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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 18:23 GMT

UK: Wales

Opposition parties criticise Health Secretary

Health Secretary Jane Hutt has been criticised for press briefings

The National Assembly's Health Secretary, Jane Hutt has been criticised by Plaid Cymru for briefing the press about health spending proposals before discussing them with her fellow Ams.

Plaid Cymru's health spokesman, Dr. Dai Lloyd, has described a press conference given by Ms Hutt on Thursday as "well out of order".

[ image: Dr Dai Lloyd described the announcement as
Dr Dai Lloyd described the announcement as "arrogant behaviour"
He said that by conducting the briefing, Ms. Hutt was assuming cross-party endorsement to the proposals and was presenting them as an agreed package.

This was "arrogant behaviour" and he intended to raise it at in a Health Committee session, he said.

Kirsty Williams, the Chair of the Health and Social Services Committee, also expressed concern about the press conference.

She raised the issue briefly at the beginning of the committee meeting.

Ms Hutt has announced a £100m rise in funding for health authorities in Wales.

Efficiency savings

"The NHS must redouble its efforts to restore financial balance," she said.

The 6% increase, combined with efficiency savings, should mean the NHS deals with increases in cost and demand.

The details of the budget include £1.5m moved from other health budgets to provide central support for cardiac services.

They also include proposals to add to funds by selling off more old NHS buildings and land helping towards a £54m investment in the health service.

'Rocketing waiting lists'

The NHS in Wales would receive an increase of 7% or £181m, with £30m in new money, both for the health service and for social services on top of money announced last year.

The Tory Assembly health spokesman, David Melding, accused Ms Hutt of distorting the budget figures, saying discretionary increases for extra services were negligible, with the vast majority going to demand-led spending.

"New Labour had introduced New Maths to turn away attention from rocketing waiting lists and the NHS financial crisis", he said.

The health and social services committee in the Assembly will discuss the draft budget next week.

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