Wales politics

Cwm Taf: Vaughan Gething rejects calls to quit over failures

Vaughan Gething
Image caption Vaughan Gething said he was deeply apologetic to any family who had received unacceptable care

The health minister has dismissed calls for him to resign, after a damning report into maternity services at two south Wales hospitals.

Plaid Cymru said Vaughan Gething needed to take personal responsibility for problems which went back years at Royal Glamorgan and Prince Charles Hospitals.

Serious incidents went under-reported and services were "dysfunctional".

Mr Gething said he had to ensure improvements were delivered that local people "rightly expect and deserve".

But Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Helen Mary Jones said there was a consistent pattern of failure and it was time for him to go, as he "failed to get to grips" with the challenges.

"Because he's responsible for all the senior managers who have been appointed, who've allowed these failures to go on," she said. "This isn't a one-off, this is a series of systematic failures."

Mr Gething had ordered the review, led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology and the Royal College of Midwives, after details of 25 serious incidents, including eight stillbirths and five neonatal deaths emerged.

In a Senedd debate on the report, former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: "I wonder how much of a problem this would have been in a more affluent area - poorer people's views are often easily dismissed across a whole range of public services.

"So often do I hear about people being treated differently to how those from middle class backgrounds would have been treated."

Mr Gething said he didn't believe that "socio-economic" issues were a factor, adding: "You don't hear the same story from similar areas", but said the independent panel would decide on what to look at.

The Welsh Conservatives said the findings were "grim reading" but that Cwm Taf maternity services being put in special measures was "nothing new".

The party's leader Paul Davies challenged First Minister Mark Drakford over the state of the NHS in Wales, adding: "It's a sad fact, isn't it, that with five out of seven health boards across the country under special measures or targeted interventions, there is barely anything 'special' or unusual about it any more.

"This seems the new norm and the sad reality for the people of Wales under your government."

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant has written to the health board asking how it intended to address recruitment issues.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council leader Andrew Morgan said he was concerned that there had been "several serious reports of extreme pressures" on staff since consultant-led maternity care was concentrated at Prince Charles Hospital in March.

Mr Gething said: "This isn't a simple one person, one group is responsible. That's why I've announced measures to look at the whole way that maternity services work and also to look at the leadership and governance of the organisation.

Asked if he had taken his "eye off the ball", he replied: "When we had the serious incidents uncovered we acted precisely and I commissioned the independent review by the royal colleges which was published today.

"So we acted when we were aware of the challenges and now what we must do is to make sure there is real improvement and proper assurances for the public."

Meanwhile, Helen Whyley, director of the Royal College of Nursing said it was "extremely concerned about the inadequate staffing levels and the presence of a punitive culture where clearly staff raising issues have not been listen to".

"RCN Wales is calling for urgent action and real investment to successfully implement of all the report's recommendations," she added.

Dr David Bailey, chair of the BMA's Welsh Council, said the findings highlighted "deep systematic problems across maternity services in Cwm Taf, largely due to communication issues".

He added: "It is clear that the majority of staff within the health board are extremely dedicated and hard-working and have faced extreme pressure. It is disappointing that staff felt that they were not being listened to when they raised concerns."

Paul Summers, health spokesman for Unison Cymru, said staff had been too afraid to speak out and it wanted to work with Mr Gething and the health board "in addressing the blame culture".

Allison Williams, chief executive of Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board, told BBC Wales it "fully accepted the very hard messages" in the report.

She defended the pace of change in reorganising maternity services and said the issues had been very complex.

"The recommendations for safety were implemented straight away and the move of the service to consolidate on one site at Prince Charles Hospital has enabled us to address some of the immediate critical issues, which strengthened the medical support which was criticised in the report," she added.

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