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Campaigners call for public inquiry into Gething’s role in controversial £835m cancer centre project

17 May 2024 8 minute read
First Minister Vaughan Gething – Image: Ben Birchall

Martin Shipton

Campaigners who believe a new £835m cancer centre for south Wales is being built in the wrong place have called for a public inquiry into First Minister Vaughan Gething’s involvement in the project.

Work on the new Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff is going ahead in the city’s Whitchurch district despite massive opposition from clinicians, neighbouring residents and environmentalists.

Mr Gething has been involved at key stages as plans for the centre progressed, first as Health Minister, then as Economy Minister, and finally as First Minister. He has recently committed huge amounts of public money to the construction of the centre on the site of a much loved green space called the Northern Meadows.

Costs

It was confirmed at the Senedd Public Accounts Committee meeting of May 8 2024 that the final 25 year cost of the new Velindre MIM (Mutual Investment Model – a variation on the Private Finance Initiative, PFI)  contract has risen to £835m. This sum does not include the equipment costs, to be funded separately by the Welsh Government.

The campaign group Save The Northern Meadows has collated a series of concerns relating to Mr Gething’s role in the project.

* In January 2021, 163 cancer specialists working in south east Wales wrote to Mr Gething as the Health Minister detailing all their concerns that the proposed standalone new Velindre was not the right model to deliver the best future cancer care for the region.

The clinicians who backed the letter included those specialising in pain management, cardiology, colorectal surgery, dermatology, emergency medicine, endocrinology, ENT, gastrointestinal medicine, general practice, gynaecology, haematology, head and neck surgery, hepatology, intensive care, nephrology, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, paediatrics, palliative care, psychiatry, public health, radiology, rheumatology, urology and vascular surgery.

Specialists in planning cancer services and cancer strategies also signed the letter, arguing that the new cancer centre should be colocated with a district general hospital. Mr Gething has refused to meet representatives of these 163 cancer care experts.

Limitations

* In December 2020 a policy briefing paper was written for those in the Welsh Government making the recommendation as to whether or not to approve the standalone model for new Velindre. This paper was presented to the government’s Infrastructure Investment Board, and it highlighted significant limitations and problems with the proposed centre. The paper stated that the new Velindre was to be a “like-for-like” replacement for the existing Velindre Hospital, and “is not intended to meet projected increases in demand for treatment on its own”.

The paper made clear that the new Velindre would not achieve the following important features: the most robust arrangements for the management of deteriorating inpatients; the most integrated clinical model;

the most future-proofed model of care; the capability to deliver all phase one clinical trials; capacity to meet projected demand for external beam radiotherapy and SACT (chemotherapy); and a consistent clinical model within Wales for tertiary non-surgical cancer care.

The paper also stated: “The argument is made that if Velindre Cancer Centre is to achieve its aspiration to be a leading cancer centre in the UK, then the standalone model hinders its ability to keep pace with the evolution of cancer therapies.”

The paper also stated: “There are clear clinical advantages to colocation of the new Velindre Cancer Centre with an acute site.” It is therefore clear that Vaughan Gething has known since at least 2020  that, if he approved the proposed new Velindre cancer centre, he would be locking half the population of Wales into an out-of-date model of cancer care for the next 25 years. In addition, the new building would not have any increased treatment capacity, and so would not be able to reduce waiting times for cancer treatment.

* In March 2021 Mr Gething as Health Minister and Rebecca Evans as Finance Minister signed off the Outline Business Case and the Enabling Works for new Velindre. One of the companies that was awarded a contract for the new Velindre Enabling Works was Neals, part of the Dauson Group, which now infamously donated £38,000 to Mr Gething’s 2018 Welsh Labour leadership campaign, and £200,000 to his 2024 leadership campaign.

Neals was contracted to take excavated soil and arisings from the new Velindre construction site to other locations, both on and off the development site, despite the owner having been convicted twice of illegal dumping of waste on a conservation site. The Northern Meadows is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.

* During Mr Gething’s time as Economy Minister, the Development Bank of Wales (DBW), owned by the Welsh Government and the responsibility of the Economy Minister, took the decision to invest in the new Velindre Mutual Investment Model (MIM), Wales’ equivalent of the discredited PFI.

Funds

It is not public knowledge how much DBW has invested in the new Velindre MIM. However, if it is similar to the 21stt Century Schools MIM, DBW will have provided funds for about 20% of the approximately £300m capital construction cost of new Velindre. The new Velindre MIM contract, which DBW invested in, was awarded to the Acorn consortium. Two key companies in the Acorn consortium, Kajima and Sacyr, have convictions for bid-rigging in Japan and Spain respectively.

* Vaughan Gething, current Health Minister Eluned Morgan and Rebecca Evans provided their approval for the new Velindre MIM contract on March 28 2024. Mr Gething had become First Minister eight days before on March 20. Further to the award of the new Velindre MIM contract to two convicted bid-riggers, Kajima and Sacyr, a Senedd committee that scrutinises the work of Welsh Government Ministers, the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee, decided that the convictions should be looked at to see whether they should disqualify the companies from participation in the contract. However, Mr Gething gave his approval for the new Velindre MIM contract before this scrutiny investigation had been completed.

