Health Insight March 2001:|
Wales now has an NHS plan
The Welsh Assembly has launched a major document, Improving Health in Wales: A Plan for the NHS. This follows the announcement of new plans for the NHS in other parts of the UK last year. The biggest change in the plan for Wales is that health authorities will be abolished. Their powers will be split between the principality's 22 local health groups and the Assembly, which will establish a new body – the Health & Wellbeing Partnership Council – to oversee health matters. Health minister Jane Hutt explained, 'By stripping out a layer of administration, the structure of the service will be simplified'.
Two differences between the Welsh plan and that for England are that Community Health Councils will not be abolished, and the Assembly will not set a target for the number of GPs who opt for a new style contract ('personal medical services') with the NHS. Improved support for GPs is a key feature of the plan. One of the targets set, is that patients must be able to see 'a relevant healthcare professional' within 24 hours. The chairman of the BMA's Welsh GPs committee Dr Tom Calland, who was amongst those who had urged the abolition of health authorities, has welcomed the plan.
Observers have, however, pointed out that there are still details that need to be sorted out regarding the abolition. Public health doctors are now 'homeless', for example, as it has not been decided who will be responsible for them. Criticism has also come from the trade union Unison, which says there will be 400 job losses during the next two years, and that many difficulties are bound to come to light as the changes are implemented. Other critics have said there should have been wider consultation before the sweeping decision to abolish health authorities was taken.
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