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Wales NHS: Fewer Beds Possible as Extra Cuts Requested

There may be fewer hospital beds in Wales, the health minister has warned, after asking health boards to make a further £64m in savings.

Eluned Morgan said health boards were being encouraged to cut down on the use of agency workers, but there would be “consequences to that”.

“It’s going to be difficult. There’s no question about that,” she said.

She also reiterated calls for the public to help NHS services, saying 60% of people were overweight or obese.

The additional savings aim to bring down the predicted overspend by about 10%, but Ms Morgan said this would have a knock-on effect.

She said: “We’re encouraging them to focus on cutting down the use of agency workers, for example, but there will be a consequence to that.”

“It does mean that we may see perhaps fewer beds because you know, you know, you can’t have safe staffing levels if you haven’t got the kind of nursing capacity.”

The health minister also said talks regarding GP contracts had paused because “we simply don’t have the money to offer them”.

On Tuesday, BMA Wales’ GP Committee said talks had broken down after the offer of a 5% pay increase “did not match our reasonable expectation” to deal with inflation of practice costs and staff expenses.

Ms Morgan said even if more money came from Westminster from the Autumn statement it would be difficult to give more to GPs because of the “really big hole” in their budget.

“We can’t magic up money when you have inflationary pressure like we’ve seen,” she said, adding the offer from the Welsh government on income for GPs and their staff “is there for them to pick up if they want it”.

“I am under a huge amount of pressure just from my colleagues across government who are saying ‘you haven’t spent that money, use that to fill your deficit’,” she said.

“Also from the other parts of the NHS who are saying if they’re not going to pick up the money we will.”

She also called for the public to help the NHS.

”It feels like something needs to change and some of that needs to be a recognition by us and the public that actually we have to do this together,” she said.

”You think about the fact that 60% of the population is overweight or obese.

”I understand how difficult it is for people to take on board those public health messages but if we don’t then I think there will be real challenges on the NHS in future.

”We are already feeling those challenges.

”The pressure is as a result of an ageing population – some of which are living longer, but not well,” she added.

Welsh Conservative health spokesman, Russell George, said his party would establish care hotels and encourage former NHS staff to become reservists to stop ambulances queuing outside hospitals.

Source : BBC