A health board under the direct control of the Labour Welsh Government has been accused of a second attempt to privatise a major NHS service in north Wales.
Last year, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board backtracked over plans to privatise the dialysis service in Wrexham and Welshpool after protests by nursing unions and Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd AM.
Now it’s under fire once again for turning to private companies to run hospital pharmacies in Ysbyty Gwynedd, Wrexham Maelor and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.
Mr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, raised the matter in the Senedd today and said: “It took a year of pressure from Plaid Cymru and trade unions to force the Welsh Government to accept the health board was planning to privatise dialysis services and even transfer NHS nurses into the private sector. Now we see Betsi aiming to do the same thing with outpatient dispensing services in our three district general hospitals.
“I’m increasingly concerned that the long-standing financial pressures facing BCUHB, which has a deficit in the tens of millions, is leading senior management to take some desperate measures to try to balance the books. Allowing more private firms to run parts of our NHS is the thin end of the wedge and, while Labour is fiercely opposed to Tories doing this in England they seem remarkably relaxed about it here in Wales. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
“I don’t see how outsourcing health services can save money. We’ve seen the collapse of outsourcing companies such as Carillion and I agree with trade unions such as Unison that private companies have no place in the Welsh NHS.
“In light of this ongoing trend, the Welsh Government needs to make a clear statement on outsourcing NHS services and ensure we protect our health service from private predators.”
Mr Gruffydd also highlighted how private firms were now moving into health care because of decisions taken by BCUHB. In a recent question to the First Minister Mark Drakeford he said that plans for a new community-style hospital in St Asaph were a direct result of the closure of community hospitals back in 2013.
Mr Gruffydd added: “More than 50 beds were lost when community hospitals were lost in Flint, Llangollen, Prestatyn and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Back then I warned that step-up, step-down provision was required, particularly with an ageing population in north Wales. But the health board and your Government insisted on the closure of those hospitals. We now see the consequences of those closures – more patients being admitted to district general hospitals and unable to go to community care due to a lack of beds. It’s been a hugely costly mistake for the NHS.”