DOING more with less in the National Health Service cannot continue, the director of the Welsh NHS Confederation warned, following a stark report saying there could be a funding gap of up to £3.6 billion in Wales by 2025.
The independent report “A decade of austerity in Wales?”, commissioned by Welsh Government and published this week by the Nuffield Trust, lists an ageing population, rising hospital admissions for people with chronic disease, and increases in the cost of providing health care as pressures on Wales’ NHS which are set to grow.
Funding for the NHS in Wales increased in real terms each year between 1992/93 and 2010/11 by an average of 4.7 per cent a year, but this trend has since stopped.
Instead, funding fell by an average of 2.5 per cent a year in real terms between 2010/11 and 2012/13.
The Trust predicts funding is likely to continue to fall until 2015/16, when the total budget for the Welsh NHS is projected to be 3.6 per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2010/11.
Using trends, the Trust has predicted there will be a funding gap of £2.5 billion for the NHS in Wales by 2025/26, which would need further cuts worth 3.7 per cent a year in real terms after next year.
If the funding available for Wales’ NHS beyond 2015/16 rises at the same rate as is projected for the UK, the funding gap could be cut to £1.1 billion.
If not, that gap could be as large as £3.6 billion in real terms, the report stated.
The funding available for Welsh NHS is determined by the Welsh Government in their budget setting process.
The director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, Helen Birtwhistle, said the report clearly shows the NHS in Wales cannot continue to do things the way it does now.
“The NHS is still expected to do ‘more for less’,” she said. “That is not achievable and cannot continue.
“This is why health boards and trusts in Wales have been working hard to plan changes to the way services are delivered, rather than wait for this funding shortfall to happen.”
Health minister Mark Drakeford said these are the same challenges every healthcare system in the world faces in this age of austerity and insisted that despite “huge cuts...forced on Wales by Westminster” the NHS in Wales “continues to be affordable”.
He also said further cuts could still be made.
“In the immediate future as a result of...the huge effort of the NHS in Wales, the £1.2 billion gap the Nuffield report identifies can be reduced to £221 million by 2015/16,” he said, adding that he and finance minister Jane Hutt would work together over the summer to respond to the report.