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Plaid AM calls for NHS in Wales to follow the Scottish model of accountability in blog.

PLAID CYMRU leadership candidate Elin Jones has called for the NHS in Wales to be made more accountable, both in terms of the money it spends and how it engages with the public.

In an article for the political blog WalesHome.org, Ms Jones argues that Wales should consider following the Scottish Government and holding direct elections to Local Health Boards.

She writes: "A combination of financial pressures and reconfiguration plans is resulting in an increasing number of far-reaching decisions being taken by the NHS on the services delivered to people and communities throughout Wales.

"Some of these decisions may be temporary in nature and are a result of Local Health Boards seeking to balance the books before the end-of-financial-year, such as bed number reduction and cancellation of elective surgery.

"Other decisions are permanent and will result in service reconfiguration and centralisation."

She points out that next year's budget for running the NHS in Wales amounts to more than pounds 5bn - one third of the Welsh Government's entire allocation.

Two Assembly committees have commented on the lack of transparency of the NHS budget line available to Local Health Boards, with no breakdown of the pounds 5bn given. "The Health Boards, of course, have their internal financial management systems with accountability to their Board meetings," states Ms Jones. "The chairs and chief executives of the Boards meet regularly and report to the Health Minister.

"But when do the rest of us know if there are financial problems in any of the Health Boards? Usually when we hear of bed number reductions or cancelled elective surgery towards the end of the financial year.

"Each Local Health Board should come before the Assembly's finance or health committee twice a year - mid-way through the financial year and at its end. They should be openly scrutinised on financial performance and pressures, and challenged on decisions they are taking to deliver a NHS service within the pounds 5bn envelope."

Ms Jones goes on to express concern about the way decisions over changes to local services are taken, stating: "The Boards create mistrust and misinformation by simply not turning up to meetings to answer questions and explain their decision. There is a large gap between the LHBs' management and local communities, and little meaningful engagement and no accountability."

A spokesman for Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: "It's interesting to note that since Plaid Cymru left government after the election in May, they have substituted collective responsibility with collective amnesia. The fact is, Plaid Ministers were sitting around the Cabinet table back in 2009, when proposals to reform the NHS were approved.

"The result of those reforms means that the NHS in Wales is now more open and accountable to local people than ever before.

"All NHS organisations are directly accountable to the Health Minister through their Boards.

"While the Welsh Labour Government is focused on doing what's right for Wales, Plaid Cymru seems more interested in what's going on in Scotland. The people of Wales will draw their own conclusions from that."

CAPTION(S):

* Plaid Cymru AM Elin Jones Health Minister Lesley Griffiths
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 19, 2011
Words:516
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