Wales politics

NHS watchdog accused of ruse over report by Plaid AM

Bethan Sayed
Image caption Bethan Sayed questioned why she had not received a report on failings at a health board until hours after journalists

An NHS watchdog has been accused of trying to stop opposition AMs asking questions about a report into failings at a health board.

Bethan Sayed has questioned why she did not receive a copy until several hours after it had been seen by the media.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said Healthcare Inspectorate Wales was operationally independent.

The report criticised how sex assault claims against care worker Kris Wade were handled.

Wade later admitted the brutal murder of a neighbour in Cardiff Bay in 2016, while suspended from his job.

Journalists were given a media briefing on the inspectorate's report about Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and its employment of Kris Wade on Monday morning, under embargo and ahead of publication on Tuesday.

But Mrs Sayed's office did not receive a copy until around 1800 GMT that day - also under embargo.

The report later found that background checks had not been done on scores of staff at a health board, including Mr Wade.

Police later indicated that no concerns would have been found if Wade had been checked when he started working with vulnerable patients.

Mrs Sayed questioned HIW's independence, saying the way it has been dealt with gives the impression that HIW was "working with government to block access to documents by assembly members with an interest in very tough areas of scrutiny".

'Ruse'

"We've been interested in this case for quite some time so we've been proactively engaging with Healthcare Inspectorate Wales to try to get an embargoed copy to read in a timely fashion, but we were told that it wouldn't be available until six o'clock [on Monday]," she said.

"We were told that was because they wanted to give time to the families and the victims to take it in, and obviously I would understand.

"But then Tuesday I found out that it was given to the press at 0900 yesterday and a briefing was put on for them at a hotel in Cardiff."

She said she had been "misinformed" and said the reality was that it was a "ruse to try and stop opposition politicians from asking questions".

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption The Kris Wade report was published by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales

Asked about the issue in the Senedd on Wednesday, Mr Gething said HIW was "operationally independent".

He said publication of the report was a "matter for HIW" and not something "that has any kind of interference" from the Welsh Government.

Embargos are where information is shared with journalists or others, on the understanding it is not published until a set time.

A Healthcare Inspectorate Wales spokesman said: "In publishing this sensitive report HIW was careful to ensure that the victims and their families were briefed on the key findings and received a copy of the report prior to publication.

"Our standard process is to share our reports with those directly impacted by our findings and recommendations or factual accuracy checking prior to publication. In this case this included the Health Board and Welsh Government.

"In advance of publication HIW also chose to share the report with Bethan Sayed as well as others who had contributed to the review.

"An embargoed technical briefing with the media was held on Monday morning in order to help them understand the findings of the review and to ensure accurate reporting of the sensitive issues and findings."

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