Report: 'Significant challenges' remain at North Wales health board


Mike Williams

A TROUBLED North Wales health board has come under fire again after a fresh report highlighted persisting problems. 

The Wales Audit Office’s latest review into Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has revelead that while some of the 24 key problems flagged up a year ago have been addressed, there is still “more work to do” and several “significan challenges” remain. 

Kate Chamberlain, chief executive of Health Inspectorate Wales, said: “It is clear that there is still work required to ensure that the Health Board can identify, tackle and learn from issues that have arisen in relation to quality and safety of patient care. 

“While progress has been made, matters such as this will need to be treated with urgency.” 

The report highlighted “urgent” action needed to review the health board’s organisational structure, strenghten accountability and improve the speed of responses to complaints and serious incidents. 

It also said clarity is needed over the future of services across North Wales, as well as the health board’s “precarious” financial position with a “significant” deficit forecast for the end of this financial year. 

But the review did highlight some positives, including improvements in governance arrangements and procedures, the way board meetings operate and how board members are supported, and improvements to infection prevention and control. 

Since the original review last year, there has been an overhaul of senior personnel, with a new chair, vice chair, chief executive, medical director and executive nurse director appointed. 

A Wales Audit Office spokesperson said: “This has provided fresh impetus and new leadership perspectives in a number of key areas. 

“However, the pace of change has been slowed by the length of time it has taken to replace the chief executive.” 

Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said: “Large scale changes in senior personnel at the health board in the wake of last year’s report mean the Board is very much in transition. 

“Despite this there has been progress in addressing our recommendations, most notably into how the board operates and a renewed focus at the top level on quality and safety arrangements.” 

Health board chair Dr Peter Higson, reacting warmly to the report, said: “On behalf of the Board, I very much welcome this report. 

“It confirms that we have made progress in addressing the issues identified by Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales in 2013 but also that we have more to do.”

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