Welsh NHS Confederation response to Audit Wales report on financial challenges for public services

Welsh NHS Confederation director Darren Hughes responds to Audit Wales' latest report on a shift from short to long term thinking in public services.

20 February 2024

Responding to the Audit Wales report on the financial challenges for public services, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation Darren Hughes said:

“NHS leaders will welcome Audit Wales’ latest report, which recognises the need to shift resources to preventative activities to avoid higher future demand, to accelerate the use of digital technology to drive service transformation and efficiencies and to address long-term workforce challenges.

“The Auditor General’s report highlights the significant challenges across all public sector budgets. Despite the in-year, real terms increase in funding for NHS Wales in 2023-24, the deficit has increased once more. As the report acknowledges, the NHS’ target control totals will be difficult to achieve.

“We recognise the reduction in real-terms funding faced by other public services, which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the population due to the huge role they play in the wider determinants of health.

“However, while NHS bodies are working hard to identify efficiencies, significant investment is required now to reduce demand and costs in the future and to support a healthier population.

“For example, 2022-23 saw a total maintenance backlog of £793 million across the NHS in Wales’ estate and infrastructure. Without significant capital investment, high day-to-day maintenance costs will remain and NHS bodies will struggle to improve productivity and make the necessary inroads in waiting lists.

“As highlighted in the King’s Fund’s latest report, without a wholesale shift in focus and resource to prevention (in this case, moving from an overemphasis on secondary care to primary and community care), and addressing the barriers to this transition, we cannot collectively reduce current and future demand on services, improve the health and wellbeing of our population and therefore reduce associated costs.”