Making improvements to Wales' largest health board could take 'years', chief executive says

  • ITV Wales' Jonathan Hill speaking to the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board chief executive Carol Shillabeer. Words by ITV Wales reporter Beth Thomas.

Making improvements to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board could take "years", its new chief executive has said.

Carol Shillabeer, the new chief executive of the health board, spoke to ITV Wales after one of our reporters was given exclusive access to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire, to see the pressures staff are facing.

The health board was placed into special measure in 2015 and was taken out in 2020.

However, it was placed back into special measures in February 2023 following "serious concerns about performance, leadership and culture".

Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Credit: Ysbyty Glan Clwyd is managed by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

Responding to a question on how long improvements are expected to take on ITV's Wales At Six programme, Ms Shillabeer said: "How long is a really tricky question. The first nine months is about stabilising the organisation after a really significant change."

She added: "It may be years, I see this as years. To some extent, I wouldn't want us to fix too much on the tag of special measures.

"We're about building a strong organisation, building a strong leadership and engagement and that's why we're saying, 'Come and have a look.'

"We're being really open and transparent about the challenges and we're going to work with people to find the solutions. They won't come overnight though."

Ms Shillabeer said she was going in to her new role with "eye wide open", adding the health board is being open about the various challenges it faces.

"We've got quality of care challenges, we've got staff experience challenges, we've got financial challenges along with many others, we've got challenges of governance" she said.

"We're clear about them, we're clear about the steps we've already started to take, but we're also clear that this is going to take us some time to be able to improve."

Betsi Cadwaladr is Wales' biggest health board and is responsible for the delivery of health care services to more than 700,000 people across six counties in north Wales - Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham.

Carol Shillabeer is the newly-appointed chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Credit: ITV News Wales

Ms Shillabeer also addressed pressures facing hospital staff and services during the winter months, saying "it's going to be a very tough time."

She said expansion of community care was "essential" in order to prevent people being stuck in hospital.

She continued: "Really, the hospitals are congested because not enough people are leaving and people coming in through the door.

"But there are innovations and I think some of the staff will have indicated, certainly the discharge area, but at the front door how we support people to get rapid assessment on the same day and to leave.

"But this is not an easy issue to fix. The whole of the UK is under this sort of pressure."

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