Most people in Wales now accept that poor lifestyle choices aren't just affecting their health, they're placing pressure on the NHS. That's according to findings from the Welsh NHS Confederation:
"A real realisation that our behaviours, whether we drink, smoke, eat unhealthly, don't get enough exercise... has an impact on how we use health services. And also a realisation that healthcare is a finite resource and that people have to use our health services better and more wisely."
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Following opposition criticism of the news that three health boards overspent their budgets last year, the Welsh Government has issued the following statement:
Overall, the health and social care budget for Wales came in on target in 2013-14, as a result of hard work, prudent financial management and additional funding from Welsh Government to manage specific pressures in the Welsh NHS. Those health boards and NHS trusts, which have demonstrated they have robust plans in place, now have the flexibility to plan their finances over three years.
The Auditor General has qualified the accounts of three health boards but this does not affect patient care or staff working in the NHS. The Health Minister has made it clear we will not continue to provide additional funding to organisations, which do not have robust plans in place and continue to incur deficits year on year.
Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar says the news that three health boards failed to keep within their budgets is 'an unprecedented embarrassment to Carwyn Jones.' He said,
This is an unprecedented embarrassment to Carwyn Jones’ Labour Government and lays bare the scale of Welsh Labour’s record-breaking NHS cuts.
It provides clear evidence that in spite of multi-million pound in year bailouts, Ministers have not provided the Welsh health service with the cash it needs to deliver the services that patients require.
The Welsh Labour Government has starved the NHS of resources for far too long and ignored successive warnings from a growing chorus of voices that health boards were in the red and couldn't make ends meet.
With waiting times spiralling out of control and the ambulance service failing to perform, it is Welsh patients who are paying the price for Labour's health cuts.
Unless immediate action is taken to secure additional investment in the Welsh NHS, the black hole in Labour's health finances looks only set to get even bigger in the coming years and patients will continue to suffer.
The Welsh Government says NHS spending in Wales has been brought under control, despite a warning from the Auditor General over three health boards which overspent their budgets. Health Minister Mark Drakeford said,
I am pleased to be able to confirm today that despite the significant service and financial pressures facing the NHS in Wales and the increasing demands being placed on the Welsh Government’s health and social services budget, expenditure for 2013-14 was successfully managed within the overall resources approved by the National Assembly for Wales.
He's told health boards that they will not be bailed out if they fail to keep within budget. Regarding the three which have overspent, he said, 'this must be addressed.'
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has a robust and approved plan going forward and the Welsh Government is continuing to work with Hywel Dda University Health Board to ensure they develop robust plans to improve service and financial planning for the future.
The Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery, led by Sir Paul Williams, has recognised the issues facing Powys teaching Health Board and has made recommendations for the future.
Three health boards which overspent their budgets have been given an unprecedented 'qualified' sign-off by the Auditor General for Wales.
The boards are Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Powys Teaching Health Board.
Two other boards - Betsi Cadwaladr and Cwm Taf - only managed to stay within budget by receiving extra funds from the Welsh Government.
The Auditor General, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said:
I have today signed off the last of the 10 NHS accounts for 2013-14 – three of which I have qualified. This is unprecedented in Wales and something which I will be commenting on in much more detail in the autumn when I publish my annual report into NHS finances.
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Details have been unveiled of a major £50m investment in NHS services.
The Welsh Government hopes it will help ease pressure on the health service by preventing unnecessary admissions and delayed discharges from hospital and residential care.
It says the Intermediate Care Fund will invest in services that support older people, particularly the frail elderly, to maintain their independence and remain in their own home.
The Welsh Government says it will read a new report into the finances of NHS Wales "with interest."
The report by the Public Accounts Committee found that NHS Wales finances are improving, but "cannot yet be given a clean bill of health."
We thank the Committee for their work, and will read the report with interest. We are encouraged by their opening remarks that much progress has been made.
In addition, as the new NHS Finance Wales Bill comes into force in April this year, we know that health boards will be able to deliver better integrated service, workforce and financial planning.
A new report by a Committee in the National Assembly says the state of NHS Wales finances are improving, but "cannot yet be given a clean bill of health."
The Public Accounts Committee report also expressed "significant concerns" about the controls in place to assist Health Boards plan more flexibly.
The funding of NHS Wales remains a huge challenge and while significant efforts have been made by those working with the Welsh health service to make the immediate savings needed to break even, there is a still a great deal more that needs to be done.
The Committee welcomes some of the progress made by the Welsh Government in addressing health finances, particularly with regards to more flexible arrangements, as that is something we have called for ourselves in previous reports.
However, we have significant concerns about the controls in place to assist Health Boards in planning more flexibly, and we want to see more stringent accountability of senior managers and greater transparency regarding financial planning.
It was disturbing that a simple request for up to date figures regarding NHS Wales' financial position was not met for two months afterwards. We believe the Welsh Government should publish monthly financial updates for NHS Wales in a further commitment to transparency and accountability.
Finally, the Committee believes that bailing out health boards, most recently to the tune of £200 million, simply isn't sustainable.
People need to have faith that their health services are being delivered effectively, within their means and without drastic measures such as surgery cancellations and closing wards to temporarily balance the books.
We urge the Welsh Government to take on board our recommendations.