Headlines: April 4th, 2008

Consultations have begun on plans for sweeping changes to the NHS in Wales. The proposals, unveiled by Welsh Assembly Health Minister Edwina Hart, are designed to make further reductions in bureaucracy, remove the internal market and improve patient care.

The proposals, which are out to consultation for three months, were published as three new NHS Trusts came into being following the merger of seven former bodies. The plans would see the abolition of the internal market by providing funding directly to Trusts from the Assembly Government or an NHS Board for Wales and Local Health Boards. There are three options for creating a Board for Wales, it could be a Special Health Authority, a Civil Service Board, or an Advisory Board. Then plans would also see the number of Local Health Boards reduced from 22 to 8.

Mrs Hart said the ultimate aim was to improve care and the patient experience. “Work is already well under way in Wales to reduce bureaucracy and remove artificial boundaries within the NHS,” she said and added, “This new simplified structure will provide better joint working between hospitals, further career opportunities for staff, easier access to a wider range of health professionals and with smaller management, more money can be channelled to frontline services to improve patient care.” The proposals, the Minister said, were not driven by issues of cost and the proposed changes would be achieved within current finances.

The Welsh Assembly Government was committed to the end of the internal market by the One Wales document and it is seen as part of a wider drive to encourage co-operation rather than competition in public services.