King’s Fund apologise for “error” in figures on health spending in Wales

Health think tank The King's Fund has been forced to write to the Welsh government to apologise for errors in figures it produced on health spending in Wales.

Respected health think tank, The King’s Fund has been forced to write to the Welsh government to apologise for errors in figures it produced on health spending in Wales. On Wednesday, media outlets  declared that Wales faced deeper spending cuts to the health service than the rest of the UK, with King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby, in an article for the British Medical Journal, arguing the health service budget in Wales faced cuts of up to 11 per cent over three years.

However, in a letter to Welsh health minister Lesley Griffiths, Mr Appleby retracted the figure, writing:

“Dear Ms Griffiths

“British Medical Journal Data Briefing: Correction

“As you will be aware, there has been some media interest following a data briefing I wrote for the BMJ on NHS spending in the four UK nations. I am writing to let you know of a correction to the article.

“The article originally stated that Wales would receive a 10.7 per cent real terms cut in NHS spending over the next four years. It should have stated that this is over three years. This was corrected on the BMJ web site. Unfortunately, a spreadsheet error which was only noticed after publication also exaggerated the real change in Wales’ NHS spending. The correct figure is -8.3% by 2013/14 (compared with 2010/11) and not -10.7%.

“The BMJ will publish a correction to my article but I also wanted to set the record straight with you and apologise for any confusion this has caused.

“Yours sincerely,

“John Appleby, chief economist, The King’s Fund”

Responding, a spokesman for the Welsh government said:

“The health service has, and will, continue to be a priority for the Welsh Government – despite the financial constraints imposed on us by the UK Government. This commitment is demonstrated by the £77m investment in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd announced yesterday – and the fact that more than 40 per cent of the overall Welsh budget will be invested in providing health and social services for the people of Wales.”

In January, when asked to justify the Welsh government’s decision not to ring-fence the health service budget, first minister Carwyn Jones told the Daily Post:

“We can’t justify it is the simple answer and they haven’t done it in England either. They claim to have done it but we all see now that isn’t the case. One of the things they did was include social services spending in the health budget, which we haven’t done to make it look as if it has been ringfenced.

“What we have done is to provide as much as money as we possibly can for health in Wales – around £5bn – but if we were to protect the health budget against inflation it would mean for example cutting at least a quarter of the education budget. It would mean severe cuts elsewhere.

“It wouldn’t be financially possible for us to up-rate health spending, which is 40% of the WAG budget, because it would mean hammering areas like education.”

Spending in Wales should also be seen within the context of a Spending Review in Westminster which dealt Wales an 11.4% cut to its budget.

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