As we previously warned, NHS deficits in Wales are larger than ever before. The impact of inflation, rising energy costs, the elective care backlog, rocketing levels of demand on the health and care system, COVID, stretched resource, old estates and infrastructure and non-recurrent funding are all compounding the current financial position and outlook.
According to the calendar, spring has sprung (even if the weather isn’t indicating so). The clocks have gone forward, end of year finances reviewed, business plans signed off, budgets published and priorities established for the coming financial year.
The laser focus on public sector finances continues, as budgets are painstakingly squeezed and scrutinised. As we previously warned, NHS deficits in Wales are larger than ever before. The impact of inflation, rising energy costs, the elective care backlog, rocketing levels of demand on the health and care system, COVID, stretched resource, old estates and infrastructure and non-recurrent funding are all compounding the current financial position and outlook.
If we’re going to meet the needs of the population now and in the future, we need a long-term investment plan and clear, deliverable priorities for the health and care sector. This must include investment in NHS buildings and infrastructure. Without longer-term financial clarity, there’s only so far the NHS can go in training, recruiting and developing a workforce that can meet future demand and deliver service transformation. Moreover, all sectors must work together to tackle inequalities and respond to the cost-of-living crisis to prevent further harm to the most vulnerable in our society.
As we approach 75 years of the NHS, we will need political and public support to radically re-think how services are delivered in the longer term.
While acknowledging the restrictions facing the Welsh Government, it’s vital government and all politicians are open with the public regarding the pressures facing the NHS and social care and what services they can expect in the future. As was evidenced in the 2022 British Social Attitudes survey results published this week, public satisfaction in the NHS is at an all-time low. However, the survey also showed the public valued the NHS being free at the point of use and the quality of care when they were seen, with over 80 per cent supporting the founding principles of the NHS. As we approach 75 years of the NHS, we will need political and public support to radically re-think how services are delivered in the longer term.
As organisations and their leaders look toward the new financial year, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes. NHS plans and financial forecasts have been finalised and priorities outlined, with a focus on the six priorities set out by the Minister for Health and Social Services in February 2023. These were developing closer relationships with local government partners, planned care recovery, primary and community care, urgent and emergency care, mental health and cancer.
As part of this look ahead, this week NHS leaders met with the new Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Derek Walker. This provided the opportunity to discuss the key issues and priorities for the NHS regarding the Well-being of Future Generations Act, to support the commissioner in developing his priorities for the future. This included the opportunities that the Act provides public sector leaders, the importance of engaging with the public, community infrastructure, system-wide thinking and opportunities to support population health.
April brings with it further change, with the official launch of the NHS Executive, the Duty of Candour and Duty of Quality becoming a legal requirement for all NHS bodies and the introduction of Llais, the citizens voice body. These aim to ultimately improve the quality and safety of service and closer integration between health and social care.
Here at the Welsh NHS Confederation, we’re also looking ahead: updating our five–year strategy, our annual business plan and refreshing our key priorities for the next 12 months so that we are best able to support our members and have the greatest impact.
As always, by working in partnership, we will endeavour to represent, support and connect our members as we act as the voice of NHS leadership in Wales.