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Welsh government outlines cuts to protect NHS budget amid ‘unprecedented pressures’ | UK News

The Welsh government has outlined cuts to some services amid “unprecedented” financial pressures.

In the Senedd on Tuesday, the finance minister outlined a package of financial measures which she said would protect public services, the NHS and transport.

Rebecca Evans said she was “grateful” to cabinet colleagues for finding savings within their departments’ budgets.

She added the current economic situation meant the devolved government in Cardiff faced “incredibly difficult times”.

First Minister Mark Drakeford had asked members of the cabinet to find savings to combat the Welsh government’s “toughest financial situation” since devolution.

The government has blamed the pressure on a combination of high inflation, austerity and what it called the UK government’s “mismanagement of the economy”.

In response, Wales Secretary David TC Davies said the Welsh government was responsible for its own spending choices on devolved matters.

“For our part, we are providing the Welsh government with the largest funding settlement in the history of devolution,” he said.

The finance minister added the current financial situation meant the Welsh government would not be able to do “all the things we wish to do”.

Statements such as these are rare outside of a usual budget announcement, with the Welsh government’s next budget not due to be published until February.

The largest cuts have been made to the education and Welsh language budget which sees a £74.7m reduction in funding.

But two departments will see an increase in their budgets.

Health and social care will see an increase of £425m in revenue funding and an increase of £82.6m in climate change revenue funding has also been announced.

Transport sits within the climate change department and Transport for Wales will see an increase of £125m in its budget.

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The Welsh Conservatives – the largest opposition party in the Senedd – have accused the Welsh government of having “grossly mismanaged their budget”.

They also accused Labour of having “the wrong priorities”.

NHS strikes: ‘All options on table’ for ‘unprecedented’ coordinated junior doctors and nurses strikes | UK News

“All options are on the table” regarding possible coordinated strikes by junior doctors and nurses, a union representative has warned.

Dr Arjan Singh, chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) junior doctors committee, refused to rule out the possibility of coordinating industrial action with Royal College of Nursing (RCN), saying: “We have a very close relationship with the RCN and every option is to be considered.”

He told Sky News the BMA is “in full solidarity with nursing colleagues”, after the RCN voted for a fresh 48-hour walkout from 8pm on 30 April to 8pm on 2 May.

Dr Singh called the government’s pay offer to the nurses “derisory” and “not reflective of years of pay erosion that they have endured or the sacrifices they’ve made”.

Member of the junior doctor's committee for the British Medical Association, Dr Arjan Singh, says Health Secretary Steve Barclay refuses to negotiate and says the strikes will stop if the pay is raised to £19 an hour.
Dr Arjan Singh from the junior doctors committee for the British Medical Association

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said a coordinated strike would be “completely unprecedented”.

“We would be in uncharted territory,” he told Sky News. “It would be even more challenging to plan for, manage and mitigate all the enormous challenges it would present the service with.

“Doctors and nurses are fundamental to the delivery of care across the service. It really is deeply concerning if that’s the scenario we’re facing.”


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‘Desperate need’ to end strikes

Sir Julian said the NHS was in “desperate need” of an end to strike action.

“We need both the government and unions to come together quickly to try and find a way through this,” he added.

The RCN strike comes after a 54% vote to reject an offer of a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year.

Staff in emergency departments, intensive care units and cancer care are expected to take action for the first time.

But members of a second union, Unison, voted to accept the same offer by 74% on a turnout of 53%.

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RCN votes for fresh strike

The health unions are lodged in their own dangerous game of divide and rule

It’s not a good news, bad news type of situation – it’s a mess. By rejecting the government’s pay offer, nurses from the RCN are now in conflict with their health worker colleagues from Unison, who have overwhelmingly decided to accept it.

At the start of the process, the unions warned that the government was playing a dangerous game of divide and rule. Now they have managed to do it to themselves.

Other health unions including the GMB, Unite and those representing physios and dieticians are consulting their members. They have until 28 April.

Until then, we are in limbo. In early May, all the unions will go back to the government with their decision. Unison has said it will ask the government to impose its pay deal on their members.

But the RCN has already announced further strike dates and will ballot its members for more action over the last six months of the year.

