We know that money is tight in NHS Wales- we see the effects every day, after all. Welsh Government faces tough decisions every day. These decisions directly affect the care NHS staff can provide, and the pay they receive for their efforts.
Take nurse pay, for example. Welsh Government has offered a 3% pay rise. This is a pay cut in real terms. Mark Drakeford himself agrees that nurses deserve more, but the cash could only be found ‘from doing even less’ to provide services.
Our NHS is already facing huge challenges ensuring safe staffing levels on wards. The cost of agency nurses to cover staffing vacancies is spiralling. In at least one Welsh hospital, Consultants are being taken away from their own specialist work to cover nursing shifts. Unsurprisingly, morale is plummeting.
BBC Wales reports Mr Drakeford’s explanation that each 1% in NHS pay costs £50m.
‘Do I think the Welsh Government can go on funding dollops of £50m in order to increase the pay award, above and beyond what we are funded to do so? ….to take the simplistic advice that I have been offered, magic money out of the air to pay people who I wanted to pay, and I agree ..that they deserve more’
It does seem, though, that there are certain projects where funding is not a problem.
Transforming Cancer Services
Velindre established the Transforming Cancer Services (TCS) programme in 2015. The establishment of the stand-alone new Velindre Cancer Centre is key to the programme. This is despite the evidence that stand-alone Cancer Centres can’t deliver the care that could be provided by co-location on an acute site.
By the time the new Cancer Centre sees its first patient, hundreds of millions of pounds will have been poured into it. The funding model (MIMS) means that the Welsh taxpayer will be footing the bill long after the new Centre itself becomes obsolete.
The project is already delayed. in 2017 Velindre told us the new Cancer Centre would open in 2022. Four years on, not a brick has been laid, and the target date is late 2024, a delay of three years. This doesn’t seem to cause a problem for the programme paying Director-level salaries now and in the future.
By September 2020, before the Business Case for the new Cancer Centre had even been approved, TCS had already spent £20million developing their plans. By the end of March, 2021, the total had risen to £24million, with a further £5million in the budget for 2021-22.
None of this funding seems to have been earmarked to implement the Nuffield Trust’s advice on making the service safer in the future.
Why does this matter?
We at Co-locate Velindre don’t doubt the need for a new Cancer Centre. Clearly the new Centre, wherever it was built, would need substantial funding to provide the level of care we need over the next decades.
We do question the wisdom of spending hundreds of millions of pounds (including tens of millions just to build road access to the proposed site) on a Centre that can never deliver the care that people living in other parts of the take UK for granted.
NHS funding is too precious to waste in this way!