North Wales health board back in Special Measures – independent Board resign: “We have no confidence in the Welsh Government’s grasp of the situation”
Health Minister Eluned Morgan has announced that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will be put into special measures because of serious concerns about performance, leadership and culture.
The Welsh Government confirmed today that “The Chair, Vice Chair and independent members of the Board have agreed they will step aside. New independent members will be appointed to the Board to lead the organisation as it continues to rebuild its services following the pandemic.”
In a letter seen by Wrexham.com the ‘agreeing to step aside’ by independent members saw them write to the First Minister stating they were resigning: “We are writing to express our sincere concerns about the future of health services in North Wales following this morning’s meeting with the Minister when we were left with no option but to resign as Independent Members with immediate effect.
“We have no confidence in the Welsh Government’s grasp of the situation”.
They added: “As you will be aware, the role of Independent Members is clearly defined as maintaining oversight of the delivery of strategy and performance rather than to delve into operational management.
“It seems that responsibility for organisational culture, service quality and reconfiguration governance, and operational delivery have been placed at our door without recognition of the limitation of our powers as Independent Members.
“In undertaking our legitimate role, we uncovered serious failings in the financial management of the Health Board We commissioned a specialist review by Ernst & Young, which confirmed our concerns, found evidence of serious malpractice, and resulted in a counter fraud investigation.”
They said they are “gravely concerned” over the Minister’s response to the recent Audit Wales report.
In a statement today Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan said: “I have serious concerns around the performance of the health board and I have not seen the improvement in services I expect for the people of north Wales.
“I have therefore decided to take action to rectify this.
“I have informed the Board that I am putting the organisation back into Special Measures with immediate effect. This significant decision is made in line with the escalation framework.
“It reflects serious concerns about the performance of the organisation, about its governance, and issues with leadership and culture that are holding back progress.
“I recognise that the health board has had significant challenges for a number of years and has worked hard to overcome these challenges. But now is the time for new leadership to deliver the improvements that are needed.”
A number of direct appointments to the Board have been made by the Minister in a bid to “ensure stability”.
The non-executive team will be led by Dyfed Edwards as the new Chair of the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, a former leader of Gwynedd Council and the deputy chair of the Welsh Revenue Authority.
The new Chair will focus on “renewing the leadership and culture of the Health Board which will support its workforce to provide safe and effective services for the people of north Wales.”
Dyfed will be supported by Gareth Williams, Karen Balmer and Rhian Watcyn Jones as interim independent members of the Board.
Further direct appointments will follow in the next few weeks.
A campaign to recruit new independent members to the Board who will take the organisation forward beyond this initial period of stabilisation will commence later this year.
Key to developing and building a sustainable organisation will be the appointment of the substantive chief executive. The recruitment process for this post is about to start.
The health board will also be supported by an intervention and support team.
It is the second time the health board has been placed into special measures, with the Welsh Government stating in 2015 that there were “serious and outstanding concerns about leadership, governance and progress”.
Betsi Cadwaladr was removed from special measures to targeted intervention in November 2020 by the then health minister Vaughan Gething.
However eyebrows were raised in 2020 over the timing of its removal from special measures – which came just six months before the Senedd election.
The last 12 months has seen a series of damning reports published about Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, culminating last week when the Auditor General for Wales highlighted “deep-rooted issues” with working relationships at the most senior levels.
Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan added: “Every day thousands of people are receiving good care from the NHS in north Wales but there is a large degree of inconsistency in safety, performance and quality across the region, addressing this inconsistency will be the focus of the new board.
“Whilst special measures will apply to the organisation, I wish to reassure both patients and communities served by the Health Board, as well as the staff working for it, that day to day services and activities will continue, with an increased focus on quality and safety.”
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