Wales

Chief medical officer for Wales in NHS efficiency plea

Both staff and patients must do their bit to try to save NHS Wales money, says Wales' chief medical officer.

Dr Tony Jewell said the NHS must become more efficient by improving the quality of patient care, reducing waste and cutting unnecessary treatments.

His fourth annual report notes that overall health in Wales is improving but concludes that more must be done.

"Everyone needs to be engaged in making NHS Wales more efficient and effective," he said.

Earlier this week, the chief medical officer for Wales called for restrictions on smoking in the homes of children - and the cars they travel in - to protect them from second-hand smoke.

He also called for powers to be able to introduce tougher controls on alcohol to tackle "the binge drinking culture".

Launching the report, he said the NHS was and always would be a priority for the assembly government, with 40% of its budget being invested in health and social services.

But he added: "We must continue to work to become more efficient and effective in the way we deliver services in order to improve patient safety, sustainability and clinical quality."

During a visit to Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, Dr Jewell told BBC Wales it was "the only way" that Wales could manage the reduction in resources to its health service anticipated in the comprehensive spending review later this month.

He said he wanted to see a reduction in unnecessary or inappropriate procedures and fewer healthcare-associated infections.

These resulted in patients staying in hospital longer, ward closures and increased hospital waiting times, costing up to £50m per year, he said.

He also called for hospital treatments to be evidence-based, rather than undertaken simply because they have become accepted practice.

Dr Jewell's report underlined the need for waste to be cut out, with an estimated 50% of prescribed medicines not being taken as intended or at all by patients.

"We want to see good practice adopted on every ward and in every community practice," he said.

"Clinicians must ensure they do their upmost to adopt best practice or justify why they haven't."

In terms of patients, Dr Jewell said individuals had to do more for themselves.

"We can only tell people so much of the harms of smoking and drinking and the importance of eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise," he said.

"But more and more people require treatment for conditions related to obesity, smoking and alcohol abuse - preventable conditions that are draining the resources of the NHS."

The report also found that people in Wales were living longer, and that there was a reduction in heart-related deaths and, to a lesser extent, cancer-related deaths.

Health Minister Edwina Hart repeated the call for people to take responsibility for their health.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients' Association, welcomed the report's comments that efficiency drives in the NHS should not be delivered at the expense of patient safety.

She said: "We have been campaigning on the issue of healthcare-acquired infections for over 10 years and it is important that during this austerity drive, the NHS does not go backwards on any progress that has been made in this area."

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