Tawel Fan scandal – improvements yet to be made

The author of a report into failings on an older people’s mental health ward in North Wales, has said she is yet to see any improvements made to mental health services in North Wales.

The Tawel Fan ward was shut in 2013 following allegations that patients were mistreated at the Denbighshire hospital.

Ms Ockenden’s 2015 report characterised the behaviour as “institutional abuse”, while her 2018 follow-up described the leadership of North Wales’ mental health services as “wholly inappropriate and significantly flawed”.

She made her feelings clear in a letter to Health Minister Vaughan Gething, in which she said staff had told her services were “going backwards”.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), which provides health services for the whole of North Wales, has been in Special Measures – and so under direct Welsh Government control – since the publication of Donna Ockenden’s initial report in June 2015.

Mr Gething refused Ms Ockenden’s offer to oversee the BCUHB’s exit from Special Measures.

The Welsh Conservative and Clwyd West AM Darren Millar AM, said:

“It is clear from Donna Ockenden’s letter that there has been insufficient progress in improving mental health services in North Wales.

“This is extremely concerning for current patients and their loved ones and a kick in the teeth to the Tawel Fan families whose relatives suffered as a result of the scandalous care and institutional abuse in the past.

“I am disappointed that the Health Minister seems to have shrugged off the concerns expressed by Donna Ockenden and rejected her offer of assistance to turn things around – he should be grasping this offer with both hands.”

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Angela Burns AM said:

“It is difficult to understand the Welsh Labour Government’s attitude towards Donna Ockenden: she is a highly capable professional who’s expertise and reports have been instrumental in understanding the failings of Tawel Fan.

“Yet she has been treated as an inconvenience to the Health Minister because she persistently points out an area of the NHS where the Welsh Labour Government have totally failed to act with the imperative and due care the victims deserve.”