Wales politics

Two health boards set to overspend, health minister warns

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Two Welsh health boards are unlikely to break even this year, the health minister has warned.

Mark Drakeford said he thought the Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda health boards were the ones "most likely to struggle to live within their means".

But he said he was unwilling to repeat the NHS bail-outs of previous years.

Three health boards overspent by a total of £50m in 2014-15 despite an extra £240m given to the Welsh NHS to cover the cost of winter pressures.

On Thursday, Mr Drakeford told AMs on the health committee he would not give LHBs "extra money at the end of the year to make it look as if they have lived within their means".

The health boards which overspent in 2014-15 were:

  • Betsi Cadwaladr (north Wales) - £26m overspend
  • Cardiff and Vale - £21m overspend
  • Hywel Dda (west Wales) - £7.5m overspend

Mr Drakeford said he was very hopeful that the Aneurin Bevan, Cwm Taf and Powys health boards, as well as the Velindre NHS Trust, had the ability to improve their financial situations.

But he said he was "a little less confident" about the Cardiff and Vale health board, and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg.

In December 2013, Welsh health boards were given approval to balance their books over a three-year period rather than annually.

A spokesman for the Betsi Cadwaladr board said it expected a deficit of £19.7m for 2015-16, or 1.5% of its budget.

"While clearly disappointing, this represents the significant operational challenges affecting the Health Board, including those unique circumstances which have resulted in the Health Board being placed in special measures," he said.

"The appointment of a permanent Chief Executive, along with developing a medium term strategy for safe and sustainable clinical services, will be critical to enable the Health Board to balance over future years."

Hywel Dda chief executive Steve Moore said it was "working closely" with Welsh ministers on its finances and grateful for their support "in meeting some of the issues that we face, particularly our significant workforce challenges".

"We acknowledge the need to live within our means and have saving plans in place to demonstrate improvement and progress towards our three year Integrated Medium Term Plan," he said.

'Dire state'

Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar added: "Despite assurances that there will be no bailouts this time, it remains concerning that at least two health boards are going to struggle to break even this year.

"This dire state of affairs is symptomatic of Labour's failure to protect the health budget in recent years, and highlights the lack of progress being made at Betsi Cadwaladr health board."

In England, the NHS overspent by £930m in three months in 2015, and is on course for an annual deficit of at least £2bn, in what regulators described as its worst financial crisis in a generation.

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