Posted: Tue 15th Mar 2022

Improvements to mental health services in North Wales ‘not fast enough’, says First Minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Mar 15th, 2022

Improvements to mental health services in North Wales are not being made quickly enough, the First Minister has said.

It follows damning reports into the deaths of two patients which identified failings at mental health units units run by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

There have been a number of inquiries into mental health care in the region which have raised concern in recent years.

It was one of the reasons why the health board was placed into special measures in June 2015, a category in which it stayed for more than five years.

Mark Drakeford was questioned on the cases of the two patients during a First Minister’s Questions session held in the Senedd today.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies pointed out that their deaths occurred just months after the health board was brought out of special measures in November 2020.

He said: “First Minister, it is with regret that I have to raise with you another report about service failure in Betsi Cadwaladr health board in North Wales.

“In the most recent report, which made for very distressing reading, we learnt of the failings in mental health services that led to the tragic deaths of two individuals.

“One patient took their own life, and the other died through what looks like neglect.

“These deaths were as recently as 2021, just months after the then Health Minister took the health board out of special measures, a direct result from your Government.

“After having this time to reflect on the report and its findings, do you, like me, believe that the families are owed an apology from both the health board and the Welsh Government that their loved ones were not looked after in a better way.”

In response, Mr Drakeford said: “Absolutely, of course. The health board, I believe, has already been in contact with the families and an apology to them is due.

“The coroner has asked for the reports to be withdrawn while his inquiries into the deaths continue, and the health board has I think removed them from their website.

“They are very different cases and deserve the sorts of investigation that the coroner can bring to them.”

A warning was recently made by current Health Minister Eluned Morgan for the health board to make urgent improvements to vascular services in the area or face being put back into special measures.

Mr RT Davies said despite being removed from the highest level of escalation, “very upsetting reports” were still being received regarding mental health services.

He also claimed that some recommendations for enhancing mental health care were not being followed up.

Mr Drakeford said: “I agreed with something the leader of the opposition said earlier in his questions, that the improvement in mental health services in north Wales has not been as fast as it needs to be.

“There are clearly further actions that need to be taken to make sure that, in all aspects of mental health services, people in north Wales get the service that they deserve.

“Whether a further report and a further review is the best way to achieve that I think is a more open question.

“I do know, because I have talked directly with people responsible for those services, that they feel they work as hard as they can to bring about the improvements that are necessary.

“They often have to do it in the face of constant criticism and constant undermining.

“There is legitimate criticism to be made, but I’m putting it to you as well that making the progress that they want to make is not as easy as they would like it to be when they feel constantly that their efforts are scrutinised in a hostile way by people, rather than a way that looks to support improvement.”

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