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Change is 'best hope for NHS'

The Wales Audit Office says current measures to stop overspending in the NHS are not sustainable. It says proposals for radical reconfiguration of the health service are the best hope for the future.

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Hospital shake up 'essential to financial future'

The Welsh NHS did not to overspend in 2012/13 but only met its financial targets by postponing some patients' non-urgent treatment and other 'unsustainable' measures. The Wales Audit Office also found some key services had got worse and that it will be a struggle to avoid a further deterioration.

The Welsh NHS has worked hard to achieve financial break-even in 2012-13. But breaking-even is a small part of the story. NHS bodies reported around £190 million of savings in 2012-13: a significant sum despite being some £100 million less than the previous year. Some of these reported savings appear to be overstated and NHS bodies are reliant on unsustainable one-off savings to achieve break-even. Some NHS bodies reduced planned procedures to help them manage emergency service and financial pressures.

Service performance on some key patient-focused areas has worsened. Waiting times for planned treatments have deteriorated over the past three years, with a growing number of patients waiting more than six months for their treatment. Performance in emergency care has also fallen although the reasons for this are complex- emergency departments are increasingly stretched meaning patients are waiting longer to be treated or admitted than in the past three years.”

– Auditor General for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas

The audit report says public spending cuts will last for several more years, with most of the easy saving already made. It sees reconfiguration of hospital services as the best hope for a sustainable Welsh NHS but "the pace of change is restricted by significant public and political opposition".

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