It raises the prospect of nurses and junior doctors standing together on picket lines for the first time. That is a situation that will fill NHS Trust leaders with dread.

The outcome will not be known until at least May. It means more uncertainty for long-suffering patients.

Junior doctors await ‘credible offer’

Around 47,000 junior doctors finished their four-day strike in a separate dispute over pay at 7am on Saturday.

The BMA has urged the government to hold talks over junior doctors’ demands for “pay restoration” to 2008 levels, but ministers have claimed that would amount to a 35% pay rise.

Dr Singh accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of “hiding” behind pre-recorded media interviews.

“We said, ‘give us a credible offer, and we would call off the strikes’,” he said.

“But radio silence is what we’re hearing from our health secretary at the moment, and it’s very concerning.”

A “mass haemorrhaging and exodus of doctors” would continue if a “credible offer” was not made, he added.

Hospital leaders fear for patient safety ahead of ‘unprecedented’ strike by junior doctors | UK News

Hospital leaders have expressed serious concerns about how they will maintain patient safety as the health service enters “unchartered territory” during “unprecedented” strike action next week.

Junior doctors who are training in England will stage their longest walkout so far between 11 and 15 April.

The 96-hour strike is likely to be the most disruptive in the history of the health service due to the length of the action and the fact doctors have chosen to stage it directly after a long bank holiday weekend.

The bank holiday traditionally causes disruption to the NHS even without the prospect of strike action.

The walkout also coincides with the Easter school holidays, which means many consultant staff who provided cover during the first round of strikes will be unable to do so again due to pre-planned holidays and childcare commitments.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said the timing of the strike and its duration present a “range of challenges over and above the disruption seen from the industrial action in recent months”.

It said that during the strike, the NHS will focus resources on emergency treatment, critical care, maternity, neonatal care and trauma.

But even in these areas, there are “real concerns of a raised risk to safety”, NHS Providers said.

The strikes could lead to delays for some patients starting treatment – for instance, if a new cancer patient needed to start weekly rounds of chemotherapy, the start of their treatment may be delayed until after the strike action to ensure continuity.

Last month’s 72-hour walkout led to about 175,000 hospital appointments and operations being postponed.

Hospital leaders have raised concerns with NHS Providers about the impact of the strike.

“This is less about what planned routine work gets pulled down and everything about maintenance of safety in emergency departments, acute medicine and surgery,” one hospital trust chief executive said.

“Concerned doesn’t begin to describe it.”

Another said: “I am not confident this time that we can maintain patient safety as we will not be able to provide the cover.”

“Many of the consultants who stepped up to do nights last time are not available or are more reluctant this time,” a third said.

While another added: “Those with families almost certainly won’t as [they] can’t rearrange out of school holidays.”

Read more:
Analysis: Where will the money for a 5% pay deal come from?

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “It’s clear from our extensive dialogue with trust leaders that we are in uncharted territory.

“Yet again we are seeing colleagues pull out all the stops to minimise disruption and ensure patient safety. But the challenges here are unprecedented.”

Dr Latifa Patel, workforce lead for the British Medical Association, said: “No one understands better than us, the doctors who care for them, that patients are getting a substandard experience 365 days a year from an overstretched and understaffed NHS.

“In this brutal work environment, patient care is at risk every day due to chronic staff shortages and years of underinvestment in equipment and services.

“Junior doctors have no desire to strike, they been pushed into this action by long-term government inaction and now want to bring this dispute to an end as quickly as possible.

“We hope the health secretary will come to the table immediately with a meaningful pay offer so doctors can avoid more strike action and instead return to doing what they want to be doing: caring for their patients.”

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Why are doctors quitting the NHS?

A department of health and social care spokesperson said: “Four days of strikes by junior doctors will risk patient safety and cause further disruption and postponed treatment.

“The BMA’s demand for a 35% pay rise is totally unreasonable and unaffordable.

“We urge them to come to the table with a realistic approach so we can find a way forward, as we have done with other health unions, which balances fairly rewarding junior doctors for their hard work with meeting the prime minister’s ambition to halve inflation.

“We are working with NHS England to put in place contingency plans to protect patient safety.

“The NHS will prioritise resources to protect emergency treatment, critical care, maternity and neonatal care, and trauma.”