Cwm Taf health board urged to get back on track
Inspectors are to keep a closer eye on a health board at the centre of a review into maternity services.
Cwm Taf health board in south Wales will now receive "enhanced monitoring" to get back on track.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said this recognised "a number of areas of concern" over governance.
An investigation was launched in October into "adverse outcomes" for 43 babies born over two years, and is expected to report back in the spring.
The health board covers 300,000 people living in the south Wales valleys, with maternity services at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil and the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant.
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- 'My baby is buried 4,000 miles away'
- Mother's questions about baby's death
- Maternity review could be extended
The joint review by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwifery includes looking at 20 stillbirths and six cases of babies, who died shortly after birth.
The health board has already said it had been "very challenged" to keep staff numbers at the right levels.
Now the decision to escalate monitoring at the health board from routine, follows a regular meeting between Welsh Government, the Wales Audit Office (WAO) and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW).
As well as the issues with maternity services, other concerns include:
- Compliance with health and safety requirements over ionising radiation (medical exposure) regulations
- Responses to a recent inspection by the Human Tissue Authority - which had found 19 major shortfalls at Royal Glamorgan Hospital.
- Quality governance arrangements and responses to HIW inspections
- Compliance with the Nurse Staffing Act
Mr Gething said the increased escalation was intended to focus the health board to "get back on track".
"I will be expecting immediate action to be taken on the areas of concern and for improvements to be evident within the next few months," he said.
"The organisation has every opportunity to respond appropriately and to return to normal monitoring arrangements quickly, given its approved plan status and a record of delivery on a range of measures and developments."
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to halt plans for Cwm Taf to take over responsibilities for Bridgend health services from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABMU) in April until issues have been resolved.
Conservative AM Andrew RT Davies added: "Sadly, this is yet another troubling situation at a Welsh health board following on from a long list of problems elsewhere in the NHS right across Wales".
"This is also particularly worrying given the emphatic confidence the new first minister only showed on Monday in the ability of Welsh health boards to deliver for patients. This was clearly misplaced."
Allison Williams, Cwm Taf chief executive, said it had already made significant progress and would continue to work closely on ensuring services were of the highest quality.
"We are disappointed that recent challenges have resulted in the need for improvements in the areas identified," she said.
"We are determined to deliver the required improvements and fully accept that enhanced monitoring is required for a short amount of time to provide assurance on the actions being taken."
Cwm Taf has been at the lowest level of escalation since the performance scale was introduced in 2014.
Cardiff and Vale, Hywel Dda, ABMU and Betsi Cadwaladar were all in higher categories last year.