Families legal action over Tawel Fan in search of 'truth'

The Tawel Fan ward at the Ablett unit
Image caption Tawel Fan opened in 1995 and had 17 beds before it closed in 2013

Some relatives of former patients at a controversial dementia ward are taking legal action against the health board which ran it.

A report in 2018 said there was no institutional abuse at the Tawel Fan ward at Glan Clwyd Hospital, but accepted there were failings.

The Health and Social Care Advisory Service report was called a "cover up".

An earlier probe claimed patients at the Denbighshire unit had been kept like "animals" before it shut in 2013.

Phil Dickaty, whose mother Joyce had dementia and died in Tawel Fan in 2012, said the family witnessed "absolute chaos" on the ward.

He said the families like his who are seeking a legal solution "just want the truth".

"Compensation is the least of our concerns," he said. "We want an acknowledgment of the harm that was caused.

"We've been left out in the cold and feel as if we've been pushed aside to fend for ourselves."

The latest report concluded the findings of a report made public in 2015, which said failings amounted to "institutional abuse", were based on evidence that was incomplete, misinterpreted, taken out of context, based on misleading information and misunderstood.

Image caption Tawel Fan is part of the Ablett unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan

The previous report by health official Donna Ockenden had included a family's claim that going to the ward had been like visiting "animals in a zoo".

Her inquiry described accounts of the most vulnerable patients, including elderly patients with dementia, left to lie naked on the floor.

The local patients' watchdog said some improvements have been made following recent inquiries into the way patients were treated, but more could still be done.

"Some of the families have entered into legal action, others have received money under the redress system to go to independent solicitors," said Geoff Ryall-Harvey from North Wales Community Health Council.

"It's fair to say the whole thing is a badly missed opportunity for the families getting closure. Two inquiries should have meant people should have had the answers they want."

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which ran the ward, said it has acted on findings in both reports.

"Despite the progress we have made, we know that there is much more work to do, including reducing the amount of time that people spend waiting for treatment," it said in a statement.

"We are determined to accelerate the pace of improvement in order to get our services to where they need to be."

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