A major NHS reorganisation has been announced in Wales in an attempt to end the internal market in the health service.
The Welsh Assembly Government is proposing to cut the number of local health boards (LHBs) from 22 to eight.
LHBs, which were set up five years ago, and NHS trusts will be directly funded by the Assembly Government or an NHS Board for Wales that will oversee the system.
Labour and Plaid Cymru pledged to end the internal market in their One Wales coalition deal, but today’s announcement of an overhaul took observers by surprise.
Health Minister Edwina Hart said: “Work is already well under way in Wales to reduce bureaucracy and remove artificial boundaries within the NHS in Wales.
“These are not driven by issues of cost. These proposed changes will be contained within the current finances.”
The new “simplified structure” would make it easier for hospitals to work together and direct more money to the front line, she said.
Seeking to reassure NHS staff, the minister said their “experience and expertise” were its biggest asset. Three new large NHS trusts were created by the merger of seven others.
Under two possible options, the NHS Board would effectively take the day-to-day running of the system out of the hands of politicians by either giving it to a Special Health Authority, with its own staff, or to a new executive arm of the Assembly Government, acting on ministers’ behalf.
Under a third option, the Board would give advice to the NHS’s chief executive and ministers, who would keep ultimate responsibility for planning and funding services.
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