The future of Betsi

Does Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board have a future?

The First Minister hinted that it could be broken up if Labour is still in power after the assembly election next year.

This is difficult territory for the government.

On one level, all effort is going into turning Wales' largest health board around after it was put into special measures, and will remain that way for another two years.

In reference to the recruitment crisis and reputational damage, the health minister Mark Drakeford told Huw Edwards on the Wales Report last week: "If you want people to come to work in your local hospital, what you do not want is someone who does not know the area well, but is maybe looking at an advert, to put that hospital's name into Google and all they see is turmoil around the future of that hospital.

Reputation

"We know that you can repair that damage. You can turn the corner and you can gain reputation."

So it's clear Mark Drakeford believes that a period of stability is in order, as he points to the board's strong current performance in areas like cancer treatment.

And yet Labour can expect to come under severe pressure over health services in north Wales, and as a result the party will be under pressure to come up with something new in its manifesto about dealing with the problems at Betsi.

A question is whether the brand of Betsi Cadwaldr has gone past the point of no return?

One assembly member told me a change of its name to something like the North Wales health board would be a start so that potential recruits in other parts of the UK would have an idea of where it's situated.

'Hole in the head'

As well as splitting structures, re-organisation in the health service splits many people as well.

Plaid Cymru has made it a central part of its policy on the NHS, while the Tories say re-organisation in health services in north Wales is needed like a "hole in the head".

While I'm on the subject of the NHS, the latest quarterly figures on cancer waits have just been published.

It's not the complete picture but, of all the health stats, I've picked up on these in my blog before because they will always be one of the central ways we assess the NHS, and the inevitable comparison with England.

They show that for the three months to September, 85% of patients diagnosed with cancer waited less than two months before they received treatment.

The target is 95%. It hasn't been met in any of the quarterly figures over the past three years.

The same figures for England were published last week showing 82% of patients were given their first definitive treatment after an urgent GP referral within two months. The target in England is 85%.

Related Topics