Ysbyty Gwynedd mental health unit changes anger doctors

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board
Image caption A report last month found a series of management problems at the health board

Hospital consultants have warned that patients in a mental health unit are being put in danger by changes being "rammed through" by managers.

The four consultants at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, who work for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) accused management of being "out of touch".

It follows a recent critical report which found a catalogue of management issues at north Wales hospitals.

The health board said care and safety of patients was its top priority.

In a series of letters to the chief executive of NHS Wales - seen by BBC Wales - the consultants say they are experiencing the same management problems as those found by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and the Wales Audit Office (WAO).

A petition signed by 17 patients at Ysbyty Gwynedd has also been sent to the Welsh government and a further letter, signed by one of the consultants, accuses management of "harassment" and "bullying".

The concerns follow plans by management at BCUHB to reorganise the Hergest unit in Bangor, which has three wards caring for adults with mental health difficulties.

The proposals would include changes to ward rounds and relocation of the ward office at the unit.

But the letter, signed by the consultants David Healy, Sumit Chandran, Tony Roberts and Qasim Ijaz says: "In our opinion, the clinical situation is deteriorating rapidly around us, and management are ever more out of touch.

"It seems highly likely that there will be serious incidents soon."

'Left vulnerable'

The letter says that many of the four consultants' concerns are similar to those raised in last month's report by the WAO and HIW which found "significant management failings".

"We have raised concerns that map onto the points contained within the report for close to a year without getting a response," the letter added.

"The changes to ward design and ward round function are being drawn up by staff who have no frontline clinical experience in adult mental health or no experience of [the] Hergest [unit] and how it functions."

A petition signed by 17 patients at the Hergest unit also says that they are concerned about their "safety and level of care" and would be "unsafe, unprotected and left vulnerable".

One of the consultants, Prof David Healy, has written a further letter to the chief executive of NHS Wales in which he criticises the culture of "harassment" and "bullying" which led to the removal of two ward managers from their posts.

He expresses his concern that "a decapitation strategy is very much part of the management style around here."

Prof Healy writes: "While acknowledging the management's right to require anyone to leave their post, when it becomes a style there are serious problems. Senior nursing staff have lived with this threat for close on two years.

"I have raised questions as to how far up the BCUHB hierarchy this management style goes, and have received no disavowals from anyone."

BCUHB says it is trying to improve standards at the Hergest unit.

In a statement, it said: "The health board places the care and safety of patients as its first priority.

"Earlier this year a major improvement programme started at the Hergest unit to address a number of concerns that had been raised about patient care.

'Immediate action'

"As part of the improvement programme, advocacy arrangements are in place to support patients wishing to raise concerns.

"The unit is enrolled with the Royal College of Psychiatrists quality improvement programme for the intensive care ward.

"The unit is also beginning to engage with the Star Wards Initiative to improve services offered to patients," the statement continued.

"In response to a recent alleged patient safety incident, immediate action has been taken to protect patients in line with regulatory guidance. We are not in a position to comment further on this specific incident due to patient and staff confidentiality."

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