Plaid MS challenges First Minister over future financial cuts at health board
A Plaid Cymru MS has challenged the Welsh Government to come clean over future funding cuts for health boards after the health minister told an NHS audience this week “You ain’t seen nothing yet” when it comes to future funding pressures.
Llyr Gruffudd, who represents North Wales, raised the matter in questions to First Minister Mark Drakeford – challenging him on whether this meant in-year cuts would take place for health boards such as Betsi Cadwaladr health board.
At the NHS Federation Dinner on Monday, health minister Eluned Morgan suggested further restrictions would be imposed on spending for health boards in Wales, including Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which is currently in special measures following recent years of financial difficulties and irregularities.
In the context of cuts for health boards in Wales, the Health Minister stated: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Today, the Welsh Government announced that all seven health boards across Wales would be placed under escalated financial monitoring due to “extreme financial challenges”. The Health Minister said she was preparing people for “difficult choices” due to cuts with overspending predicted at £800 million by the spring of 2024.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, the largest in Wales, has been at the centre of a succession of financial scandals and concerns since 2012, leading to the sacking of non-executive directors from the board earlier this year.
In September 2022, incorrect and deliberate misstatements were revealed in the 2021-22 financial year accounts.
More recently, it was revealed that one of the board’s former directors of nursing and midwifery had been paid three times the maximum salary that was allowed under Welsh Government rules. Gaynor Thomason was paid the equivalent of £465,000 a year during her time in the post.
During First Minister’s Questions, Llyr Gruffydd challenged the Government and their mismanagement of the board’s finances by emphasising that “the pressures are huge” as the prospects of further budget restrictions loom. He asked the First Minister to confirm whether in-year cuts to this year’s budget would need to be made.
Following the debate, Llyr Gruffydd added: “While the Government is tightening the spending for boards in Wales, substantial amounts of money are being wasted and mismanaged in the largest and most overstretched health board in Wales. We know that UK funding has been an issue for 15 years now but it’s no good the First Minister always hiding behind the tired old mantra of blaming UK Government funding when he fails to accept that senior management at Betsi has squandered millions on expensive management consultants and been complacent in retaining, training and recruiting staff to improve services. The money spent could be better used to pay for more doctors and nurses or providing new facilities for a service in crisis.
“The Welsh Government must be clear on the future of North Wales’s health services. If they foresee spending cuts, the people of Wales deserve answers as it is their health at stake.”