Wales

Betsi Cadwaladr report: Ministers 'did not interfere'

First Minister Carwyn Jones has insisted ministers were not involved in changes to a report about a north Wales NHS shake-up.

He said there was "no interference of any kind" by the Welsh government.

He said his government had confidence in the National Clinical Forum (NCF), which advises local health boards.

The forum had warned Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board its proposals were "unsustainable" in the long term, but the assessment was rewritten.

That followed an intervention by the board's chief executive, Mary Burrows.

She has said the NCF was asked to "clarify" specific proposals and the forum's chair has said amendments were needed to remove any "ambiguity" from the report.

At question time in the Senedd, opposition leaders said there was a "lack of leadership" for the NHS and that the Welsh government had to "get a grip".

Mr Jones said Health Minister Lesley Griffiths was not aware of the chain of events until later.

It would have been "wholly wrong if the health minister had in some way tried to interfere with the dialogue that was taking place between the LHB (local health board) and the National Clinical Forum," he said.

The Conservatives, who obtained leaked documents, have demanded to know why the forum's response to Betsi Cadwaladr's proposals was changed so extensively.

'No ambiguity'

The board has proposed closing a number of minor injuries units and community hospitals, while neonatal intensive care at Denbighshire's Glan Clwyd hospital and others would be moved to Arrowe Park in Wirral.

NCF chairman professor Mike Harmer said the report needed rewriting "to ensure there was no ambiguity" and claimed the underlying message of the revised submission was the same as the original.

Answering an urgent question, Mrs Griffiths said she would not be involved until the end of the process when definitive reports were ready.

"I haven't been party to the conversations and absolutely it would be not right for me to be party to any conversations at this time," she said.

"It would have been completely inappropriate for me to have intervened."

Conservative Darren Millar, who tabled the question, said the changes were made to the NCF report in full knowledge of Welsh government officials who act as observers to the forum.

"The result was a report which went from expressing serious concerns about the health board's proposals to expressing support.

"Do you agree with me that these revelations seriously undermine public confidence in the process of NHS service change?"

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said the minister's officials should have told her that "major alterations" were being made to the forum's assessment of the LHB's plans.

"We are increasingly seeing a health minister that is not on top of her brief," she said.

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