Minister slammed as 'asleep at the wheel' for approving scandal-hit health board's care plan days before scathing report

The Health Minister Vaughan Gething has been blasted as being 'asleep at the wheel' for approving a scandal-hit health board's care plan just days before failures in maternity services were revealed.

An ITV News investigation has found that Cwm Taf Morgannwg's plan to "deliver better health and care for all" was approved by the minister days before a damning report was published, showing the health board was exposing women to "unacceptable risks" and its maternity services were put into special measures.

Plaid Cymru say that Mr Gething shouldn't have signed off the plans given the widely reported concerns about maternity services and the imminent release of a damning Royal College report.

Mr Gething declined the opportunity to be interviewed by ITV Wales, but said in health minister's questions today saying "it's the right thing" for the plan to be approved.

Cwm Taf Morganwwg's Integrated Medium Term Plan (IMTP) for 2019-22 was approved by the minister on March 26, 2019. The plan included a message from the then chief executive Allison Williams and current Chair, Professor Marcus Longley saying the health board is there "to provide the best possible healthcare, and to ensure that the needs of future generations are met."

Allison Williams has since resigned from the health board. Credit: ITV Wales

Cwm Taf Morganwwg chief executive resigns

According to the Welsh Government's own guidance on developing IMTPs, health boards should "demonstrate evidence of and an emphasis on...quality and safety... and continued improvement across all service areas."

In the framework, the Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: "The production of a strong and meaningful IMTP, is one of the key enablers to achieving high-performing, timely, safe and sustainable services that deliver for the people of Wales."

On April 30, 2019, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published their review into maternity services at the health board. The review highlighted failures in maternity care and senior leadership team. The Welsh Government then moved to put maternity services at the health board in special measures.

But Mr Gething's approval of Cwm Taf's IMTP has been blasted by Plaid Cymru's shadow health spokesperson Helen Mary Jones AM.

He was either aware of the serious patient safety issues when he signed off the work plan and therefore showed absolutely failed to take concerns seriously. Or, he was not aware of the issues when he signed it off despite numerous reports and ongoing investigations he himself had ordered highlighting such concerns - in which case he has been asleep at the wheel.

Helen Mary Jones AM, Plaid Cymru Health Spokesperson

The Welsh Conservatives' health spokesperson Angela Burns AM echoed Plaid Cymru, saying: "he [the health minister] needs to explain to all of us why he said that that health board had a really good plan in place going forward for the next few years with good quality arrangements and with good governance arrangements."

The Royal College report was published on April 30th 2019

The Royal College review was commissioned following the death and serious injury of mothers and babies at the health board's two main hospitals - the Royal Glamorgan hospital in Llantrisant and Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil.

Not every health board in Wales had its IMTP approved at the same time as Cwm Taf Morganwwg.

Betsi Cadwaladr, which has been in special measures since 2015, Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay health boards failed to get their IMTPs approved.

ITV Wales also asked for an interview with the chief executive of NHS Wales, Dr Andrew Goodall, but he also declined the opportunity.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Conditions relating to failures in maternity services and wider quality governance were included in the accountability letter for Cwm Taf’s Integrated Medium Term Plan.

"The approval letter in March clearly stated that the approval was subject to the conditions set out in the subsequent accountability letter.”