Health care cuts in Wales could top £1.9bn

The health service in Wales may need to find up to £1.9 billion in savings over the next five years, according to the assembly government’s health minister.

Speaking at a public services summit in Cardiff on Friday, Edwina Hart will say that Wales is well placed to meet the funding challenge.

But she says it will need closer effective working.

However, she stresses that she believes the foundations to achieve the cuts are already in place.

“Last year alone NHS Wales achieved savings of over £200m, through measures such as reducing the length of time patients stay in hospital and reducing unnecessary admissions.

“This year we have an unprecedented target of savings £435 million – about 8% of the NHS budget.”

The public services event is the second to be held, and is focusing on health and social care.

Mrs Hart insists that one of her priorities is to create integrated services with strong partnerships.

“That means we must move further and faster to deliver the extra savings required,” she will tell the summit.

Last year, the 22 local health boards were scrapped and integrated with NHS trusts to give just seven health boards delivering health care across Wales.

Mrs Hart says she believes the new structure provides the building blocks to deliver more savings in the future.

Elderly care

But she says that issues such as an ageing population in Wales means that health bodies and local government must work more closely.

“The next fundamental stage is therefore a rebalancing of care so that more services are delivered in the community closer to people’s homes,” she will say in a keynote speech to the summit.

“We absolutely want to avoid people getting stuck in beds when they should never have been admitted in the first place, and we don’t want to see people discharged without proper recovery and then becoming significantly greater social care costs than they might otherwise have been.”

The summit was opened by the First Minister Carwyn Jones with a warning that the UK Budget and planned spending review in the autumn was “stark and potentially devastating for the most vulnerable.

“We have to take a radical look at how we work, redesigning the front-line services and streamlining corporate functions,” he said.

“The best place for us as leaders to learn what can be done with least damage is from those who provide our services and those who use them.”

Mr Jones said he was pledging to get “on the road” during the summer to meet public sector staff and the public.

He added: “I want to explain our approach and seek their expertise in protecting services and outcomes.

“I will use the authority I have to ensure that this expertise is translated into action.”