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Extra cash for health boards 'not a bailout'.

Byline: Julia McWatt Health Correspondent julia.mcwatt@walesonline.co.uk

HEALTH boards across South Wales have been given multi-million-pound contingency funds to help balance their books.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths announced the extra PS82m for the NHS, but fiercely denied it amounted to a "bailout".

The Welsh Government said the extra investment was to meet "unprecedented pressures and maintain quality of care".

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is set to get PS25m, while Cwm Taf Health Board will receive PS10m.

The announcement follows a report by the auditor general for Wales last month which predicted Cardiff and Vale UHB would end the year with a PS20m deficit, while Cwm Taf was predicted to have a deficit of PS10m.

But Ms Griffiths, who had previously warned health boards there would be no extra financial assistance, insisted the fund was "absolutely not a bailout". Speaking in front of the National Assembly's Health and Social Care Committee, she said: "It is absolutely not a bailout at all. It became very clear as we went through the year that I had to have a close look at performance.

"This money has come from my own budget and I have been very honest and up-front about the challenges that the NHS is facing.

"It's absolutely not a bailout, I think it shows good financial management.

"I have to make sure we are protecting services and I really don't see how it's a bailout.

"You've got to have a contingency fund, it's only prudent to have a contingency fund."

The announcement came as a Mid Year Review into NHS finances found a 10% increase in hospital admissions for patients aged 85 and over - beyond forecast projections - which is placing "significant strain" on the NHS.

Ms Griffiths said: "This additional funding will allow the NHS to manage current pressures and maintain quality of care.

"It is important to recognise that, in financial terms, the NHS presents one of the most challenging operating environments.

"That is why I have made a commitment to introduce changes to the NHS finance regime, including a review of how we can provide financial flexibility as recommended by the auditor general."

But opposition parties said the funding could only be described as a bailout.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams said: "The minister is predictably denying that this is a bailout.

"The minister has plugged a hole in the NHS' finances by raiding its capital budget.

"I struggle to see how this can be described as anything other than a bailout.

"Re-jigging money around is not going to solve all of the problems in our NHS."

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Health Minister Lesley Griffiths has announced contingency funding for health boards in South Wales
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 6, 2012
Words:452
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