THE UK Government has been told to back off from attempting to “involve themselves in devolved areas” after a row over NHS waiting times.

The row erupted after the UK Health Secretary claimed he is “open to requests” from patients in Scotland and Wales to be treated by NHS England amid record waiting lists.

Steve Barclay invited Scottish and Welsh ministers to discuss “what lessons can be learnt” from approaches taken by different governments to the health service across the UK.

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He claimed that the two nations have worse NHS delays than England in some areas - a claim robustly disputed by both devolved administrations.

However, both Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson and the Welsh Government hit back at the suggestion and criticised the UK Government’s record.

Matheson (below) pointed to junior doctor's strikes impacting services in England, strikes that the Scottish Government have managed to avoid going ahead.

The National: Michael Matheson

In England, waiting lists hit a record 7.57 million people in June alone, leading Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to make one of his key priorities bringing the number down.

In a press release, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said there are “significant variations” in NHS waiting times between the four UK nations.

“In Wales, more than 73,000 people are waiting over 77 weeks for treatment, and at least 21,600 people are waiting over 78 weeks for an outpatient, day case or inpatient appointment in Scotland,” it said.

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“In England, waiting times for patients over 78 weeks have been virtually eliminated.”

Scottish Health Secretary Matheson pointed to record waiting lists and ongoing strikes hitting the NHS England as examples of problems affecting the service south of the border.

“The NHS in England is about to experience its fifth round of strikes by junior doctors, with the waiting list for hospital treatment rising by over 100,000 to a record high of over 7.5 million as a result of the UK Government’s refusal to even get around the negotiating table,” he said.

“Rather than attempting to involve themselves in devolved areas, the UK Government would be well served focusing on tackling the many issues in the health service south of the border.

“In contrast, the Scottish Government has negotiated constructively and made significant commitments to our junior doctors – which is why we are the only part of the UK to have avoided strike action in our NHS this year.”

The Welsh Government did not take kindly to the attack from the UK Government either.

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“Wales includes more referrals in its waiting times statistics than England does,” a spokesman said.

“Long waiting times are falling every month in Wales and have more than halved in the past year.

“The overall growth in waiting lists in Wales has been smaller in Wales than in England over the last 12 months – it grew by 3.6% in Wales and by 12.1% in England. Wales has also outperformed England in major emergency department performance in nine out of the last 10 months.

The National: Barclay has been criticised for the attack on devolved governmentsBarclay has been criticised for the attack on devolved governments

“In Wales, patients are treated according to clinical urgency.”

Wales Secretary David TC Davies insisted his Cabinet colleague’s invitation was an attempt to “put people before politics”, telling Times Radio many of his constituents say they would “love” to be treated in England.

But shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “The only advice the Tories are qualified to offer is how to wreck the NHS and cause the biggest strikes in its history.”

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Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson told Sky News on Sunday that Barclay is “the last person anyone needs a lecture from” on how to run the NHS.

She accused the UK Government of creating a “total shambles” in the NHS and said devolved governments are restricted in what they can do by budgets determined in Westminster.