20% of NHS work doesn’t help patients, says Welsh health minister

17 January 2014

20% of NHS work doesn’t help patients, says Welsh health minister

The health minister of Wales has said that almost a fifth of the work the NHS does could cause patients harm and does not provide any actual benefit to them.

Mark Drakeford stated ina speech to the NHS Confederation Conference in Cardiff that the Welsh health service should prioritise resources on proven care; a policy of “prudent medicine” that would see matters such as antibiotic prescription being cut with surgeries like tonsil removal being removed from being offered to patients-the idea being that such elements would add little benefit.

Mr Drakeford’s argument was that unless such changes were made it could lead to profound financial consequences to the NHS. Despite warnings that such policies would essential ration health services, he felt the offering of factors like the number of antibiotics prescribed by GPs was a drain on NHS finances and resources.

Mr Drakeford said the plan would lead to better care and help "get the maximum value for every pound you spend in the NHS".

"It means starting with the things that are the most basic, most proven and most likely to work. And you try those first. And if those things don't work then of course you move on," he said.

"What research studies show is that while the health service sets out to do good in people's lives it doesn't always succeed.

"So we know people come into hospitals and they acquire infections... we know over prescribing antibiotics in the long run does more harm than good.

"Studies show that almost 20% of what every modern health service does either does no good or does harm.

"Every health board has lists of procedures they don't normally offer because they're not effective... what I want to do is make that a national list so we do this on a concerted national basis."

However the policy has been accused of trying to ration NHS services in light of scant resourcing for the service at large. Welsh Conservatives’ shadow health minister Darren Millar said

"Patients should be entitled to timely treatment in accordance with their clinical needs and to suggest otherwise is very concerning”

"Rationing services and forcing patients to wait longer for treatment to help health boards meet their financial targets cannot be the answer to increasing demand.

"Instead, the Welsh Labour government must reprioritise its budget and put a halt to the record-breaking budget cuts they are imposing on the health service."

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams the money spent on patients on the NHS in Wales was not being organised correctly, echoing the argument that a closer look was required to ensure directing of money towards patients was more intelligently done.

"As a member of the health committee we have been told repeatedly by health officials at every level of the NHS that we are spending money on the wrong things," she said.

"I am pleased that the Welsh government has finally woken up to this fact.

"However, the devil will be in the detail and I will be looking at the proposals very closely to ensure that patients in Wales are not losing out as a result."

Mr Drakeford insisted he had not made any calculations about how much money could be saved if the policy was adopted.

He conceded the policy would involve putting an extra responsibility on individuals to take better care of themselves.

"Prudent medicine makes sure those with the most urgent needs get to the front of the queue and get seen first," he said.

"But prudent medicine definitely also means saying to the citizen as well as the service there are things you can do differently and we need to do differently if we are to go on having a health service in the future."

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