do this anyway.

And as the argument goes, Welsh NHS workers won't have equal legal rights as their counterparts in England, but they'll have a better working environment if practical measures are brought in.

And the issue you brought up on Ms Hart using this as a point to show the divergence of devolution. Surely this is why the assembly was created in the first place? Subsidiarity and all that Jazz!
Additional legal protection is actually very important and without it Welsh workers will be worse off than their English counterparts. I have no problems with Edwina Hart's additional practical measures, in fact they are part of the added value that devolution brings. If however, you look upon devolution as doing things differently for the sake if it irrespective of the consequences then what support it has will not last very long.
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