The Welsh Conservative party has claimed that it will be possible for the Welsh NHS to save in excess of £1 billion from its annual budget.
This surprising claim was made by party candidate Andrew Atkinson, who pointed to needless waste in the current health service.
Rival parties have described Atkinson’s claim as “wild, “ridiculous” and potentially “devastating” for the NHS.
The Conservative party in Wales had previously pledged to increase spending in the Welsh NHS in real terms over a 5-year period.
Efficiency savings are to be reinvested in the NHS budget rather than eliminated from the health service completely.
But critics have suggested that the claims are little short of completely ludicrous considering the existing situation in the Welsh NHS.
The annual budget of the health service in Wales is only £7 billion, with local health boards currently being set efficiency saving targets.
Yet Atkinson, Conservative candidate for Wrexham, claimed that “there is around £1 billion a year’s worth of waste in the NHS year on year. We would make sure that we clamp down on that waste to make sure we are using that budget more appropriately and in a more targeted way.”
Welsh Tory leader Andrew Davies also defended the £1 billion figure, indicating that it had been acquired from previous discussion on the matter.
“This figure does stand there because it was given by the finance director at the time, in 2009, to an assembly finance committee, so I’m assuming he knew his brief and he was talking about the facts as he saw them. We’ve all known for some time that we need to move services out of the acute sector, i.e. big district general hospitals and into the community, because that’s where most people like to be treated.”
Davies also suggested some of the ways in which the health service in Wales can save money in the future.
“We do know from the public health point of view as well that community pharmacists can play a far bigger role in delivering service as well, so those are two instant access points that can be developed in the community that can deliver a cheaper way of developing services.”
The major opposition party in the Welsh parliament, Plaid Cymru, has previously indicated its intention to make £300 million worth of efficiency savings on a yearly basis.
Nonetheless, its health spokeswoman Elin Jones was critical of the Tory plan, which she considers to be devastating.
“Plaid Cymru will not cut a single penny from the NHS budget, we are committed to investing in front line services such as more doctors and nurses and faster diagnosis. What the Tories are talking about here is the equivalent of around a seventh of the entire Welsh NHS budget and could have a devastating impact on services leading to even greater waiting times and fewer staff on hospital wards.”
The NHS as a whole has been tasked with achieving over £20 billion of efficiency savings by the end of the decade.