The false claims by Welsh Labour Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, of a new ‘independent citizen body’ have been exposed by Welsh Conservatives.
Responding today to the Minister’s statement, Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM, has quashed the Minister’s claims that yesterday’s announced disbandment of Community Health Councils is in the interest of ‘transparency,’ ‘openness,’ and ‘honesty’.
The Bill, launched yesterday and discussed in the Welsh Parliament this afternoon, seeks to replace local Community Health Councils with a national Citizens’ Voice Body.
Mrs Burns has jumped to the defence of the regional Community Health Councils, as first proposed in the Welsh Conservative five-point plan for improving the Welsh NHS, launched earlier this year.
Despite claims that the new body will be impartial, it has since been revealed that its members will be appointed by Welsh Ministers, and it will receive its funding from the Welsh Ministers; making it a Welsh Government Sponsored Body.
The body will also be centralised, and will lose inspection powers and the power to make unannounced visits to NHS premises.
The Bill also proposes a new ‘duty of quality’ on the Welsh NHS, to impose on Welsh Ministers and NHS bodies a commitment to actively consider how improvements can be made to improve the quality of services, safety, and patient experiences. This is nine years after it was originally proposed.
It is claimed that regular reports on updates, which will be required by Ministers and NHS Bodies, will aid the ‘transparent’ nature of the decision-making process. This is despite publication of Healthcare Inspectorate Wales reports on the failings of Cwm Taf and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Boards for several years only to fail to address the problems raised.
Also proposed in the Introduction if the Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) Bill is a new ‘duty of candour’ to encourage honesty with patients and their families when things go wrong. Conveniently for the same Health Minister who oversaw the Cwm Taf maternity scandal and the highest figures of reported patient safety incidents in Wales at Betsi Cadwaladr, the duty is apparently ‘not about apportioning blame’.
Commenting after of the statement, Mrs Burns said:
“The people of Wales are losing faith with this Health Minister, and I hope healthcare users don’t let themselves be duped into believing this Bill is for the good of the NHS.
“Despite naming it a ‘Citizen Voice Body,’ the Minister has failed to explain how it can run independently.
“If the Minister thinks his plan will be of the benefit of healthcare users in Wales, I cannot agree. Community Health Councils are our eyes on the ground in some of the worst-performing areas of the NHS in Wales.
“If things in Betsi and Cwm Taf could get so bad with them there, who knows what might happen under a centralised and Welsh Government-sponsored watch.”