Plaid Cymru calls on First Minister to correct the record on Betsi Cadwaladr claim
Plaid Cymru has called on the First Minister to correct the record on the decision-making process behind taking Betsi Cadwaladr health board out of special measures in 2020.
In November 2020, the former Health Minister Vaughan Gething said that the decision was made “because 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.”
However, In a letter to Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price last month, Auditor General Adrian Compton said: “I wrote to the Welsh Government to indicate that it was unhelpful for the Minister to imply that he had received direct advice from me or my staff on the escalation status of the Health Board.
“In making those representations I emphasised that neither I nor Audit Wales staff acting on my behalf can directly advise Ministers, and to do so would compromise the independence that goes with the office and functions of the Auditor General.
In February this year, the First Minister repeated the claim in the the Senedd.
He said 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 yesterday (Thursday 20 April), Mr Drakeford said he had “never” implied that the health inspectorate had given advice to take health boards in and out of special measures.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, said: “We have a clear statement, on the parliamentary record, from the former Health Minister, and more recently the First Minister that the decision to take Betsi Cadwaladr health board out of special measures was because of advice received by the auditor general, along with other participants in the so-called tripartite discussions that were held at the time.
“The First Minister can deny this all he likes, but it’s there as clear as day – he refers specifically to advice received from the auditor general. If this is not true, then the record must be corrected.”
“We have a letter from the Auditor General to say that this statement was not true. We now have evidence that the Auditor General felt it necessary to write to the Welsh Government after Vaughan Gething’s comments in November 2020, to underline how ‘unhelpful’ it was to imply that such advice had been received from the audit office when it had not.
“Crucially – not only did the Welsh Government not heed the concerns raised by the Auditor General in 2020, the First Minister went on to repeat the same misleading statement in Senedd just this year.”
Mr Drakeford told BBC Wales, “I certainly have not misled the Senedd.”
He said said the process on special measures was a “complicated system for those who are not used to it”.
“It begins with the auditor general, the civil service and Health Inspectorate Wales coming together to discuss whether or not an organisation needs to have any extra intervention.
“Separately, civil servants then advise ministers and the third step in this chain is ministers decide.”
The First Minister added that he intends to write to the Llywydd, the Senedd’s presiding officer, “setting this process out for people so nobody need to be confused in future.”
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