Betsi Cadwaladr Whistleblowing Report must be shared – Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid AMs call on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to act transparently on an independent report into Speech and Language Therapy services in North Wales.

Serious concerns have been raised that an investigation report relating to clinical governance and patient safety issues within the Speech and Language Therapy department in BCUHB has not been shared with those who raised concerns.

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth and Arfon AM Sian Gwenllian say there should be full transparency. Various issues relating to SLT services were first raised in 2014 by a former member of staff, with another concern lodged via the Safe Haven process in 2016, leading to an independent investigation.

Mr ap Iorwerth wrote to the Health Board on 31st July 2019 asking for the report to be shared and received a response from Chair, Mark Polin, stating that contributors to the investigation will have done so in the expectation that this was a confidential process, and that the Board intend to release the conclusion of the reviewing officer and his recommendations for action.

Contributors have had no communications since, despite the report being finalised in April 2019, an FOI request reveals.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said:

“It’s important that every public body acts transparently when serious concerns are raised, and it is clear that on this matter, complainants are deeply disappointed with the Health Board’s handling of the matter so far.

“If the Board assign a member of staff to form a set of recommendations based on the report without sharing its content with those who lodged complaints – even a redacted version – how can those individuals be sure that issues are being dealt with openly and transparently?”

Sian Gwenllian AM added:

“We know that children who don’t get the help they need with their communication can experience lifelong impacts on their education, employment, mental health, well-being and so on.

“As AMs, we’ve come across a number of cases where children have had prolonged waits for therapy, or have experienced unsuitable therapy – one case identifying a prolonged wait for therapy in Welsh, for example.

“Whilst pleased that this investigation was conducted, we now must see its findings in order to move the service forwards.”

A former member of staff within SLT services in BCUHB who lodged the concerns said this report ‘is far too significant to be buried’, adding:

“The investigator himself described writing the report as a mammoth task. 32 individuals contributed – many at significant risk to themselves – regarding a systemic concern about poor services to children.

“There is significant concern regarding the careless waste of staff resources as well as a blind, target-driven culture where managers’ interests trumped the interests of children and families. This is no run-of-the-mill HR concern, it is a clinical governance issue.”