WLGA: Councils in Wales fear NHS shake-up bill

Flint protesters Protesters from Flint were outside the board meeting in St Asaph

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Welsh councils are concerned they may be forced to pick up the bill in the wake of the latest NHS shake-up if proposals are not properly costed.

Hywel Dda and Betsi Cadwaladr local health boards published their visions last week for north and west Wales.

The four other health authorities are expected to report in the coming weeks.

The body representing local authorities in Wales said it was worried the cost of offering more local care could fall on councils.

Previous attempts at restructuring the way health care is delivered in Wales have sparked angry protests from the public and politicians.

Start Quote

The problem that we've got is we know there is worse to come in terms of public expenditure cuts”

End Quote Steve Thomas Welsh Local Government Association

Controversial plans include the closure of some services such as neonatal and accident and emergency departments.

They also include transferring services to "centres of excellence" and more care being moved out of hospitals and into the community.

Critics say the health boards must provide greater financial detail to avoid what they call "cost shifting".

Speaking to The Wales Report, Steve Thomas of the Welsh Local Government Association said there was concern the financial burden of providing care more locally could fall on council shoulders.

"The point that's coming across from some parts of local government is that any proposals coming forward are properly costed so that we know the cost envelope that we are all working in," he said.

Mr Thomas said budget cuts would make working alongside the NHS tougher.

"The problem that we've got is we know there is worse to come in terms of public expenditure cuts," he said.

"We know it's going to get tougher and that things are going to become difficult, so working together and making sure we are not shunting costs and are pooling our budgets will be a key feature for public services."

'Shared problem'

Helen Birtwhistle, the NHS Confederation's chief executive, said she acknowledged these concerns.

"It's a shared problem, I think we recognise that. There is a lot of work still to do between the social care sector and the local authorities," she said.

However, she added that good working practices between the two bodies already existed.

"There are fantastic examples where that is working well in Wales, she said.

"And again, in the heat of all these discussions about what is closing, what is perceived as being taken away, at our peril we forget the good work that is being done and the progress being made in the way the health service is developing."

The Wales Report, BBC One Wales, Sunday nights at 22:25 GMT

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