Up to a fifth of the NHS’s work does not benefit patients and could cause harm, the health minister has said.
In a speech Mark Drakeford called on the Welsh health service to adopt a policy of “prudent medicine” prioritising resources on proven care.
It could mean surgery like tonsil removal may not be offered if it was considered of little benefit and antibiotics prescriptions could be cut.
It has led to criticism that the policy could see health services rationed.
But one of Wales’ most eminent doctors warned the NHS faced financial collapse unless changes were adopted.
In practice the changes could involve not offering patients surgery, for example to remove tonsils, if it was considered to be of little benefit.
It could mean limiting the amount of drugs used for chronic pain management and reducing the number of antibiotics prescribed by GPs.
The policy was announced during the health minister’s speech to the NHS Confederation Conference, ‘From Rhetoric to Reality – NHS Wales in 10 years’ time’, in Cardiff.
Mr Drakeford said the plan would lead to better care and help “get the maximum value for every pound you spend in the NHS”.
“It means starting with the things that are the most basic, most proven and most likely to work. And you try those first. And if those things don’t work then of course you move on,” he said.
“What research studies show is that while the health service sets out to do good in people’s lives it doesn’t always succeed.
“So we know people come into hospitals and they acquire infections… we know over prescribing antibiotics in the long run does more harm than good.
“Studies show that almost 20% of what every modern health service does either does no good or does harm.
“Every health board has lists of procedures they don’t normally offer because they’re not effective… what I want to do is make that a national list so we do this on a concerted national basis.”