Calls for Wales specific inquiry into Welsh Government’s handling of the pandemic have once again been made
The first minister has faced renewed calls to hold a Wales specific inquiry into the Welsh Government’s handling of coronavirus.
It comes after concerns were raised in the Senedd yesterday (Tuesday 25 January) over infection control in hospitals and the risk coronavirus poses to patients and staff.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has continually ruled out holding a Wales only inquiry, despite being challenged on why decisions that have affected Welsh lives and livelihoods won’t be scrutinised in Wales.
Instead Mr Drakeford has said that provided there is a specific Welsh focus in the UK-wide inquiry, he believes that is “the best way to move ahead.”
However the Welsh Government has faced multiple calls from opposition parties, who have been joined by the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, the British Lung Foundation, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales, the Institute for Welsh Affairs, and Plaid Cymru.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions yesterday Paul Davies MS, Welsh Conservative, highlighted a “damning hospital inspection report into Prince Charles Hospital last month, which found that the arrangements for the prevention and control of infection within the emergency department and clinical decisions unit did not protect patients, members of the public and staff.”
He said: “Clearly this report is another reason why a Wales-wide COVID inquiry is needed, so that issues like this can be scrutinised fully and questions answered over how these failings came to be.
“Patients have the right to feel safe in a hospital setting, and yet, as this report shows, there are risks of cross-infections, and in some cases patients were at risk.
“According to recent figures, nearly a quarter of people who died from coronavirus in Wales were infected in hospital, and despite Ministers consistently telling us they were learning lessons and implementing stronger protocols, the Prince Charles report shows that patients are still being put at risk.
“Given the calls now for a Wales-wide inquiry from organisations, from politicians and from families across Wales, what will it finally take for the Welsh Government to agree to a Wales-wide inquiry, so that families can get justice and we can finally get answers in relation to decisions taken here in Wales by your Government?”
However the first minister reiterated his stance on Wales taking part in a UK-wide inquiry being the best way forward.
Mr Drakeford said: What would it take for us to have a Wales-wide inquiry would be for me to lose faith, as he clearly has already, in the Prime Minister’s ability to deliver the inquiry that he has promised.
“Now, if I come to his lack of confidence in the Prime Minister’s willingness to do that, then I would have to think again about arrangements here in Wales.
“So far, as I’ve also explained many times in the past, the Welsh Government has had an opportunity to be involved in the appointment of the judge, Judge Hallett, who will lead the independent UK-wide inquiry, and I was satisfied with that appointment.
“I’m very glad that she is someone who has a very strong understanding of the devolved context and will bring an ability to ensure that that inquiry does focus on experiences here in Wales.
“There is another hurdle to pass in the next few days, when I hope that we will see the draft terms of reference. They’re with the judge still at the moment. Welsh Government, through our officials, have contributed to the development of those terms of reference.
“The Prime Minister has promised there will be a more formal opportunity for us to comment on them once Judge Hallett has completed her consideration.
“I will want to see that those terms of reference guarantee that the experience here in Wales will be properly and fully explored by that inquiry. And then there will be a further set of issues that I will need to be satisfied about, about the way in which the inquiry itself will go about its business.
“I will expect the inquiry to have access to expertise about Wales. I will expect it to have hearings here, directly in Wales, to make sure that it can collect the experiences, the views and the questions of people in Wales who will want that inquiry to be able to make the best sense it can of the experience of families, patients, staff here in Wales during the pandemic.
“They will only get those answers, I believe, when they are able to explore what happened here in Wales within that wider and sometimes shaping UK context.
“That is why I believe that that remains the best way of getting answers that people will wish to see from an inquiry about what happened here in Wales. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com