FMQs: “No single person” to blame for damning Cwm Taf maternity report

This afternoon’s session was dominated by today’s announcement that maternity services at two Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board hospitals have been placed into special measures – more on that tomorrow.

“Who’s to blame?”

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) asked straight up who was to blame for the Cwm Taf Morgannwg situation?

According to the First Minister, failures happened at several levels; it was impossible to select individuals to hold to account. To Paul, though, this raised further questions about the Welsh Government’s management of the NHS, with five of seven local health boards receiving some form of intervention:

“….let me remind you, this isn’t the first time we’ve raised this terrible situation. And the last time I questioned you in March, you told me that mothers and babies are no longer at risk under Cwm Taf. If that was the case, I for one have been left wondering why the Health Minister has ordered maternity services at the Royal Glamorgan and Prince Charles hospitals to be put into special measures.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

There was no lack of transparency or accountability on the Welsh Government’s part, though the accounts from affected families were “powerful and distressing”. To put people at ease, the Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Medical Officer – as well as Health Inspectorate Wales – will be undertaking nationwide reviews of maternity services.

Climate Emergency = No Newport bypass?

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) also asked about Cwm Taf Morgannwg; some of the concerns date back to 2015 when Mark Drakeford was Health Minister. As for the current Health Minister, there’ve been some calls for his resignation; would Mark act on that?

The First Minister didn’t agree with that assessment and the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), was going to meet affected families face-to-face.

Adam’s second question was on the Newport bypass.

“First Minister, yesterday, your government declared a climate emergency….which we hope the Senedd will endorse through our motion tomorrow. Most people will be of the view that yesterday’s announcement will be incompatible with any decision to plough ahead with the M4 black route. Can you confirm that the declaration of a climate emergency….is a change in policy that will be a new and materially relevant factor in your M4 decision making, and have you asked officials for additional advice on that basis?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister didn’t think it was a new policy; it’s merely to draw attention to climate change and the short timescales available to deal with it. The Welsh Government will look to see if there’s more they can do as part of their Low Carbon Action Plan. He also confirmed that due to European election purdah, his decision on the Newport bypass won’t be announced until the first week of June.

While the whole thing is becoming increasingly tiresome, there was a third brief question on Labour’s Brexit stance ahead of Labour finalising their European manifesto. The First Minister’s position hasn’t changed; his preference is “to go back to the people” if the UK Parliament can’t agree on a way forward.

Levelling the Playing Field for Local Leisure Services

Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) raised the topical issue of funding for local authority leisure services. Leisure services operated by non-profit trusts are eligible for business rate relief, but local authority-run services aren’t – often leading to multi-million-pound bills. Could something be done?

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) raised the plight of Cardiff Swimming Club, which faces a £53,000 annual bill and loss of pool time following the transfer of Cardiff International Pool. Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) asked for additional funding due to leisure’s role in reducing loneliness and boosting physical activity.

The First Minister told the chamber business rates paid by councils were ultimately redistributed back to them, but the Finance Minister was meeting with councils to determine if there’s a problem. Due to the absence of a spending review at UK level, he has no idea how much money Wales is due to receive from April 2020.

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