HEALTH board bosses have been asked to reveal where they plan to make spending cuts in Gwent because of the Welsh Labour Government’s “embarrassing stewardship” of NHS Wales.
Monmouth MP David Davies has written to Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to find out what cuts are going to be made and the impact this will have on local services.
It comes as NHS leaders from across Wales are set to attend a crisis meeting with First Minister Mark Drakeford in mid-August to discuss budgets, with practitioners becoming increasingly concerned about how the health service will cope as inflationary pressures continue to mount.
Mr Davies, who serves as Secretary of State for Wales, said a “proper explanation” was owed from the Welsh Government about its priorities after “failing to protect” health spending.
When presenting the Welsh Government’s annual report to the Senedd on 11 July, Mr Drakeford told MSs: “The challenges faced during the past 12 months were unprecedented – a combination of economic and fiscal pressures produced by one of the most difficult financial situations that this nation has ever experienced.
“While progress in the second year of our programme has been significant, the current year is already much more difficult, and the next financial year is set to be more difficult still. In this year, our settlement is worth up to £900m less in real terms than was expected when it was set by the current Prime Minister, who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in October 2021.
“Our capital budget will be five per cent lower in real terms next year than last year, because of the inexplicable failure of the UK Government to invest in public infrastructure at a time when interest rates were low. All of this has direct, unavoidable and adverse consequences for the delivery of our programme for government.”
The First Minister added that more than £1bn in additional funding had been committed to the NHS in Wales over the course of this Senedd term to help it recover from the pandemic and to reduce waiting times.
Mr Davies, who serves as Secretary of State for Wales, said the Welsh Government receives 20 per cent more funding for the NHS than in England and Labour needs to be held accountable for the “appalling” way it has run the health service in Wales since the start of devolution.
“At the heart of the NHS is the core principle that healthcare is available for everybody and free at the point of use, which I will always support. Last month’s landmark 75th birthday saw us celebrate and thank the hardworking staff and volunteers that have supported the health service, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Davies.
“I want to see the NHS survive and strengthen for the next 75 years, which is why we cannot ignore the problems within our Welsh NHS and why it is deeply concerning that the Welsh Labour Government appears to be telling NHS boards in Wales to make service cuts.
“The fact is that for every pound per head spent in England, the NHS in Wales has £1.20 to spend. Yet in Wales we are seeing longer waiting lists and now the prospect of cuts to services.
“We need a proper explanation from the Welsh Government about their priories. We know that more than £100m has been misspent by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, yet the Welsh Government has sacked the commissioners who pointed that out and refused to publish the report that identified problems.
“Both BMA Cymru and the Royal College of Nursing have issued dire warnings about the state of NHS Wales, where there is barely a 50/50 chance of an ambulance arriving on time. There are over 30,000 patients still waiting two years for treatment following the pandemic, despite the fact two-year waits have been virtually eliminated elsewhere in the UK. Locally, we have well-reported problems at The Grange University Hospital in Llanfrechfa where I have repeatedly called for a public inquiry into failings there.
“On top of that, we know that money has been wasted in other policy areas. According to the Institute of Welsh Affairs, the Welsh Government spent £150m on the M4 relief road that it decided to cancel.”
The Conservative Party sees the state of the NHS in Wales as a key issue in advance of the next general election, expected to be held in 2024. Mr Davies said he would be reminding people of Labour’s failures during the election campaign.
He added: “In England, the UK Government has always protected health spending. That simply hasn’t happened in Wales. Yet the Welsh Government has had the benefit of Barnett consequential funding that provides it with 20 per cent more funding for the NHS than in England.
“You would think that UK Labour would want to draw attention to the part of the UK where its party has been in power since the start of devolution and in charge of the health service. Yet the likes of Keir Starmer shy away from referring to that. Clearly, they are embarrassed by Welsh Labour’s stewardship of the NHS, despite the extra funding they have had.
“We shall certainly be drawing people’s attention to the appalling way in which Labour has run the NHS in Wales during the general election campaign, when it comes.”
Commenting on the forthcoming meeting with health board leaders, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Health Minister meets regularly with NHS leaders on all aspects of performance, including finance, especially as we prepare for next year’s budget.
“Given the seriousness of the current financial position – our budget this year, after the UK Spring Budget in March, is up to £900m lower in real terms than we expected at the time of the 2021 spending review – the First Minister is keen to stay updated about activity across all Welsh Government departments.”