A major review ordered by the Welsh Government has found aspects of care for older people at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot Hospital "simply unacceptable" and issued the warning that it "must be addressed as a matter of urgency."
The damning report, published today, looked at current standards of care and complaints dating back three years and found a number of serious concerns about patient safety.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford and First Minister Carwyn Jones both spoke in the Senedd today to apologise to patients and their families.
The report authors, and the Welsh Government, have though insisted there is no need for a full inquiry into the state of the NHS across Wales, and this situation does not mirror the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, where hundreds of people are believed to have died due to poor care over many years.
Examples of alleged poor care at the two hospitals, given in evidence to the review, include patients told to go to the toilet where they lay in their beds, examples of patients not being given food or water for days, and medicines being left near to frail patients, with staff signing charts to say they had been administered, when they were not certain that was the case.
The report, authored by Professor June Andrews and Mark Butler, picked out these issues of concern:
Variable of poor professional behaviour and practice in the care of frail older people
Deficiencies in elements of a culture of care based on proper respect and involvement of patients and relatives
Unacceptable limitations in essential 24/7 services leading to unnecessary delay to treatment and care
Lack of suitably qualified, educated and motivated staff particularly at night
Adversarial and slow complaints management
Disconnection between front-line staff and managers and confusion over leadership responsibilities and accountabilities
Problems with organisational strategies on quality and patient safety, capacity development and workforce planning.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board apologised for poor care, and said it had already taken action - and will do so again - to make progress.
The health board's chief executive rejected calls from campaigners for him to resign.
The report makes 14 recommendations to the health board, and four others to the Welsh Government, on broader issues within the Welsh NHS.
It questions whether the organisation of the health service here "is distracting NHS boards" and warns that, without changes, "there is a real danger care provided will not improve and may well decline further."
The question should be asked about whether such a relentless focus [across the NHS in Wales] on financial delivery year-on-year prompted by the national system is distracting NHS Boards from a proper focus on quality and patient safety. If left to Boards on their own to make “tough decisions” within finite resources without proper incentives and backing to think longer-term about quality and patient safety, complex change and professional skills and capacity development, there is a real danger that the reputation of local NHS services and more importantly the actual care provided to local people will not improve and may well decline further.
Gareth Williams, who has led the campaign for an inquiry into standards of care after his mother Lilian died at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, told ITV News that today's report was "a total whitewash", and that its remit was far too narrow.
Political opponents called for strong action from the Welsh Government to ensure patient safety around Wales.
The Welsh Conservatives reiterated their demand for a full public inquiry into the NHS here - but the report authors, and the Health Minister, insisted that was not needed.
The Health Minister announced this afternoon that spot checks will now be held at all district general hospitals in Wales, looking at the standards of care for older people.
There will also be an independent review in a year's time to see whether the action plan drawn up by the Welsh Government from today's report has been properly implemented.