Welsh NHS: £50m fund to ease pressure - David Sissling

David Sissling David Sissling says the Welsh government is working with health boards to analyse their deficits

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The chief executive of the Welsh NHS says a £50m contingency fund has been set aside which could be used to balance the books.

David Sissling said he agreed with an assessment that the NHS faces the risk of a £70m deficit this financial year.

The Wales Audit Office (WAO) has warned about a worst case scenario of the NHS being £130m in the red by April 2013.

Mr Sissling told AMs the Welsh government had to manage the risks of financial pressure on the NHS.

Based on local health boards' (LHB) figures, the WAO's most likely scenario is that the NHS will have an end-of-year deficit of about £70m, but it could be "significantly higher".

The warning last week came days after Mr Sissling told BBC Wales he was confident LHBs would balance the books.

Start Quote

We always knew this year there would be pressure in the system”

End Quote David Sissling Welsh NHS chief executive

Appearing before the assembly's public accounts committee on Tuesday, Mr Sissling agreed with the "realistic and reasonable assessment of the scale of pressure in the NHS".

"What we are accepting is that is the level of pressure and therefore pressure means we have to respond.

"We always knew this year there would be pressure in the system.

"Part of our role in looking at that pressure and in a sense the risk associated with the pressure is to ensure we've got strategies and plans to allow that risk to be managed, to make sure that if necessary we can provide the right kind of intervention and support and ensure that there will be a break-even and appropriate year-end position."

A contingency fund of 1% - worth about £50m - has been set aside, he told AMs. Decisions on how to spend it were "something to be determined by the minister as the year unfolds".

"Clearly we will explore options to develop it further if needs be," he added.

Elderly patients

Mr Sissling has submitted the findings of a mid-year review to Health Minister Lesley Griffiths who is expected to make a statement week.

The review found the service was facing increasing pressure, particularly from elderly patients who need to be seen immediately.

Committee chairman Darren Millar asked if the Welsh government was sending out "mixed messages" by requiring health boards to live within their means, while on the other hand reassuring NHS finance directors that "at least there's £50m in the bank to help us if we need it".

Mr Sissling said LHBs were addressing the pressures on them.

"The idea that somehow the health boards and trusts are sat waiting for central assistance is entirely wrong. They are doing an enormous amount," he said.

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