MEMBER of the Senedd Darren Millar has slammed the Welsh Government for bringing Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) out of special measures.

Health and social services minister Vaughan Gething revealed this afternoon (Tuesday, November 24), that BCUHB would come out of special measures and move into targeted intervention.

BCUHB has been in special measures for five years.

Blasting the decision, Mr Millar, who represents Clwyd West, said: “This decision has everything to do with the prospects of the Labour Party at next year’s Senedd elections. It can not be justified and if the health minister thinks he can fool the people of North Wales then he is very much mistaken.

“The health minister insists that improvements have been made, but when I speak to my constituents, many do not feel like performance has improved.

“In February the First Minister said that he was disappointed at the progress being made at Betsi and just last month he told the Welsh Parliament that big challenges remain. How are the people of North Wales expected to believe that over the course of the coronavirus pandemic a health board that was showing disappointing progress has shown dramatic improvement.

“The change in culture that we all know that Betsi needed simply has not happened. Public confidence remains low, waiting times are unacceptable, mental health services aren’t good enough and access to GP and dentistry services is fragile.”

He added: “The people of North Wales will not be hoodwinked, we want to see real change and service improvement."

In a joint statement, BCUHB's chairman Mark Polin and acting chief executive Gill Harris said: “We welcome this significant announcement and continued support from Welsh Government. We are encouraged by the growing confidence in our plans to make strategic longer term improvements while acknowledging that there is much more to do.

“The package of support recently announced by Welsh Government will help us to build on work to develop transformational and sustainable solutions to long term challenges in unscheduled care, diagnostics, planned care and mental health services.

“We are confident that our ambitious plans for the future will improve patient experience and waiting times. These include the establishment of Diagnostic and Treatment Centres and driving forward the business case for a North Wales Medical and Health Science School.

“We are hugely proud that colleagues across the organisation have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 and have displayed positivity, resilience and a commitment to patients in the most difficult of circumstances. We thank them for everything they have done to care for patients and keep our communities safe.

“There is a lot more work ahead but we are confident that with the support of our staff, partners, and public, the much-needed transformation of health services across North Wales will be achieved."

Mr Gething said: “I have decided that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will come out of special measures and move into targeted intervention.

“My decision is informed by the advice I received following a meeting between the chief executive of NHS Wales, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Audit Wales.

“We have seen improvements across the health board and have greater confidence that it will make further progress. Throughout the pandemic the organisation has worked hard to play its role in caring for people affected by the virus.

“During what has been an unsettling time for public health across the world, I’m pleased to announce this positive news for North Wales and NHS Wales.

"The progress has only been made because of the commitment and hard work of our staff.

“Whilst there has been improvement, there are still areas of concern such as mental health and the health board fully recognises there is still further work to do. Targeted intervention is still a heightened level of escalation that requires significant action on the part of the health board.

“The Welsh Government has committed a further £82m per year over three-and-a-half years to support the health board as it enters a new phase under targeted intervention and continues its ongoing work to improve. This substantial investment will be used to improve unscheduled care; build sustainable planned care, including orthopaedics; and deliver improvements in mental health services.”

A joint statement from Hannah Blythyn MS, Lesley Griffiths MS, Ann Jones MS, Eluned Morgan MS, Jack Sargeant MS, Ken Skates MS, Mark Tami MP and Joyce Watson MS, said: "Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, NHS staff in North Wales have worked heroically to help protect people.

“Today’s welcome news that BCUHB has come out of special measures is recognition of how the health board has managed the pandemic and implemented significant improvements.

“The work of improving health services in North Wales will continue and today’s announcement will provide very welcome assurance to patients and staff that Betsi Cadwaladr is heading in the right direction.”

On June 8, 2015, North Wales’ only health board became the first to be taken into the direct control of Welsh Government via Special Measures.

The move followed 'damning' reports into failings of health care in North Wales including the Ockenden report into the treatment of patients on the Tawel Fan psychiatric ward.