FMQs: Betsi Cadwaladr’s high fatal incident rate “a sign people are speaking up”

First Minister: High fatal incident rate “a sign people are speaking up”

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) started by asking whether the First Minister will back calls from the Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and others that a criminal investigation be launched into the Cwm Taf maternity scandal?

The First Minister politely refused to say anything on the subject, believing a decision was ultimately a police matter.

Turning elsewhere in the NHS, Adam Price revealed that 53% of fatal incidents in the Welsh NHS over the last year happened in north Wales’ Betsi Cadwaladr health board – which has been in special measures for five years – despite only covering 20% of Wales’ population.

“Between December 2018 and December 2019….there were 41 incidents resulting in death registered within Betsi. That’s 53% of all such deaths reported by Welsh health boards in total….

“Between November 2017 and December 2019, there were 520 incidents within Betsi that resulted in death or serious harm. That total is higher than all the other health boards in Wales combined. Now, there is either a serious underlying problem within Betsi or there is severe underreporting elsewhere in Wales. Which is it?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister said it was a sign that the health board was properly recording incidents and it shouldn’t be assumed that a high rate of incidents was a sign things were particularly bad. To Adam Price, this suggested the First Minister believes fatal incidents are being under-reported in the rest of Wales, then?

What he got back was this:

“What I am saying here is that we want a culture in the NHS in Wales that when things go wrong, people feel empowered to speak up; that things are reported, and things are learned as a result of those reports being made. I want to see that in every part of Wales, and the Member’s attempt (ing) to try and drag the NHS through the mud once again this afternoon….”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

First Minister accepts A465 costs are higher than anticipated

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), asked about the project to dual the A465 through the Clydach Gorge, which is behind schedule. Would there be any additional money spent on it to speed up work?

“In 2011, the Wales Audit Office found that major transport projects had cost substantially more and taken longer to complete than expected, with overspends totalling £226 million….First Minister, do you accept that lessons simply haven’t been learned from that damning report, and do you recognise the very distressing impact that your Government’s mismanagement of road projects is having on people’s lives across Wales?”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies

The First Minister told AMs there was ongoing arbitration between the government and the contractor over additional costs, mainly arising due to the difficult topography. He conceded that “the budget for the completion is beyond what had originally been anticipated.” However, he refused to take any lessons on runaway costs from the party overseeing England’s High Speed 2 project where overruns are in the tens of billions.

Marking Brexit

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) was excited about the forthcoming “Brexit Day” and was looking forward to taking his children to the Royal Mint to strike their own 50p coins; but what would the First Minister be doing?

Obviously, the First Minister won’t be going on a tour and most of the Welsh Government’s Brexit work in the weeks and months to come will be to ensure the devolved administrations are properly involved in post-Brexit negotiations with the EU. He was open to hearing what opposition parties have to say when they have constructive ideas to contribute to important public debates.

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