'More to health than NHS' warning from auditor general

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Media captionHuw Vaughan Thomas calls for modern, safe and affordable health services

The cost of treating ill-health in Wales will use an increasing share of the public purse, the head of a spending watchdog has warned.

Auditor General Huw Vaughan Thomas called for an urgent and far-reaching debate on how much the Welsh government could afford to spend on the NHS.

The Wales Audit Office said ministers gave the NHS an extra £200m in 2013/14.

Mr Vaughan Thomas warned funds could be diverted from other services which would help prevent ill-health.

The comments coincide with the publication of the Wales Audit Office's annual assessment of NHS funding and performance.

It showed that more than £90m was redirected from departments such as education to help local health boards balance their books.

Even so, three health boards - Cardiff and Vale, Hywel Dda and Powys - will have to repay deficits of around £19m each.


Mr Vaughan Thomas told BBC Wales that "a healthy Wales isn't just about the NHS", warning that cuts to other budgets could also have an impact.

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Image caption The auditor general warns there is more to the nation's health than NHS spending

"By consuming more and more resources for treatment, it's failing to do some of the preventative work," he said of the NHS.

"That requires more expenditure by local authorities and others, so we need to look at public expenditure in the round to prevent as well as treat ill-health."

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Media captionGeraint Norman, lead author of the report, said the NHS in Wales needs to think long term

The Welsh government said it welcomed the report, showing that the health and social care budget "came in on target as a result of hard work, prudent financial management and additional funding to manage specific pressures in the Welsh NHS".

But a spokesperson added that "the Welsh NHS needs to carry on making changes to the way services are delivered if it is to continue providing quality, effective and sustainable services, free at the point of need to the people of Wales".

The Welsh NHS Confederation said it was pleased the report recognised the savings made by health boards in the face of austerity, but added that efficiency savings alone would not be enough to solve what it called "a significant funding gap".

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