BMA Q and A: Funding, winter pressures and transparency

BMA Welsh council chair Philip Banfield answers your questions 

BANFIELD: 'We need to move money to frontline services quickly'

The Health Foundation think tank has predicted a £700m shortfall in the NHS in next three years, while the Welsh Government recently upped its health spend for next year by £240m. There isn’t an endless pot of money, so what can be done quickly and easily to ease financial pressures?

BMA Cymru Wales welcomes the Welsh Government’s commitment to spend more on health next year, redressing a previous shortfall.

We need health boards to work proactively to move the money to frontline services quickly.

General practice in particular is facing unprecedented challenges.

The Welsh Government must address the continual erosion of funding for primary care as this can keep patients out of hospital and relieve pressure on GPs.


You say the NHS in Wales is ‘underprepared’ to deal with spikes in demand, such as winter pressures. Will more money help?

Put simply, we have closed too many beds. BMA Cymru Wales has consistently raised concerns about the steady decline in the number of available beds over the last decade and the impact this has on the safety and quality of patient care. We would like to see this policy urgently re-evaluated. 

The Welsh Government’s prudent healthcare policy supports the treatment of the most needy first and stops us spending on treatments we know don’t work, but many of our members say they have ideas for making their work more efficient, but no one to facilitate, fund or rollout such changes.


BMA Cymru Wales has done a lot of work to make NHS culture more open and transparent. How successful has this been and what were the hurdles?

A new set of core principles, developed for the Welsh NHS by the Welsh Government, NHS Employers and trade unions including the BMA, went to each employed member of staff last month, presenting each of us with a real challenge to make our NHS feel different from bottom to top.

We hope that by empowering staff, we can alter the fundamental culture of all NHS organisations.

It remains our ambition for staff to feel appreciated, listened to and valued –  this may increase recruitment and reduce locum costs as Wales becomes the place to work, train and live.

It is still early days, but we have seen a meaningful SAS charter in Wales and a Welsh Deanery educational contract, and of course, we have a Welsh Government with a stated aim of working with, not against, its doctors. 

Whistleblowing and exposing victimisation remain on our agenda. We are still seeing concerns being dismissed, and we continue our campaign for the NHS to take ownership and responsibility for its shortfalls.

Cultural change will take time, but there are exciting initiatives in some of the health boards.

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