(Title Image: © Copyright Jaggery and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-2.0)
Yesterday, the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), provided AMs with another update on the situation at Cwm Taf Morgannwg maternity services following the publication of the latest report from the appointed independent panel.
The Minister said he was “cautiously optimistic” that improvements will be made. 25 recommendations have been implemented since the panel last reported and the panel will monitor maternity services for the next 6-12 months to ensure these recommendations are upheld.
“I’m particularly pleased by the positive feedback about the experience of care being reported by women and families who currently use services. In addition to the health boards’ processes for capturing real-time experience, this feedback is also corroborated by findings from community health council visits. Furthermore, the recent inspection report from Healthcare Inspectorate Wales found that care was being provided in a safe and effective manner at the Tirion birth centre, which is a midwifery-led unit at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething
While challenges remain, the Minister is encouraged that the new leadership at the health board recognised what needs to happen – and that work was already underway.
Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.), was pleased the panel has found staffing to be at an appropriate level and a conscious effort to take the views of patients into account. However, she noted that complaints handling continues to be a major problem and the failure to deal with a backlog of complaints should be prioritised to help grieving parents – something later picked up by Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) too.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) was a bit more critical, saying the panel’s report didn’t paint as rosy a picture as the Minister was suggesting. He pointed towards concerns from the panel that the health board didn’t have the capacity to deliver improvements – something that “should be ringing some very, very loud alarm bells indeed”.
Rhun ap Iorwerth went on to accuse the Minister of siding with NHS managers, when they should instead be held properly to account in the same manner as clinical staff through some form of independent regulation – an idea that, for the time being, the Minister rejects.
Dawn Bowden AM (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) cautioned against “taking the foot off the pedal” as so much more remains to be done. One of those things, brought up by Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd), was changing what was described as a “punitive culture” within maternity services.
Caroline Jones AM (BXP, South Wales West) mentioned the effectiveness of the unannounced visits by the community health council and suggested amending the Health & Social Care Quality Bill to ensure such visits can continue to take place.