In a letter seen exclusively by Plaid Cymru, it has been revealed that the Auditor General wrote to Welsh Government following comments made by the then Health Minister Vaughan Gething, “to indicate that it was unhelpful for the Minister to imply that he had received direct advice from me or my staff on the escalation status of the Health Board.”
At the time, in November 2020, the former Health Minister Vaughan Gething said “the chief exec of NHS Wales, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Audit Wales have given clear advice that Betsi Cadwaladr should move out of special measures, and that is the basis for my decision.”
In statements made since by the Auditor General and HIW, both organisations have confirmed they cannot directly advise Ministers.
Commenting on the sequencing of the events, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS pointed out that “not only did Welsh Government not heed the concerns of the raised by the Auditor General in 2020, the First Minister went on to repeat the same misleading statement in Senedd just this year.”
In February this year, the First Minister is on record confirming that the decision to take the health board out of special measures was taken “because we were advised that that is what we should do by the auditor general, by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and by Welsh Government officials…”
However, in an interview given to the BBC yesterday (Thursday 20 April), the First Minister said he had “never” implied that the health inspectorate had given advice to take health boards in and out of special measures.
Earlier this week, Plaid Cymru called on the First Minister to correct the record, and following this latest revelation, the party has repeated its calls for the record to be corrected. In addition, Mr ap Iorwerth has called out the First Minister for the “patronising” way in which he has responded to these valid concerns, calling on him to apologise to the people affected by the “mismanagement” of the health board.
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for health and care said:
“We have a clear statement, on the parliamentary record, from the former Health Minister, and more recently the First Minister that the decision to take Betsi Cadwaladr health board out of special measures was because of advice received by the auditor general, along with other participants in the so-called tripartite discussions that were held at the time. The First Minister can deny this all he likes, but it’s there as clear as day – he refers specifically to advice received from the auditor general. If this is not true, then the record must be corrected.
“We have a letter from the Auditor General to say that this statement was not true. We now have evidence that the Auditor General felt it necessary to write to the Welsh Government after Vaughan Gething’s comments in November 2020, to underline how ‘unhelpful’ it was to imply that such advice had been received from the audit office when it had not. Crucially – not only did the Welsh Government not heed the concerns raised by the Auditor General in 2020, the First Minister went on to repeat the same misleading statement in Senedd just this year.
“Caught in the middle of this row are the patients and staff of Betsi Cadwaladr, who have certainly suffered from the health board being taken in, and out, and then back in to special measures.
“To attempt to trivialise such an important issue with such a patronising tone is an insult to the people served by this health board. The First Minister must issue an apology to everyone who has suffered under Welsh Government mismanagement of Betsi Cadwaladr health board, and take steps to immediately correct the record.”