Health minister announces £82m fund to help struggling health boards
An £82m contingency fund to help struggling health boards with their finances has been announced by Health Minster Lesley Griffiths.
The Welsh Government said the extra investment was to meet “unprecedented pressures and maintain quality of care”.
The £82m funding equates to approximately 1.5% of the overall NHS budget.
It follows a report by the Auditor General for Wales last month which predicted the NHS in Wales would end the financial year £70m in the red.
But Ms Griffiths insisted the fund was “absolutely not a bail out”.
The announcement came as part of a Mid Year Review into NHS finances, which looks the efforts the NHS is making to maintain performance and delivery levels.
This includes faster stroke treatment, reductions in healthcare acquired infections, and improvements in reducing orthopaedic waits.
But the review also shows a 10% increase in hospital admissions for patients aged 85 and over – beyond forecast projections – which is placing significant strain on the NHS.
Ms Griffiths said: “While the review shows a number of quality improvements this year within NHS Wales, changing demographics are having a greater impact on the NHS than originally forecast.
“A knock-on effect of the rise in emergency admissions for the over 85s means planned services may be disrupted, as lengths of stay in hospital for older people is longer, which means other patients scheduled to have an operation may be affected.
“Disruption to emergency services over a sustained period therefore has an effect on planned services, meaning a risk of targets being missed.
“This additional funding will allow the NHS to manage current pressures and maintain quality of care.It is important to recognise that, in financial terms, the NHS presents one of the most challenging operating environments.
“That is why I have made a commitment to introduce changes to the NHS finance regime, including a review of how we can provide additional financial flexibility arrangements as recommended by the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee. I will be announcing further information on this shortly.
“The review also strongly supports the assertion that service change is necessary to secure sustainable health services for the future.
“Service change, which will include an expansion of community-based healthcare, will help put health services on a firmer footing by helping keep people out of hospital.”
Speaking in front of the National Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee this morning, Ms Griffiths denied the contingency fund was a bail-out for health boards.
She said: “It is absolutely not a bail out at all. It became very clear as went through the year that I had to have a close look at performance.
“This money has come from my own budget I have been very honest and up-front about the challenges that the NHS is facing. It’s absolutely not a bail out, I think it shows good financial management. I have to make sure we are protecting services and I really don’t see how it’s a bail out.”
But Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: “The minister is predictably denying that this is a bailout.
“The minister has plugged a hole in the NHS’ finances by raiding its capital budget.
“I struggle to see how this can be described as anything other than a bailout.”
And she added: “The basic fact is that this Welsh Labour Government has completely mismanaged our health service and has left the finances of the NHS in complete ruins.
“Simply rejigging money around is not going to solve all of the problems in our NHS.”
David Sissling, chief executive of the NHS in Wales, said: “The basis on which the £82m was determined has been through health board predictions. It’s very much in line with the findings of the Wales Audit Office with some further assessment that we have made. We need to make sure we get this right.”