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Senedd roundup: Calls for under-reported deaths probe to be published

27 Apr 2020 6 minute read
Dr Frank Atherton. Photo by Life Sciences Hub Wales Via YouTube

Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives are both pressing the Welsh Government to make public the investigation into why Betsi Cadwaladr Health board under-reported Covid-19 deaths.

An investigation was launched into the error last week and First Minister Mark Drakeford was due to receive the findings today.

The issue was revealed last Friday when 84 deaths were belatedly confirmed between 20 March and 22 April within the health board area.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, Wales’ chief medical officer, blamed the error on a glitch and explained: “When the epidemic first started earlier this year, Public Health Wales put in place a new electronic reporting system for health boards to use.

“That was to pull to pull together the numbers so that we had an accurate figure.

“Betsi Cadwaladr decided not to use that system and used a different system. That’s why there has been a glitch in the process which has now been corrected.”

Plaid Cymru AM for Arfon Sian Gwenllian questioned why Betsi Cadwaladr had been using a different system to the rest of the Welsh NHS “in the first place” and why it had taken a month before Welsh Government and Public Health Wales realised something was wrong: “We need to know from the health board, Public Health Wales and Welsh Government what really happened – and fast.”

“The Welsh Government must publish the report into the incident as soon as possible. Lessons must be learnt . Honesty and transparency is crucial to maintain public trust and confidence – especially during such challenging times.

The Conservatives Shadow Minister for North Wales, Mark Isherwood AM, said: “A ‘computer glitch’ seems on the face of it to be a very simplistic excuse, and I am reminded of the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ when it comes to incorrect data and recording.

“The report must be published for confidence to begin to return.”

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board has been in special measures since June 2015.

Public Health Wales reported on Monday that another eight people in Wales have died with coronavirus – taking the total number to 796.  203 new cases were confirmed, taking the total to 9,280. 1,250 new tests were also performed over the previous 24-hour reporting period.

Photo by Orna Wachman from Pixabay

Drakeford defends PPE record

First Minister Mark Drakeford has defended the government’s record on supplying personal protective equipment to frontline staff during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Speaking at the Welsh Government’s daily coronavirus press conference he said more than 56 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been provided to health and social care workers in Wales during the outbreak so far. He added: “We have provided PPE to hospital and primary care staff, including to all pharmacies, emergency dental clinics, optometrists and GP surgeries.

“We are making deliveries twice a week to local authority stores for onward distribution to social care settings.”

“We have been very fortunate that we’ve had enough PPE in Wales but two items – masks and fluid-resistant gowns – are under the most pressure.”

Earlier on Monday it was reported that minutes of a meeting held between the Welsh Government and Wales’ local government leaders suggest that the Welsh NHS almost ran out of personal protective equipment on one day in mid-April.

The minutes on 17th April record that they were the day before facing a “PPE stock-out situation”, a reference to running out of stock of personal protective equipment.


The First Minister also confirmed delivery of 10 million protective masks from China on Saturday and indicated the Welsh Government has also been offered more masks by Vietnam. He pointed out thee scale of the pandemic has put pressure on government officials to source products from new suppliers to replace some cancelled contracts and also explained that some supplies are taking longer to arrive – and in almost all cases the cost of PPE has risen.

“Over the weekend, we received a shipment of 10 million (Type 2R) masks from China. These will be for use in Wales but we will also be able to offer mutual aid to other parts of the UK if and when needed,” Mr Drakeford said.

“We have also had a generous offer of masks for Wales from the Embassy of Vietnam.

“We are working to secure further orders of PPE from a number of other international suppliers.”


He also praised an “overwhelming response” from Welsh companies offering to make PPE: “We have had almost 1,000 enquiries and offers to date, half of these have been about PPE or medtech.”

“We can’t simply rely on supplies from overseas – we have to have a homegrown supply of essential equipment.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to build up local businesses to make more of the everyday goods we use in Wales, we’ll be looking at how we can make more of the PPE we need closer to home”.

“For the first time, we are self-sufficient in scrubs in Wales – we’re making 5,000 a week, bringing back overseas jobs and anchoring them in our Welsh economy.”

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

Bereavement services receive extra funding

Cruse Bereavement Care Cymru has been awarded additional funding to help it respond to an expected increase in demand over the coming months.

As well as rising coronavirus-related death rates, Cruse is also expecting to see an increase in the complexity of people’s grief experiences because of the nature of the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus, which will require extra support.

The £72,000 from the Welsh Government will help to recruit and train new volunteers and provide further training for existing volunteers to increase the numbers of people they can support. It will also help the service to offer new online group sessions for bereaved people and provide wider access to help and information as demand increases.

Janette Bourne, director of Cruse Bereavement Care Cymru said: “We’re committed to making sure all bereaved people in Wales can continue to access support, whether that’s through our national helpline – 0808 808 1677 – or ongoing telephone sessions with local branches.

Once the current restrictions are lifted, this funding will also support us to restore our face-to-face and group sessions delivered by our hugely valued and highly trained bereavement volunteers.”

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