Wales politics

Health Minister Mark Drakeford warns boards on spending

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Media captionMark Drakeford said he would expect detailed explanations from managers about why they had failed to reach cost cutting targets

Health Minister Mark Drakeford has not ruled out the possibility some Welsh boards could fail to balance the books by the end of the financial year.

But Mark Drakeford, who took on the role earlier this month, said he was confident the Welsh NHS "as a whole" would "live within its means".

If boards do overspend he said he would expect detailed explanations.

He will want to know why they missed cost-cutting targets and would seek a "compelling set of reasons" from them.

His predecessor, Lesley Griffiths, had indicated she would be willing to sack managers if they did not succeed in balancing their books at the end of the financial year.

But Mr Drakeford, who was appointed in a surprise reshuffle this month, said he would not be thinking about "kneejerk reactions".

Mr Drakeford has been appointed at a time of major change and financial pressure on the NHS, as local health boards are putting forward plans to reorganise hospital services.

However, he did warn health boards that there could be consequences.

He said "I don't start from the view that getting rid of people and boards and so on should be the immediate reaction to what might happen - because I think you have to look at those explanations.

"But I want to be clear with health boards in Wales - that if I were to be convinced that the reasons why they haven't succeeded is that they have failed to take the actions that they could have taken and that other health boards have taken - then I do expect people to live up to those responsibilities."

'Adequate safeguards'

Mr Drakeford also confirmed that the Welsh government was looking to introduce changes to the way the NHS is funded so that budgets can be set over a three-year period, instead of on a yearly basis as is currently the case.

But he said he wanted safeguards to make sure that the health service did not use the new regime to rack up big deficits over three years.

"I can see a persuasive case to allow the health service to budget over a three-year cycle. But I think there are dangers in it.

"I would have to be very clear with the NHS in Wales that this isn't a "get out of jail card" or an excuse not to live within their means to rack up problems in the third year.

"We will have to be confident we have adequate safeguards so that it doesn't happen."

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