NHS Wales in crisis

A crisis of underfunding

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Long-term underfunding is destroying the NHS inWales. Funding for all public services is determined by the 'Barnett Formula', which robs Wales of around £300 million annually compared to England (estimated by Holtham Commission in 2009).

The Welsh Labour government decides where the money goes and has not 'ring-fenced' NHS spending (as in England and Scotland) leading to bigger relative cuts. Welsh Labour accepts and administers Tory cuts passively and as a result Welsh people have a derelict NHS and collapsing local government.

NHS funding in Wales fell by an average of 2.5% a year in real terms between 2010 and 2013. Despite the Welsh government coming up with extra money in 2013-14, it is projected that by 2016 the Welsh NHS budget will still be 3.6% lower compared to 2010. The Nuffield Trust estimates a funding gap that could be as much as £3.6 billion by 2025.

Labour's 'modernisation' of the NHS in Wales includes downgrading of maternity units, A&E departments and the loss of 2,000 hospital beds. This means reduced access to health care for many in Wales, especially for those without a car, the elderly, disabled people and some of the poorest communities with the furthest to travel.

The fightback has come from local community campaigns set up in the face of these cuts, while the leadership of Wales Trades Union Congress (TUC) and health unions turn a blind eye because of their unwavering loyalty to Welsh Labour.

In Rhyl 2,000 people protested in February against downgrading of maternity services which would mean life threatening journeys for women and new born babies in distress. The campaign won a reprieve as a judicial review put a hold on these plans.

Similarly, hundreds of people from West Wales descended on the Senedd (Wales National Assembly, Cardiff) in April to protest about the downgrading of their local district general hospital.

And Socialist Party members in Caerphilly helped organise a march of hundreds to demand doctor-led A&E provision at the new Yysbyty Ystrad Fawr.

One of the symptoms of neglect is the significant problem with recruitment and retention of staff. One-third of Welsh medical graduates choose not to work in Wales when qualified and the Welsh NHS has 400 junior doctor vacancies. There are also concerns about nursing staffing levels and skills mix in Welsh hospitals. This of course leads to more spending on agency staff which feeds rather than resolves the problem.

Neglect in funding is leading to neglect of people. The Andrews report unearthed failings in care provided to older people in Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot hospitals. Currently, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board has been placed under 'special measures' with a shocking discovery of "institutional abuse" on a mental health ward.

Funding for the NHS in Wales should be determined by the needs of the population, not by shrinking budgets from a Tory government hell bent on attacking the working class and a Welsh Labour government with no backbone to fight!

Austerity in Wales is having a detrimental effect on the health of the population at a time when funding for health is dwindling. We must demand the Wales TUC and health unions lead on a fightback to protect the health of Wales and link this to a fightback involving the whole of the UK to reclaim the NHS.

Claire Job


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