Welsh NHS Confederation annual conference 2014. Will prudence win the day?

22 January 2013

Article by Steve Boyce, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Last Thursday delegates at the Welsh NHS Confederation annual conference heard some strong messages about the direction of the NHS in Wales over the next 10 years.

In his speech to the conference Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM left attendees in no doubt about the financial challenges facing the health service now that the period of sustained growth in funding has ended.

The pressures on the NHS and the need for service reconfiguration are familiar to members of the Confederation, which represents health boards, trusts and other NHS bodies.  Changes are underway, with more planned.  But the Minister also announced a new initiative which he believes will improve the effectiveness of health services in Wales: Prudent Medicine.

Developed by the Bevan Commission in Wales, Prudent Medicine is about the careful application of treatments to ensure maximum effect and patient engagement.  The Minister explained that it is founded on three principles:

  • Using the minimum appropriate intervention required.  This reflects, in part, a growing recognition that some current treatments are unnecessary, ineffective or even harmful;
  • Full involvement of patients.  A partnership approach between practitioners and patients, which can offer significant benefits to patients and can be more effective as individuals take greater ownership of their health and wellbeing;
  • Equity, in which the greatest resources are mobilised to meet the greatest needs.

The Minister told the conference that Prudent Medicine offers better value for money and a fairer, more effective model for delivering healthcare.  Patient need rather than waiting times would determine access to treatment.

Work will begin soon on developing Prudent Medicine approaches in specialties such as orthopaedics, ENT (ear nose and throat), and to prescribing and pain management.

The hope is that Prudent Medicine will prove to be one of the innovations that will help to secure the continued health of the NHS.