Tories claim 'secret NHS bail out' prepared last year

Lesley Griffiths Lesley Griffiths said health boards were given "flexibility" to meet financial targets

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The Welsh government was looking for savings last year to stop local health boards going into the red, despite insisting they would not be bailed out.

In November Health Minister Lesley Griffiths told the NHS not to expect any more cash.

But written answers to the Conservatives reveal officials began preparations for a £12.5m contingency fund between October and December.

The Welsh government eventually paid out a combined £12.4m to three boards.

The Tories accused Ms Griffiths of preparing a "secret bail out" - a charge strongly denied by her office - around the same time that she was warning NHS managers to balance their books because there would be no extra cash available at the end of the financial year.

Earlier this month she confirmed that Aneurin Bevan, Cwm Taf and Powys Teaching LHBs needed cash injections of about £4m each to break even.

Start Quote

It's quite clear that ministers had known a bail out would be needed for months.”

End Quote Andrew RT Davies Conservative opposition leader

The leeway granted to them amounts to about 0.2% of the £5.5bn budget for the NHS.

At the time, Ms Griffiths said the money was not a "bail out" and told the Senedd the cash came from a "contingency fund" in her department.

In a later written answer to the Tories she said civil servants made provisions during the third quarter of 2011/12 (October to December) in case "a small number of NHS organisations may require additional flexibility".

A fund of £12.5m was set aside for the purpose. The money was found from savings in the final quarter of the year from centrally-managed health budgets.

'Accountability'

Health board chiefs had to explain to her in writing why they needed the money before it was handed over.

Ms Griffiths said the boards will have to return an equivalent amount of their budget for the current financial year "to ensure accountability and equity with other NHS organisations".

Start Quote

Everyone in Wales welcomes the fact that we balanced the NHS budget - except the Tories”

End Quote A source close to Health Minister Lesley Griffiths

As well as being subject to an external review, the boards must commit not to draw down any additional funding for three years.

Conservative assembly leader Andrew RT Davies said: "It's quite clear that ministers had known a bailout would be needed for months.

"The figures suggest they were well aware of almost exactly how much would be required - yet there was absolutely no mention of this from either the first minister or his health chief."

A source close to the health minister said: "The Tories are talking utter and complete tosh.

"Everyone in Wales welcomes the fact that we balanced the NHS budget - except the Tories.

"Once again, they find themselves on completely the wrong side of public opinion."

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