Welsh Secretary calls for independent inquiry into health board
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has called for an independent inquiry into Wales’ biggest health board.
The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) was put into special measures earlier this year.
Speaking to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Sunday, Mr Davies said: “It’s absolutely vital that confidence in Welsh health boards is restored, which is why we call today on the Welsh Labour Government to launch an independent inquiry to uncover the many drastic failures (of) the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.”
The whole board was removed earlier this year, with Wales’ health and social services minister Eluned Morgan raising “serious concerns about performance, leadership and culture”.
Last week North Wales Police confirmed that they had concluded an investigation into the health board’s financial dealings and a final report is now being prepared.
In June the police revealed they were in the ‘process of reviewing’ a damning report into Betsi’s finances and were considering whether to launch a full probe.
It followed accountancy firm Ernst & Young writing a scathing report over financial dealings at Betsi Cadwaladr, including deliberately incorrect entries into their own accounts as well as finding “systematic cultural failings” in the organisation’s finance team.
The report has not been released to the public and a probe by NHS Counter Fraud Wales concluded that no further criminal action would be taken.
But police chief and ex-Betsi chairman Mark Polin said the health board should face a public inquiry or police investigation over the report.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backed calls for a probe – with other politicians from Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives joining the call.
Consequently, North Wales Police announced they would make an “assessment” on the calls for a probe.
BCUHB which is the largest public sector organisation in Wales, covering just under a quarter of the population, has been beset with issues including a series of damning reports.
It has a budget of £1.9bn and employs 19,000 people and in the past eight years it has employed eight different chief executives.
In 2015 it was put into special measures by the then health minister Mark Drakeford, after “institutional abuse” of patients in the Tawel Fan mental health unit.
In late 2020, just months before the Senedd election, the Welsh Government took the decision to take the health board out of special measures in a move that was widely criticised at the time.
The then health minister, Vaughan Gething went on to claim that the decision was down to advice from the Auditor General for Wales, Adrian Crompton but Mr Crompton refuted that claim.
The health board was put back into special measures in February of this year following an Audit Wales report which found that the senior executive team was dysfunctional.
The independent board was forced to resign by the Health Minister, only for one of the newly appointed members, Lesley Singleton, to also resign just a week later.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Minister for Health and Social Services took the decision to place Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board into special measures in February this year, following serious concerns about governance, finance, performance and quality.
“Following this decision a number of reviews have been undertaken and a new leadership team including an interim chair, chief executive and independent members has been established.
“It is important to support this team to make the necessary changes to the organisation and improve the delivery of care to the people of north Wales. An inquiry would divert resources and attention away from this.”
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