Health Minister Lesley Griffiths defends NHS 'vision'

Operating theatre (generic) The Welsh government says the status quo in the NHS is "unsustainable"

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The health minister has defended her overhaul of the NHS in Wales and insisted that no general hospitals will be downgraded.

The new policy announced by Lesley Griffiths will lead to the centralisation of some services and more patients being treated at home.

"It's to ensure better outcomes, it's not downgrading at all," she said.

But Plaid Cymru said there was "very little commitment" to district hospitals.

The minister set out Labour's "vision" for meeting the challenges of the NHS in Wales over the next five years in a statement to the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The policy document "Together for Health" stated that new targets for treating cancer, heart disease and strokes will be published within six months.

The Welsh government has a long-standing ambition to treat more people at home instead of in hospitals.

Ms Griffiths insisted that no district general hospitals will close.

Start Quote

I don't want to hear anything about downgrading. What we want to see is improved services right across Wales”

End Quote Lesley Griffiths Health minister

"None will be downgraded," she told BBC Radio Wales. "I don't want to hear anything about downgrading. What we want to see is improved services right across Wales."

'Clinical evidence'

"If services are taken out of a district general hospital and put into the community or elsewhere, they have to be better services and there has to be good clinical evidence," she added.

Ms Griffiths said that if a patient wants a better outcome "they may have to travel that bit further and at the end of the day, surely that's what patients want for themselves".

The minister said further details were expected before the end of the year. "I haven't seen any of the plans yet. The plans will be coming to me later this month to have a look at and until then we don't know what's going to happen," she said.

Labour has accused Plaid Cymru of "peddling myths" about its health policy but Plaid's health spokesperson Elin Jones said she feared a "significant downgrading" of services, including surgery and consultant delivered maternity care.

'Groundhog day'

"We accept that there will need to be change. The NHS is always changing," Ms Jones told BBC Wales.

"My main concern regarding yesterday's statement is that there is very little commitment to the network of district general hospitals that we have throughout Wales that provides the very basic routine services," she added.

On Tuesday Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said that after three strategic plans for the NHS since devolution, the statement felt like "Groundhog Day".

Conservative assembly leader Andrew RT Davies criticised the government for taking so long to present its plans for the health service after May's election, when health takes up 40% of its budget.

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