Costs Shock Backs NHS Reform Critics; HEALTH: Minister's Claims That Administration Shake-Up Would Pay for Itself Are Found to Be Worthless

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Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY

A SHAKE-UP of the NHS intended to make the health service more accountable could mean longer waiting lists.

Health Minister Jane Hutt last year swept away claims from opposition politicians that she was bringing the NHS to the ``brink of collapse'' when she pushed through ``disastrous'' plans to abolish the country's five health authorities and replace them with 22 Local Health Boards.

But yesterday's revelations that those changes are not ``cost neutral'' as Ms Hutt had initially argued and will in fact cost Wales the same as a new hospital appear to lend weight to campaigners' arguments that these changes are not in the country's best interests.

Ms Hutt has always maintained that the restructuring process, scheduled to come into effect next April, will remove bureaucracy from the health service.

The 22 Local Health Boards that will replace the existing five health authorities are seen as the building blocks of the system and will take over commissioning, securing and delivering healthcare in each of their areas which match the local government boundaries. On top there will be 10 or 12 ``local partnerships'' and stronger oversight by the Assembly. …