Posted: Thu 21st Mar 2024

Health Minister defends record in face of Betsi Cadwaladr challenges

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Wales’ health minister has been challenged after claiming that delivering improvements to a troubled health board is one of her “greatest achievements”.

Eluned Morgan made her comments amid uncertainty over her future in the role following the appointment of Vaughan Gething as First Minister.

Ms Morgan has faced a number of issues as Health Minister, including the performance of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and lengthy waiting lists for patients in Wales.

The north Wales health board was placed into special measures for the second time in February 2023 due to “serious concerns about performance, leadership and culture”.

With questions remaining over how long Ms Morgan will remain as Health Minister, she was asked yesterday (Wednesday, 20 March) by Clwyd West MS Gareth Davies how she would assess her own record.

Speaking in the Senedd, the Welsh Conservative politician said: “We are a year on from the minister narrowly missing a vote of no confidence, due to her mismanagement of failings in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in north Wales.

“(It’s) a health board that was pulled from special measures for reasons of political expediency and then placed back into special measures by this Labour government after the election.

“The minister’s legacy will be of having presided over a health service in which every single health board is in some sort of enhanced monitoring or special measures, A&E targets missed, cancer waiting targets missed, two-year waits on elimination targets missed twice.

“Can the minister tell me, when she looks back over her time in the portfolio, does she agree with me that the health service in Wales is in much worse shape today than when you first assumed office?”

Ms Morgan was interviewed by ITV Wales in December about whether she wished to continue in her ministerial role.

At the time, she said she would “not necessarily” want to remain in her post, describing it as “very, very tough”.
During yesterday’s plenary session, Ms Morgan remained non-committal, stating “we’ll have to see what happens”.
Responding to Mr Davies, she said she believed there had been improvements at Betsi Cadwaladr.
She said: “Actually, I think there’s been a huge amount of change during my term in this office.
“We have obviously seen a change in Betsi, from a very difficult situation to a change that everybody on the ground has recognised.
“Even you, Gareth, have recognised that there is a change in Betsi, and it’s for the good.
“Obviously, there’s a long way to go, but stabilising a board that was in tremendous difficulties, I think, is actually one of the greatest achievements.”

An update was provided last month on progress made by the health board to address the issues raised by ministers.

Ms Morgan said there had been a focus on “rebuilding and stabilising” the board, with a permanent chair, chief executive and vice chair now in place.

She said Audit Wales had also recognised a “marked improvement” in terms of the board’s stability.

However, Mr Davies said he did not agree with her assessment that the health board had improved.

He said: “I don’t think I’d start claiming successes over Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

“Whereas I have recognised changes in the past, I think there is still a long way to go.

“The proof is in the pudding, especially after a decade of these false promises and warm words, where the issues still exist.

“It’s a case for people in north Wales that they’ll believe it when they see it, sadly.”

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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