Ministers accused of climbdown over Betsi Cadwaladr claims
Plaid Cymru has accused the Welsh Government of backtracking on statements made about the advice received before taking Betsi Cadwaladr health board out of special measures in November 2020.
Following pressure exerted on the First Minister by Plaid Cymru for misleading statements made in the Senedd to be corrected, updates have now been made to historic transcript records in three separate passages.
In what is being called a “climb down” on the part of the government, footnotes now appear next to statements made by the former Health Minister Vaughan Gething, and First Minister Mark Drakeford, where they state that the decision to take the health board out of special measures was due to “advice” received by the Auditor General for Wales amongst others.
In a statement made since by the Auditor General for Wales, he confirmed that, on the question of “whether there was advice from me or my staff to the Minister to de-escalate the Health Board from Special Measures at that time, I can be very clear, there was not.”
The footnotes links to letters written by the First Minister to the Llywydd in which he clarifies that “Audit Wales did not – and does not – advise Ministers directly on these matters.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesman on health and care, said the First Minister and Vaughan Gething are yet to “admit the obvious” – “that they actually misled the Senedd and misrepresented what the Auditor General said.”
Mr ap Iorwerth went on to say that the climb down is “humiliating” for Mark Drakeford and Labour, and that the public would have preferred for them to “just be honest.”
Mr ap Iorwerth said: “So Welsh Government asks for letters to be added as footnotes to the Senedd Record, which proves they misled the Senedd over taking Betsi Cadwaladr Health Boards out of special measures. But they won’t actually admit to misleading the Senedd! You couldn’t make it up.
“Our point has been proven, and it’s rather humiliating for Mark Drakeford and his Labour Government, but I’m sure that the Welsh public would have preferred Ministers to just be honest.
“Caught in the middle of this Labour mismanagement are the patients waiting record amounts of time for treatment, and our health and care workers who are demoralised, exhausted and struggling to make ends meet.
“This whole sorry saga adds weight to the question over Labour’s credibility in terms of running the health board – the people of the north of Wales deserve better from their government.”
Yesterday Plaid Cymru released the details of letters between the Auditor General for Wales and the former NHS Wales Chief Executive exchanged following a statement made by the former Health Minister Vaughan Gething in November 2020.
Mr Gething said at the time “the chief exec of NHS Wales, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Audit Wales have given clear advice that Betsi Cadwaladr should move out of special measures, and that is the basis for my decision.”
In a letter, seen by Plaid Cymru, it has now been understood that the Auditor General for Wales Adrian Compton wrote to the then NHS Wales Chief Executive, Andrew Goodall to express concern at the “subtle but very important difference” that Mr Crompton felt should be made to the statement.
In his letter, the Auditor General notes that, had he been given the opportunity to “offer any views on its content” before Mr Gething’s statement was delivered to Senedd, he would have “would have asked for the statement to more clearly reflect that any advice to the Minister on the escalation status is provided by Welsh Government officials.”
Mr Crompton goes on to say that “Making it clear that it is Welsh Government officials who provide advice on escalation status of NHS bodies is a helpful and necessary way of dealing with situations where there is not a universally shared view around the tripartite table.”
In response, Mr Goodall wrote back to say that he would “of course highlight the point further to the Minister in terms of ensuring that the involvement of HIW and Audit Wales in the tripartite process is seen to be different from the specific recommendation that emerges from officials following the process.”
The Auditor General had also written to the Welsh Government to express his concerns. However, since then, the First Minister repeated the statement, indicating that concerns of the Auditor General and then Chief Executive of NHS Wales were not heeded by the Welsh Government.
In February this year Mark Drakeford told the Senedd that the decision to take Betsi Cadwaladr out of special measures was taken “because we were advised that that is what we should do by the auditor general, by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and by Welsh Government officials…”
However, in an interview given to the BBC last week, Mr Drakeford said he had “never” implied that the health inspectorate had given advice to take health boards in and out of special measures.
There have been three additions to the Senedd record (Cofnod).
On 24 November, 2020, in response to a question from Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, the (then) Health Minister Vaughan Gething said (paragraph 172): “the chief exec of NHS Wales, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Audit Wales have given clear advice that Betsi Cadwaladr should move out of special measures, and that is the basis for my decision.” The footnote appears at the end of paragraph 206, which clarifies the actual process: https://record.assembly.wales/
On 28 Feb 2023, in response to a question from Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price MS, the First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The decision, and it is a decision of Ministers, to take the board out of special measures was because we were advised that that is what we should do by the auditor general, by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and by Welsh Government officials whose job it is to provide Ministers with the advice.” This quote, and the footnote appears in paragraph 26: https://record.assembly.wales/
3. On 24 April 2023, in response to Adam Price’s questioning, footnotes now appear to two different letters written by the First Minister to the Llywydd regarding the process for taking health boards out of special measures. Footnotes appear in the middle of paragraph 35: https://record.assembly.wales/
The footnotes link to one or both of the following letters from the First Minister: 1. 2.
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