Labour hope that Wales is numbing to health board scandals

Welsh Conservatives have accused the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay of hoping that voters will become numbed to the numerous scandals in the NHS in North Wales as another report revealed fatal failings.

Late on Friday, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board released reports, amongst more than 450 committee pages, into the deaths of two patients that were in its care last year, further highlighting failings in mental health services in North Wales.

The news came only days after the Health Minister has delivered an ultimatum to the health board, stating that if recent report recommendations are not implemented, she will return it to special measures, following a damning report into vascular services in the region’s healthcare.

The long line of scandals to hit the beleaguered health board – which regularly records the worst A&E performances in Wales – include:

  • Supressing the full release of the 2013 Holden Report on the Hergest Unit in Bangor’s Ysbyty Gwynedd for eight years, which led to significant delays in implementing recommendations;
  • Failing to address very significant causes for concern in the systems, structures and processes of governance underpinning a range of the Board’s services, as identified in the 2018 Ockenden Report;
  • Understaffing several wards, as discovered by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales in 2014;
  • Insensitively releasing a HASCAS report on Tawel Fan, a mental health ward where patients were abused by staff; and
  • Splurging nearly £200m on NHS agency workers to compensate for its inability to recruit.

The health board was in special measures – and, thus, direct Labour Government control – for five years from 2015 when Mark Drakeford was Health Minister, before being taken out shortly before the Senedd election.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“The regular flow of reports that come out of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board not only demonstrates the poor state of healthcare in North Wales but a serious problem with governance in our nation.

“If this was an English health board, it would regularly be a leading headline, splashed across front pages, and raised in Parliament and political programmes on television and radio.

“However, the people of North Wales encounter a wall of silence, faced time and time again with seemingly endless failures in the health board, with fatal consequences.

“It would not surprise me in the slightest that Labour is hoping that Wales becomes numb to the consistently significant shortcomings in the health board, especially given its own role in these scandals after five years of special measures – exited shortly before an election – did not work.”

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Minister for North Wales Darren Millar MS added:

“These reports make for extremely distressing reading and my heart goes out to the loved ones of those who died as a result of yet more failings in the NHS in North Wales. 

"It is extraordinary that such events have occurred at a time when mental health services at the health board had been in special measures for years and clearly demonstrates ministers in distant Cardiff based offices are completely incapable of delivering the changes that patients deserve.

"We need an urgent and rapid plan of action from the Welsh Government to hold those responsible for these failings to account and to resolve the problems in mental health care in the region once and for all."

"The fact that these reports have been buried amongst 450 pages of papers for a meeting of Betsi board members with an already packed agenda is an insult to those affected by these tragedies. Such serious failings deserve sufficient time to be given focused consideration by those at the top."

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