NHS Shake-up Imminent

BBC1’s news magazine programme The Politics Show yesterday publicised the exclusive interview given by Health Minister Edwina Hart to Hafal’s quarterly journal Mental Health Wales and in particular to comments made by the Minister pointing to imminent and major change to the NHS in Wales.

The Politics Show highlighted that the Minister had chosen to give a candid interview to patient group Hafal, in which she gave clear and unambiguous indication of a shake-up in the way health services are commissioned in Wales.

The autumn issue of Mental Health Wales, which contains the interview with Mrs Hart, is available on-line from today.

In the course of a wide-ranging interview, the Minister gives her forthright view on the “plethora” of commissioning bodies in Wales, calling them “not effective” and promising change.

The BBC’s Politics Show feature drew on comments Mrs Hart made in the Mental Health Wales interview, including her assertion: “In general I think there are too many commissioning bodies. We need to do something about it. That is my view.”

The Minister goes on to say: “There is a plethora of commissioning bodies and it’s very difficult for people to understand what it all means in terms of the services they receive. I don’t think this plethora allows us to have effective commissioning. It’s all about continuity of care across the piece.”

Welsh health services are planned and commissioned by the 22 Local Health Boards, one in each local authority area. But patient groups and others believe the system is too complicated and costly, and leads to uneven service provision across Wales.

Asked for her own views on the number of commissioning bodies in Wales, the Minister told Mental Health Wales: “People are getting lost in the gaps between providers of services but, worse than that, some people are getting batted back and forth between various places and that’s not acceptable.”
Cross-party support for change is evident within the Senedd: Conservative shadow health minister Jonathan Morgan said of the current structure: “It will get worse of course now that the Health Minister is going to be merging some of the health Trusts and creating these super hybrid trusts.
“The problem with that is that the rationale for keeping these mini-LHBs will simply disappear because if they can’t compete with NHS Trusts now, they certainly won’t compete with the new bigger trusts.”

And AM Helen Mary Jones, Assembly Government coalition partner Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on health, said: “It is clear that we cannot go on as we have been.

“There are too many organisations and too much money being spent on administration and, of course, these are resources that we cannot then use for front-line care.”

Bill Walden-Jones, the Chief Executive of Hafal, said: “It’s entirely appropriate that the Health Minister used a patient group to signal her intentions on this matter because this is a move which looks to address their needs.

“Hafal has argued for many years that the Welsh Assembly Government needs to invest in front-line services and not bureaucracies. It can’t be right that with a population of just 2.9m Wales needs 22 separate legal entities – the Local Health Boards – to commission NHS services.

“There are excellent people working in commissioning and it would be great to see them freed up in a streamlined NHS to develop joined-up services and work alongside patients to improve services for everyone.”

Mental Health Wales is the quarterly journal produced and published by Hafal, Wales’ principal charity for people with severe mental illness and their carers. Mental Health Wales is a client-led publication that keeps patients, professionals, policy-makers and the wider public informed about current mental health issues.

• To watch The Politics Show’s report on the Minister’s comments about commissioning to Mental Health Wales, click here

• To go the BBC Wales News site’s story on the issue, click here