Posted: Fri 20th May 2022

Restructuring North Wales health board “at this point in time is not the answer”, says health minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 20th, 2022

Restructuring Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board “at this point in time is not the answer”, Wales’ health minister has said.

Eluned Morgan MS was speaking after facing challenge from Members of the Senedd about the performance of the North Wales Health Board.

This week saw the Emergency Department at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd designated as ‘Service Requiring Significant Improvement’ by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW).

The designation is based on an accumulation of evidence, originating in January 2022, leading to the completion of a Quality Check on 8 March 2022 and an unannounced onsite inspection that took place on 3-5 May 2022.

Several patient safety concerns were identified during this period.

HIW said it is “working with the health board to ensure improvements are made in a timely manner”. It will then We will then consider whether the service can be de-escalated and removed from this process.

In the Senedd on Wednesday Health Minister Eluned Morgan came under fire for the health board’s performance, with Conservative MS Darren Miller saying that the people of North Wales are “frankly fed up.”

He also questioned whether a decision to remove Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board from special measures was done because of the May 2021 election.

Commenting on the report on Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Mr Millar said: “The fundamental problem that staff tell me that there is in that hospital is that there are not enough in-patient beds, there are not enough members of staff.

“What are you going to do to make sure that the balance of in-patient beds is right for that local population in Conwy and Denbighshire that rely on that hospital?

“Because, demographically, it is the oldest population in Wales, and yet there are fewer beds for the number of residents who are served by that hospital than in any other part of the country.

“Do you accept that the person who is sat next to you, your predecessor, took the wrong decision when he decided to remove this health board from special measures in advance of the last Senedd election? That was the wrong decision, Minister, and you need to sort it out.”

Gareth Davies MS, asked whether the health minister believed that the health board “is fit for purpose” and if services across the region will be reviewed to “ensure a safe environment for patients and staff.”

Ms Morgan removing the health board from special measures, saying that the right decision had been made.

She said: “These are difficult times and difficult situations, but it’s clear that Glan Clwyd and Betsi are not coping as well as some other health boards in Wales. And of course, therefore, we do need to look at that, and that’s why the tripartite meeting will give us some indication of whether we need to escalate the situation.

“I think that my predecessor did the right thing in actually looking at the way that Betsi was running and making sure that he did downgrade them from the intervention that they were on. But, since then, we’ve had a new chief executive, we’ve got I think a chair who is active and very engaged with the workforce and is absolutely determined to change the situation.

“I think it’s really important that we get the balance right here between making sure that we see massive improvements in Betsi, particularly in ED and vascular, but that we also make sure we stand by the staff, who have been under incredible pressure over a very long time.”

Llyr Gruffydd said that the time has come for the Welsh Government to start a wider conversation around reforming health services in North Wales.

He said: “Another scandal, another damning report, another urgent question in the Senedd, and another poor response, I’m afraid, by the Government.

“We’re going around in circles here, aren’t we? We are going around in circles. How many times do we have to listen to you promising that things will improve, whilst bodies such as HIW and community health councils and others are telling us a very different story.

“Patients in north Wales have been promised improvements for years on end, and they just never seem to materialise. You tried special measures, and it failed; you tried all sorts of heightened interventions and they’re clearly not delivering.”

The health minister argued that “restructuring at this point in time is not the answer” and that her focus was to “get on with the job of healing people.”

She said that a tripartite meeting will take place next month which will provide recommendations to me on the appropriate level of escalation.

Ms Morgan added: “Now, your answer is always to run down the service and the people working in that service who are on their knees, who are in tears.

“And, of course, we’ve got a duty and responsibility to serve the people of that community. If you think that restructuring at this point in time is the answer, I’m afraid I think you’re mistaken. That is not what I’ll be doing.

“I am not going to be restructuring in the middle of a pandemic. That is not the way to go about change.

“We are putting pressure on the health service in the area, we are meeting frequently with the NHS in the area, and we will continue to make sure that we are responding in a productive and in a progressive way, which is constructive.

“Of course, this kind of situation is unacceptable, but we will stand by them to make sure that they make improvements.”

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