Wales Election 2016

Welsh election: Tories defend £1bn NHS savings claim

Andrew Atkinson
Image caption Tory candidate Andrew Atkinson made the comments on the Good Evening Wales radio programme

A Conservative claim £1bn savings, or 14%, could be found from the Welsh NHS's annual budget, has been defended by Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies.

On Monday, party candidate Andrew Atkinson said there was "around £1bn a year's worth" of waste in the NHS.

Mr Davies said on Tuesday the figure was based on comments to AMs by a senior NHS manager in 2009.

Rival parties have called Mr Atkinson's claim "wild, "ridiculous" and potentially "devastating" for the NHS.

'Clamp down'

The Conservatives have pledged to increase spending in the Welsh NHS in real terms over the next five years and say efficiency savings would be re-invested in the health budget.

The annual budget of the Welsh NHS is around £7bn and local health boards currently face efficiency savings of 3% a year.

Mr Atkinson, Conservative candidate for Wrexham, told BBC Radio Wales: "There is around £1bn a year's worth of waste in the NHS year on year.

"We would make sure that we clamp down on that waste to make sure we are using that budget more appropriately and in a more targeted way."

Image caption Andrew RT Davies says NHS cash must be spent 'wisely' and 'correctly'

Defending the £1bn claim, Mr Davies said: "This figure does stand there because it was given by the finance director at the time, in 2009, to an assembly finance committee, so I'm assuming he knew his brief and he was talking about the facts as he saw them.

"We've all known for some time that we need to move services out of the acute sector, i.e. big district general hospitals and into the community, because that's where most people like to be treated.

"We do know from the public health point of view as well that community pharmacists can play a far bigger role in delivering service as well, so those are two instant access points that can be developed in the community that can deliver a cheaper way of developing services."

Plaid Cymru has already set out plans for annual NHS savings of £300m, but its health spokeswoman Elin Jones said: "Plaid Cymru will not cut a single penny from the NHS budget, we are committed to investing in front line services such as more doctors and nurses and faster diagnosis.

"What the Tories are talking about here is the equivalent of around a seventh of the entire Welsh NHS budget and could have a devastating impact on services leading to even greater waiting times and fewer staff on hospital wards."

'Chronic underfunding'

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said the party believed the NHS "needs to be more efficient" but "to cost your policies on a billion pound of 'savings' is nothing short of ridiculous".

"The Tories will savagely cut our public services to the bone to fund their uncosted pledges," he warned.

UKIP said it would "conduct a full independent inquiry into the NHS in Wales to determine where there is flagrant waste and where we should put more resources into front-line services".

"There is chronic underfunding in certain departments leading to unacceptable waiting times and lack of treatment choice but also too much spent on middle management," a spokeswoman added.

Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said efficiency savings were a euphemism for cuts, and called on the Conservatives to provide evidence that the Welsh NHS was wasting £1bn a year.

"It's one thing to make wild claims, it's another thing to back them up," he said.

'It's almost as if they've decided they're not going to win, so they can make any number of promises."

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