Wales politics

New £450m NHS cash 'not generous because of austerity'

Doctors Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Welsh Government is providing an extra £450m over two years for the NHS

Extra money for the NHS in Wales is not a "generous settlement" but will let it "go on doing the vital work it does", the finance secretary has said.

Mark Drakeford said he was unable to inject more money into health because of the UK government's "flawed and foolish policies of austerity".

The Welsh Government announced extra funding for the NHS as part of its £15.3bn draft budget for 2018-19.

The UK government said it had made a significant increase to Wales' budget.

Meanwhile Debbie Willcox of the Welsh Local Government Association has warned that councils will have to rise council tax by 5%.

Over the next two years, £450m of extra funding has been earmarked for the Welsh health service - £230m in 2018-19, which officials said represented an increase of around 1% taking account of inflation, and £220m in 2019-20.

However, the figure is lower than the amount health experts predict the service needs to keep up with rising costs.

"I'm not saying at all that that is a generous settlement for the health service", Mr Drakeford said.

Image caption Mark Drakeford said he wished he could do more

The finance secretary said: "We believe from everything that we have done with the health service in Wales that it will be enough, with everything they have to do as well to find further efficiencies in the future, to allow the health service in Wales to go on doing the vital work it does.

"I absolutely wish I was in a position to do more than I'm able to do," he said. "If our budgets were not being cut every single year by the UK government's flawed and foolish policies of austerity, we would be able to do that."

The Health Foundation said the additional funding was a "positive announcement" but that recent efficiencies of around 1% a year would need to be maintained "to allow for maximum funding for long term transformation and sustainability".

The think-tank said a lifting of the 1% pay cap in the Welsh NHS without additional funding from the Treasury in Westminster would "substantially increase the pressure on existing budgets".

Public sector wages have been frozen or capped at a 1% annual increase rise since 2010, but it was announced in September that police officers would get a 1% rise plus a 1% bonus, with prison officers getting a 1.7% rise - both funded from existing budgets.

A spokesman for HM Treasury said: "We already announced in the spring budget that the Welsh Government's budget will increase by £200m. This is in addition to the £400m increase at Autumn Statement 2016.

"This significant increase to the Welsh Government's budget provides it with the opportunity to take its own spending decisions to support public services and growth in Wales."

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