Posted: Tue 24th Nov 2020

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to exit special measures with “immediate effect” for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Nov 24th, 2020

Welsh Government have announced Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will come out ‘special measures’ with “immediate effect”.

The escalation status has now moved to targeted intervention.

The health board entered the special measures back in June 2015, due to “serious and outstanding concerns about leadership, governance and progress” after ‘targeted intervention’ did not work.

Services including maternity and out-of-hours, have already come out of special measures in 2019.

When the board entered special measures, the then Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford said it needed to improve:

  • Governance, leadership and oversight
  • Mental health services
  • Maternity services at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd
  • GP and primary care services, including out-of-hours services
  • Reconnecting with the public and regaining the public’s confidence

As of November last year, when the last statement current Health minister Vaughan Gething made on the health board status, maternity services at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and GP out of hours services had been taken out of Special Measures.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething, said: “I have decided that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will come out of special measures and move into targeted intervention.

“My decision is informed by the advice I received following a meeting between the Chief Executive of NHS Wales, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Audit Wales.

“We have seen improvements across the health board and have greater confidence that it will make further progress. Throughout the pandemic the organisation has worked hard to play its role in caring for people affected by the virus. During what has been an unsettling time for public health across the world, I’m pleased to announce this positive news for North Wales and NHS Wales.

“I want to thank everyone at the health board who has contributed to improving services. The progress has only been made because of the commitment and hard work of our staff. Whilst there has been improvement, there are still areas of concern such as mental health and the health board fully recognises there is still further work to do.

“Targeted intervention is still a heightened level of escalation that requires significant action on the part of the health board.”

Health Minister Vaughan Gething

He added: “The Welsh Government has committed a further £82m per year over three-and-a-half years to support the health board as it enters a new phase under targeted intervention and continues its ongoing work to improve.

“This substantial investment will be used to improve unscheduled care; build sustainable planned care, including orthopaedics; and deliver improvements in mental health services.”

Commenting on this afternoon’s announcement Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Chairman Mark Polin and Acting Chief Executive Gill Harris said in a joint statement: “We welcome this significant announcement and continued support from Welsh Government.  We are encouraged by the growing confidence in our plans to make strategic longer term improvements while acknowledging that there is much more to do.

“The package of support recently announced by Welsh Government will help us to build on work to develop transformational and sustainable solutions to long term challenges in unscheduled care, diagnostics, planned care and mental health services.

“We are confident that our ambitious plans for the future will improve patient experience and waiting times. These include the establishment of Diagnostic and Treatment Centres and driving forward the business case for a North Wales Medical and Health Science School.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Chairman Mark Polin

“We are hugely proud that colleagues across the organisation have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 and have displayed positivity, resilience and a commitment to patients in the most difficult of circumstances. We thank them for everything they have done to care for patients and keep our communities safe.

“There is a lot more work ahead but we are confident that with the support of our staff, partners, and public, the much-needed transformation of health services across North Wales will be achieved.:

However today’s announcement has been challenged by opposition parties, with the Welsh Conservatives questioning if it’s a “ploy” ahead of next May’s elections.

Welsh Conservative health spokesperson, Andrew RT Davies MS, said: “After five years of special measures – the longest of any health organisation in the UK – any genuine progress at Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board would have to be welcomed.

“Staff and volunteers have gone above and beyond to deliver health services to the people of North Wales that they deserve, especially during Covid-19. Their dedicated and hard-work needs to be commended.

“However, concerns over governance and delivery of services for the people of North Wales are as pertinent today as when the health board entered special measures under the stewardship of this health minister in 2015.

“Let’s ask the most important question about this decision: what has happened since last month to so radically improve things at the board?

“This question must be asked, because on October 7, just six weeks ago, the Health Minister said: ‘However, there remained concerns on performance and strategic solutions that may require specific external support. Specifically, the group wanted some further assurance from the health board in respect of progress in mental health services.’

“I’ve heard of miraculous recoveries, but not like this, not when services have been so bad for so long.

“We do hope this is not a cynical electoral ploy ahead of May’s Senedd elections, and marks a genuine first step to turning the organisation into an effective provider of first class health care, where patient safety and delivery of quality services in North Wales comes first.”

Acting Chief Executive Gill Harris

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health Rhun ap Iorwerth MS reiterated calls from the party to scrap Betsi Cadwaladr and replace it with “new health structures”.

He said:  “Today’s announcement comes as a surprise given that only a few weeks ago the Health Minister stated that not enough improvements had been made to exit special measures. We were told there were still big challenges to overcome, not least in mental health.

“Through continued targeted intervention, Labour Ministers remain responsible for what happens in terms of strategic direction and the delivery of services in the north, and after 5 and a half years of special measures, patients can be forgiven for being sceptical about what today’s announcement will actually mean in terms of improvements to services.

“Plaid Cymru believes that the board’s problems are chronic and structural, and that major changes are still required.

“That’s why we say it’s time for a fresh start, with new health and care structures serving the north instead of the current Board which is too large and remote from the communities it serves.

“Patents and staff deserve better, and I thank those hard working frontline staff for their work and commitment during such a difficult year.”

Plaid Cymru North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd said: “Betsi Cadwaladr health board was placed under special measures five-and-a-half years ago due, in part, to failings in mental health and management.

“Just six weeks ago, the health secretary said ‘further assurances’ were needed on mental health services – has he now had those assurances and can he share what improvements have been made?

“I have to say that, in light of ongoing problems and the failure to resolve long-standing scandals involving mental health provision, I remain unconvinced that there have been sufficient improvements to come out of special measures.

“This smacks more of a political stunt so that this Labour Government can say it has improved health services in the North when it’s clear that the health board has not made significant strides under its direct rule as a result of special measures.”

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