A spokesperson for the Save the Northern Meadows group said: “We continue to hold all the front line staff at Velindre cancer centre in the highest regard for all their dedication and hard work to provide the high quality care for patients with cancer. As regards Mr Gething, there are now just so many questions about his actions in the new Velindre saga that it is difficult to know where to start.

“Why has Mr Gething refused to meet representatives of 163 cancer specialists? Why would he not meet clinicians from that long list of specialities? Surely he should be pleased to meet and learn from all their years of experience of looking after patients with cancer?

“Did Mr Gething read the 2020 policy briefing paper to the Infrastructure Investment Board? If he did read it, why did he disregard the many cautions in the paper regarding the inadequacies of the proposed standalone model? But if he did not read the paper, was this not an omission similar to the one he admitted to at the UK Covid Inquiry? We think the public will be very concerned that Mr Gething authorised the payment of £835m for a like-for-like replacement cancer centre which will not have any effect on bringing down cancer treatment waiting times.

“Was Vaughan Gething aware that one of the companies awarded a contract for the new Velindre enabling works was Neals, whose owner was given a suspended prison sentence in 2013 for illegally dumping waste on a conservation site and whose owner made a donation to his 2018 election campaign? Why has DBW invested in this MIM contract when it involved two companies convicted of bid-rigging? What due diligence did DBW undertake ?

“Why did DBW invest in this project when so many cancer specialists had significant reservations about it? DBW should make public how much it has invested in the new Velindre MIM, and what profit it is forecasted to make on this investment. The new Velindre construction project is already years behind its completion date of 2022. If the project runs out of finance before completion, will DBW have to make a further investment, and could it make a loss on this investment?

“Why did Vaughan Gething provide his approval for the new Velindre MIM contract before the Senedd Public Accounts Committee completed their investigation into the bid-rigging convictions?

“Given all these serious and unanswered questions there must be a public inquiry into Vaughan Gething’s actions with regard to the new Velindre cancer centre.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson responded: “Contracts for the Velindre Cancer Centre were awarded following a rigorous public procurement process run by the Velindre University NHS Trust.”


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Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
17 days ago

Velindre should be stopped and so should Vaughan.

Congratulations to Nation.Cymru for the excellent reporting.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
17 days ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

The only way to stop this occurring time and time again is for Wales to have an effective opposition that is not tied to a London based party. This needs to come and can, come currently come from Plaid Cymru building the strong opposition in our nation the country needs right now! No nation with continuous one party government has ever been successful and always becomes established in corrupt practises without challenge. The UK based Labour and Conservative parties have always made centralised policies for the UK based on the English agenda, not being allowed to deviate much from the… Read more »

Neil McEvoy
Neil McEvoy
17 days ago

Plaid Cymru follows Labour’s orders. I observed that 1st hand ! There is no opposition in the Senedd now.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
17 days ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

Yes, well done Nation.Cymru. Top notch journalism.

John Owen
John Owen
17 days ago

Wales is not for sale?, depends who you ask.

hdavies15
hdavies15
17 days ago
Reply to  John Owen

Wales, or big chunks of it, is available free of charge as long as a decent size of brown envelope is gifted to the right person(s)

Neil McEvoy
Neil McEvoy
17 days ago

A very good PR campaign was run before the 2021 Senedd Election by the wife of a senior person on the project. They hammered anyone (like me!) opposing the second class health care provision they were pushing. We were mislabelled as being anti-cancer care, with celebrities jumping on board. We wanted the best health care going forward, but this was missed. People like Leanne Wood ducked for cover & changed positions, some of us just took the abuse; and there was abuse. Labour has foisted an expensive, second rate hospital on us that we won’t even own. People will needlessly… Read more »

T3DSK1
T3DSK1
13 days ago
Reply to  Neil McEvoy

Look at the Grange for example not fit for purpose but God forbid anyone to say so

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago

Anybody would think that Cymru was a developing nation ripe for exploitation …

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
16 days ago

Yet more questions about the integrity and decision making of Gething. Corrupt or totally incompetent? Either way he has no place in politics, Neither do many of the politicians of the Welsh Branch of Labour, particularly those who back him and especially as ministers.
He and they get away with all this because there is no opposition in the Senedd or top notch mainstream journalists holding him/them to account. Thank goodness for Nation Cymru, a real thorn in the side.

Adrian Bamford
Adrian Bamford
14 days ago

Well…so far it’s been a great year for ethnic minority leaders hasn’t it?

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
14 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Bamford

Don’t worry all is not lost, Rishi may soon get the plane’s flying to Rwanda and after the Tories get destroyed at the GE Braverman may come back as Conservative Party leader.

Bob Fleming
Bob Fleming
14 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Bamford

Your point is?

A Evans
A Evans
10 days ago

INDEPENDENT REVIEW!

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