North East Wales

Betsi Cadwaladr health board 'needs to win back confidence'

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Media captionPeter Higson and his deputy Margaret Hanson are touring hospital wards

Wales' largest health board needs to win back the confidence of patients, says its new chairman.

Peter Higson took over at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board which serves patients across north Wales six months ago after a highly critical report.

He said he was determined management would turn things round but warned it could take another year.

His vice chair Margaret Hanson said the health board was still a damaged brand.

A year ago, a report by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Wales Audit Office found the board's management had not taken proper charge when there was an outbreak of the gut infection C. difficile.

The report said the health board was facing big financial problems and it was not planning ahead for big changes needed to hospital services.

The former chairman and vice chair stepped down after the report was published.

Mr Higson, a former chief executive of Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, said he had thought long and hard about taking on the chairmanship.

"I had spent 25 years of my career working in the health service in north Wales until 2002," he added.

"I had a great passion for it, the health service generally, and I felt that with my background, my experience I would give it my best shot. I felt I had many of the right credentials.

Image caption Peter Higson said it would take another year to sort things out at Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board

"Time will tell whether I was the right choice to be appointed but I will do all I can to get the health service in north Wales back to, and beyond, where I feel it should be."

Of the previous management problems at the board, he said there was confusion and a lack of clarity over who was in charge of what when the C.difficile outbreak occurred.

Mr Higson said he had taken immediate steps to alter how the board functioned.

"I'm much more concerned that if there are issues where things aren't right that we deal with them publicly and we carry on dealing with them until they've been resolved," he added.

The new chairman said he was very concerned about a backlog of complaints but hoped they would be resolved in September.

"Are we rebuilding a confidence that we're actually fit to be in charge of the health service in north Wales because that's my test.

"Are we a fit group to actually be responsible for £1.3bn, 17,000 staff and the health and well-being of 650,000 people? I think it's only through out actions that we'll be able to convince people of that."

He said: "We've got another year, I feel, before I think the performance and general functioning of the health board will be where it really should be and where it can then take off and become, I hope, one of the best performing health organisations in the UK."

It has been suggested the health board change its name to help it move on but Mr Higson said that had been ruled for the moment.

"It's about rebuilding confidence in what we do, by what we do, not by changing the name," he said.

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