Wales

Betsi Cadwaladr health board managers given support

Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor
Image caption Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor is one of the hospitals run by the Betsi Cadwaladr board

A troubled health board serving north Wales is being given "targeted support" to improve, the Welsh government says.

It follows a police investigation into a former mental health ward, issues over infection control, and spending concerns at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB).

Senior members of the board resigned last year following a critical watchdog report.

The board says it "welcomes the step change" by the Welsh government.

Government staff are now helping the new leadership team improve mental health services, management of capital projects, and overall spending control.

The Welsh government said the support would help ensure quick improvements.

'Urgency'

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "Discussions between the Wales Audit Office, Health Inspectorate Wales and ourselves have concluded that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board requires targeted support to help it respond to the challenges it faces.

"These include a significant financial risk in 2014-15; concerns about aspects of mental health services and the management of capital schemes.

"The aim of targeted support is to help the health board and its new leadership team to succeed by ensuring that plans, which address the areas of concern, are developed and implemented as a matter of urgency."

Image caption Chairman Peter Higson and deputy Margaret Hanson are part of the new team leading Betsi Cadwaladr

The Betsi Cadwaladr board has a budget of around £1.2bn, and runs hospitals including Ysbyty Gwynedd, Glan Clwyd Hospital and Wrexham Maelor.

It is the largest NHS organisation in Wales, employing more than 16,000 staff.

Wrexham Maelor hospital announced on Tuesday that it was recruiting the equivalent of 30 extra nursing staff and would also have an additional 30 beds available to meet the demands of winter.

But on the same day, the health board faced further criticism over treatment for bladder cancer patients with a specialist claiming the service was not fit for purpose.

A meeting of the health board in Bangor also revealed is was heading for a potential budget deficit of £78m, warning that spending on agency staff to fill positions was a particular concern.

Responding to the Welsh government intervention, the board's chief executive Prof Trevor Purt said: "We welcome this step change by the Welsh Government and are pleased that we and Welsh Government share a clear understanding of the challenges we face.

"We are dealing with these difficult issues openly, honestly and at pace."

But assembly members on the Public Accounts Committee examining health boards on Tuesday said there needed to be even more transparency.

Chairman Darren Millar, who is also the Conservatives' Shadow Health Minister, said it was "astonishing" that news of targeted support for BCUHB had not been publicised earlier.

He said: "What I want to see is a more transparent system of reporting these matters, and I think that the Welsh government takes the initiative and doesn't rely on the health boards to just publish information on their websites, which is hidden from public view and I have to scratch around in order to find."

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