Wales politics

Wales health: New system for serious NHS failures

Glan Clwyd hospital Image copyright BCUHB
Image caption Investigators criticised the health board's handling of a C. difficile outbreak at Glan Clwyd Hospital

Welsh ministers could put health bodies in special measures, under new plans to tackle any serious NHS failings.

They could suspend the organisation's board or ask another body to run the service.

In June last year, a damning report criticised mismanagement of the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in north Wales for a catalogue of errors.

Conservatives said the changes should go some way to making health boards accountable for poor performance.

Ministers said it would now be much clearer how such matters were dealt with.

The new arrangements are also intended to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Welsh government, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and the Auditor General Wales when dealing with potential problems.

Less drastic options, in place from next month, are "enhanced monitoring" and "targeted intervention".

The Welsh government said the need for a stronger inspection and regulation regime emerged from last year's joint HIW and Wales Audit Office (WAO) report into governance arrangements at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

The board runs all aspects of the NHS in north Wales.

The report found operations had been delayed and waiting lists allowed to grow at hospitals to avoid financial problems getting worse and that "significant management failings" had risked patient safety by under-reporting infections.

'Too murky'

On Thursday, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said inspection and regulatory regimes "need to evolve and keep pace with change so we are assured of a reliable and robust quality assurance system".

"I am confident that, where issues do emerge which give rise to concern, we now have a clear set of arrangements for all to understand how such matters will be systematically dealt with, to ensure proportionate and timely action," he said.

"Wales already has one of the most closely inspected healthcare systems in the UK - this new arrangement will ensure clarity about who is responsible for driving improvement."

The Conservatives said the situation at Betsi Cadwaldr health board had been "allowed to fester for far too long" and the previous processes were "far too murky and needed to change".

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said it was because of a "lack of accountability and insufficient clarity regarding triggers for Welsh government intervention".

"Patients and their families need to have confidence that (health) boards will be held to account for poor performance and these changes should go some way to ensuring that this is the case," he added.

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