Wales NHS: Conservatives call for independent inquiry

Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales A&E
Image caption Surgeons said the situation at the University Hospital of Wales was 'dangerous'

Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies has formally requested an inquiry into failings of the NHS in Wales similar to the Keogh review of NHS trusts in England.

Mr Davies said an independent probe is needed after a string of reports critical of Welsh boards and hospitals.

He has written to both First Minister Carwyn Jones and the health minister.

The Welsh government has rejected the call for an inquiry, saying it had been made for "political capital".

Prof Keogh, medical director of the NHS in England, investigated 14 NHS trusts in England as part of a review into higher-than-expected hospital death rates.

As a result of his findings, 11 NHS trusts will face close scrutiny.

The UK government announced the review in the wake of the Francis report into the Stafford Hospital scandal, which ruled that hundreds of needless deaths were caused by abuse and neglect in 2005-08.

Mr Davies said recent reports about Welsh NHS organisations - and comparisons with Stafford Hospital - highlighted the need for a Keogh-style inquiry in Wales.

Last week, a report by the Royal Cardiff of Surgeons (RCS) found patients die regularly at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff while waiting for heart surgery.

Cynon Valley Labour MP Ann Clwyd called for a public inquiry into what surgeons called a "dangerous" situation at the hospital, the largest in Wales.

Ms Clwyd, who is conducting a review into patients' complaints in England, said it was Wales' equivalent of the Stafford Hospital scandal where hundreds of patients were found to have died unnecessarily.

The day before the surgeons' report, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board faced calls for an inquiry after allegations that an elderly patient suffered serious neglect at two of its hospitals.

The health board apologised but the Welsh government said no inquiry was needed.

'Very real concerns'

On the same day, the board of Wales' largest NHS organisation - Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board (BCUHB) in north Wales - fully accepted a highly critical report into its mismanagement.

The chair and chief executive of the health board had earlier stepped down after the report found a breakdown in their relationship contributed to the failings.

Mr Davies said a Keogh-style inquiry would address the "very real concerns of health boards, clinicians and families".

He said: "It is very clear to me that - despite the hard work of its staff - in a sadly increasing minority of cases our health service is letting people down.

"Catastrophic mistakes and shortcomings have been identified that should not - and must not - be dismissed by those in charge.

"How many more patients must "die regularly" before Carwyn Jones acts and introduces a Keogh-style inquiry?

"If we are to maintain confidence in the NHS, the failings identified by recent revelations must be addressed head-on by Labour ministers before it is too late.

"Carwyn Jones has indicated to me that there is no room for complacency in the Welsh NHS and yet to date that is the response we have had from his government."

A spokesman for Health Minister Mark Drakeford said: "It is disappointing to see the Tories trying to make political capital out of deeply mistaken comparisons between the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust in England and the NHS in Wales.

"The majority of people in Wales receive excellent care from the NHS in Wales and its caring, dedicated workforce. "

The spokesman said that in his recent response to the Francis report on failings of care in England, the health minister had re-stated the "core values of the NHS in Wales and set out measures to ensure they are preserved in future".

"This included a commitment to update the current complaints procedures and follows an earlier commitment to review the healthcare inspection system and publish mortality data.

"This is now happening. We do not see any need for a public inquiry."

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