On June 8th 2015, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board became the first health board in Wales to be placed in special measures, the highest of three levels of intervention the Welsh Government can take.
The decision came after a string of financial woes, management failings and growing waiting lists, with the last straw being a damning report identifying "institutional abuse" at the Tawel Fan mental health ward at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire, which closed in 2013.
The Health Board was abruptly taken out of special measures in November 2020 – six months before the Senedd election – despite continued failings. Many concluded that the decision was political rather than because of evidence of significant improvement.
In a Senedd debate on the health board in June last year, following further scandalous reports, I urged the Labour Government to impose a reformed special measures regime on Betsi in order to address its failings. The Health Minister rejected our calls and the failings in NHS services across North Wales continued.
Last week, more than eight months later, the Health Minister finally caved in and recognised the need to returned the troubled health board to Special Measures – it should never have been taken out in the first place!
We have a situation in North Wales where patients have died and where patients have come to harm as a result of a failure to get to grips with its challenges.
We have problems in our vascular services, our emergency departments, our urology services, our ophthalmology services, our mental health services, and our cancer services too - people are waiting too long for tests and treatment, and worryingly the situation under the watch of various Health Ministers has gotten worse, not better.
This time round Special Measures need to be different if we are to get health services in North Wales to the level patients deserve.
I have no confidence that the current executive team will be able to deliver the change which is needed. It is extraordinary that a team described as 'dysfunctional' by the Auditor General for Wales, is still permitted to lead NHS services in the region.
As I said in the Welsh Parliament last week following the Health Ministers statement on the special measures “It's about time that we had mechanisms in Wales to remove people who do not accept their responsibility for failures when things go wrong.”
And, as I said last June “I have seen enough tears, I have seen enough bereaved loved ones, I have seen enough reports from the Coroner saying that this shouldn't have happened and that shouldn't have happened, I have seen enough Ombudsman's reports to persuade me that it isn't t working.
“Let's get rid of those people who are responsible for that underlying culture in the organisation, those people who have never moved on, who have been around throughout Betsi's woes and let's get this right for the sake of the population in North Wales and the people that I serve as my constituents.”