No firm plan to transform Welsh health services, says National Assembly committee
The Welsh Government appears to have no firm plan in place to transform health services, despite dedicating around half its budget to the Welsh NHS, according to a National Assembly for Wales committee.
The Finance Committee has been examining the Government's proposals to spend its £16 billion budget in 2016-17.
Committee members concluded they hadn't seen enough evidence to show that the proposed increase in health spending of £245 million (or £132 million in real terms) to almost £7 billion, will lead to reform and service improvements, rather than funding inefficiencies or compensating for overspends.
The Committee also wants to see non-statutory services for local government - such as leisure centres, parks and libraries - continue as it believes they contribute significantly to the wider objective of a healthier Welsh population, with the focus more on prevention than treatment.
Further concerns were also raised about a proposed £41 million cut to the Higher Education pot which will, the Committee was told, impact on research, part-time places for students, and students wishing to study in Welsh. The Committee concluded the proposed allocation could limit rather than widen access and have asked for this to be reviewed.
An apparent lack of progress in the Welsh Government's plans to reduce poverty was highlighted, as was the potential impact budget allocations will have on service users trying to access specialist support in relation to domestic abuse and homelessness. The Committee wants to see front line services protected.
"One of our main considerations this year has been the allocation of almost half the Welsh Government's total budget to health," said Jocelyn Davies AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.
"While we do not doubt the allocations to health are needed, we remain concerned that there appears to be no firm plan for transforming the health service to ensure a focus on wellbeing and healthy living.
"The benefits of local government services such as leisure centres, parks and libraries, cannot be underestimated in terms of ensuring a healthy population. We envisage these sort of facilities playing a primary role in supporting the health of the Welsh nation.
"It was clear that a reduction in Higher Education funding will reduce the ability to prioritise widening access and will impact on students wishing to study part time, or through the medium of Welsh.
"Additionally, as a Committee we were concerned about how these cuts would impact on the level and quality of research being undertaken by Welsh universities."
The Committee makes 11 recommendations in its report, including:
- The Welsh Government commit to a visibly supportive approach where service transformation is needed and sought by the NHS
- The Welsh Government commit to undertaking work to limit the impact of cuts in non-statutory service areas in local government; and
- That allocations to Higher Education are revisited.
The Finance Committee's report on the Welsh Government draft budget will now be debated by the full National Assembly during Plenary at the Senedd on Tuesday 9 February.
Report: Finance Committee - Scrutiny of the Welsh Government Draft Budget for 2016-17 (PDF, 968 KB)
More information about the Finance Committee.