Welsh NHS boards may go £50m in red despite extra cash

Financial reports show health boards are struggling to make ends meet, even after an injection of cash.

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Health boards face a potential shortfall of nearly £50m, despite a warning from the Welsh government that they will not be bailed out.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths has offered local health boards (LHBs) an extra £103m, but told them not to expect any more.

But financial reports show LHBs struggling to make ends meet, even after an injection of cash.

The Conservatives have warned the NHS is in "dire financial crisis".

Only one of the seven health boards - Betsi Cadwaladr, which covers north Wales - is predicting it will break even by the end of the financial year in March, and even then says its underlying position is of concern.

'Risks'

Of the other LHBs:

  • Cwm Taf has received an extra £17m from the Welsh government and is still forecasting a shortfall of £9.5m.
  • Hywel Dda received £33m extra, but faces a £4m deficit.
  • Aneurin Bevan is warning of serious risks to its financial position, even after receiving £17m from the government. It says it is looking at a worst case scenario of £13m and a best case scenario of £6m losses at the end of the year.
  • Powys is projecting an overspend of around £3m after £15m extra from the government.
  • Cardiff and Vale says it will report a revised figure to its board next week, but its projected deficit was £31.5m before an extra £17m from the government, meaning the shortfall could be around £14m.
  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg says it is forecasting a £3m deficit following £17m in additional funding, but adds it is "managing the risks".

LHBs are legally obliged to break even at the end of every financial year.

Mrs Griffiths announced in October that £103m had been set aside for the NHS, but warned there would be no repeat of previous years' bail-outs.

In an interview with BBC Radio Wales last week, she said she had "spelled out very clearly that they (LHBs) must come in on financial target this year".

"We haven't got any more money and they know that and they really know that they have to hit their financial targets," she said.

The Welsh NHS Confederation, which represents boards, says LHBs are "working towards" breaking even, but the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated.

'Vast bill'

Its director, Helen Birtwhistle, said: "The minister has been very clear that she expects health boards to break even and this is what health boards are working towards.

"The additional money the minister has made available will undoubtedly help, but no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge.

"Health boards are continually working on plans to identify savings and change the way services are delivered so that they can keep improving services whilst also living within their means."

The assembly's cross-party health committee has warned that an extra £83m set aside for next year may not be enough to "address the funding difficulties which LHBs have already identified in the current year".

A spokesman for the health minister said NHS managers would be held to account for the financial management of their organisations in the light of the additional funding allocated in October.

Conservative health spokesman Darren Millar said: "The NHS is in dire financial crisis and these figures amount to a vast bill for the Welsh government.

"Labour's stubborn refusal to protect the health budget and prioritise the NHS has led health boards into a mire of unprecedented debt.

"These figures should act as a sobering wake-up call for the health minister."

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: "There are too many inconsistencies in efficiency and performance across the seven LHBs. If one LHB can break even or meet its targets, why can't others follow best practice?"

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