Posted: Wed 8th Jun 2022

‘We don’t want them in North Wales’: Politician launches scathing attack over Betsi Cadwaladr leadership

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jun 8th, 2022

A North Wales MS has launched a scathing attack on leading health figures in the region after telling them they can “ship out and go somewhere else”.

The comments were made by Clwyd West MS Darren Millar amid ongoing concerns over the running of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

His remarks came as Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan provided an update on the latest government intervention measures at the health board in the Senedd yesterday.

It was announced the targeted measures would be extended to cover services at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan.

It follows ongoing concerns relating to the health board in a number of areas – with a particular focus on the vascular service and the emergency department at the hospital.

Conservative MS Mr Millar seemed unimpressed by the latest proposed interventions, saying he had “absolutely zero confidence” that Welsh Government measures would make any difference.

He said: “You say that this is targeted intervention, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a scattergun approach that you are now taking in north Wales.

“We have targeted intervention already for mental health services, for strategy, planning and performance, for leadership, including governance, transformation and culture, and for engagement because of the poor engagement with patients, public, staff and stakeholders.

“Yet, today, you’ve announced even more targeted intervention, this time at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in respect of its leadership, which is already in targeted intervention, we are told, its mental health services, which are already in targeted intervention, or so we’re told, and, of course, its vascular services now and emergency department.

“I have to say it’s long overdue in terms of intervention required for those.”

He later continued: “If you’ve got a leadership of a health board that is absolutely incapable of making improvements, why aren’t you moving that leadership on?

“Why are you saying that we now need to appoint another executive director, at huge cost to the taxpayer, this time for safety and improvement?

“Why can’t the extremely highly paid executive team already in place at the health board deliver the improvements that they are employed to do?

“That is their job. And if they’re not up to it, they can ship out and go somewhere else, because we don’t want them in north Wales.”

In May it was reported that the emergency department at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd had been designated a “service requiring significant improvement” by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW).

It came after a spot check was carried out in March, followed by an unannounced inspection that took place in early May.

Several patient safety concerns were identified over the period.

The latest targeted intervention measures were announced following a tripartite meeting between the Welsh Government, HIW and Audit Wales.

The Health Minister said yesterday that she had asked the health board to review capacity within its governance and audit services and to work with Improvement Cymru to invest in a rapid education and support programme to improve skills.

It was also asked to ensure that a senior appointment is made to the director of safety and improvement post.

She said the individual would support the new executive director of nursing to deliver improvements across the health board.

Ms Morgan said: “It’s clear the current challenges facing Ysbyty Glan Clwyd require a focused intervention to support cultural change and promote leadership at all levels.

“I have therefore instructed Improvement Cymru, the improvement service for NHS Wales, to work with the health board to bring in external clinical and organisational development expertise into the hospital.

“I want to emphasise that this in no way reflects on the hard work of the staff in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, but this is a source of external help and support to embed the change that is needed urgently, and we need to do this at pace.

“Vascular services have been challenged since the service was centralised. This does not mean that the decision to centralise was wrong.

“Following a series of concerns raised by the Royal College of Surgeons and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, the health board has responded rapidly and progress has been made in a number of areas, but the service remains fragile.

“There have been some serious incidents over the last few months and the benefits of the recent changes have not yet been realised.

“A new clinical leader has been appointed but has yet to take up post. My officials will continue to monitor the implementation of the action plan at least twice a month.

“The emergency department at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd has been designated a service requiring significant improvement by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales.

“We have made £3 million available to the health board for the local six goals for urgent and emergency care programme.

“I have instructed clinical leads from the national programme to work closely with the health board to address the concerns identified by HIW.”

Ms Morgan said after consideration it had been decided not to put the whole health board back into special measures.

Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth said he also believed the intervention measures outlined by the Health Minister did not go far enough.

He described the situation at Betsi Cadwaladr as “very serious”.

The Ynys Môn MS said: “I fear that, however you look at this, the timing of this today doesn’t reflect well on the Welsh Government.

“Indeed, it demonstrates once again how little understanding and how little appreciation there is within the Welsh Government of the gravity of the situation at Betsi Cadwaladr health board.

“This is a very weak response to an extremely serious situation, I fear—an extension of targeted intervention, rather than a real rolling up of sleeves to deal with a problem that is causing so much anguish to staff and patients across the north.

“An extension of targeted intervention—why end here when there are so many problems right across Betsi Cadwaladr?”

Fellow Plaid Cymru MS Llyr Gruffydd called for health services in the region to be completely reformed.

He said: “This statement, in my view, shows that the Welsh Government is going round and round in circles on Betsi Cadwaladr.

“You’re tinkering with the symptoms rather than fundamentally tackling the illness that is stifling services in north Wales.

“How many times have we been here before on Besti Cadwaladr, minister?

“How many times do we have to come here, and, quite frankly, listen to your cut-and-paste statements about more targeted interventions, more new directors, more tripartite meetings?

“You’re like a broken record. It’s a statement that you and your predecessors have made in various forms time after time, month after month, for the best part of the last decade.

“Front-line workers in north Wales are doing heroic work, but their government is fiddling whilst Rome burns.

“Will you accept that the time has now come for a more fundamental consideration of how services are configured across north Wales?”

Ms Morgan replied: “I believe that reorganisation at this point would be costly, it would be a distraction from the significant issues in relation to planned care, it would divert resources, and my focus at the moment is on patient care.

“There is nothing ‘cut and paste’ about this statement; I can assure you I’ve spent a lot of time working on it.

“I think that I will retain my focus, as I’m sure the board will, on ensuring that we are doing the very best for the people of north Wales, and a costly reorganisation is not the answer.”

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