Wales politics

Improvements demanded at Tawel Fan scandal health board

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Media captionVaughan Gething said improvements to older people's mental health care services in north Wales would be made

The health board at the centre of a dementia ward care scandal must make further rapid improvements, the Welsh Government has demanded.

The latest inquiry into the Tawel Fan ward at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd found no evidence of "institutional abuse" which had been claimed by an earlier report.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said the report reinforced "wider failings" within the Betsi Cadwaladr board.

But Tory AM Darren Millar said many will call the report a "whitewash".

The Tawel Fan ward was closed in December 2013 and a previous probe highlighted damning care failings, which it was said amounted to "institutional abuse".

But Thursday's investigation found a "good overall general standard" of care on the ward.

However, the panel accepted that some patients had been affected by failures.

The latest investigation spoke to 108 families going back to 2007 and examined thousands of documents.

'Dark shadow'

Mr Gething said the report showed the need for managers at Betsi Cadwaladr - already in special measures - to "increase the pace of improvement".

On "a very difficult day" for families and staff affected, the minister said he hoped the findings could "act as a catalyst to the lifting of a dark shadow that has extended over mental health services in north Wales for a number of years".

"This report is the result of a very extensive and thorough investigation into the care and treatment provided to patients on the Tawel Fan Ward of the Ablett Unit at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd," Mr Gething said.

"Whilst the report does provide the very important reassurance that they could not substantiate previous claims of institutional abuse or neglect, it does reinforce wider failings within the health board.

"It highlights the need for more rapid attention to secure improvements across a range of areas, whilst recognising that some of that work is already underway.

"Overall the report makes it very clear there is still some way for the health board to go and this will require further focused oversight under the special measures arrangements."

An earlier report in 2015 by health specialist Donna Ockenden said poor care at the unit had amounted to "institutional abuse".

However, Mr Gething said the latest investigation by the independent Health and Social Care Advisory Service (Hascas) had a "much wider remit" and access to "a comprehensive set of documentation, including clinical records".

"This is a very substantial report that warrants further careful reading and consideration. I will be discussing the report with the health board and responding more fully in due course," he said.

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Media captionTory AM Darren Millar says many people "will feel this report is a white wash"

Welsh Conservatives have questioned the independence of the Hascas report, and have called for a cross-party inquiry by the assembly.

Darren Millar, the local AM, said: "Many will describe today's report into Tawel Fan as a whitewash and will question the independence of the process which has led to its publication.

"We are now almost four and a half years on from the closure of the ward and yet instead of answers the Tawel Fan families have even more questions about the care of their loved ones.

"The Tawel Fan families and the people of north Wales deserve better and that's why we need a cross-party assembly inquiry to ensure that we get to the bottom of what happened once and for all."

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: "Although dismissing the accusation of institutional abuse and neglect, it is clear that what happened could and should have been avoided.

"The Welsh Government must now take full responsibility for implementing the recommendations for change with real urgency.

"Vulnerable people in our society deserve nothing less."

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