Underfunded health care inspectorate is being stifled, says Welsh Conservative leader

No lessons have been learned after years of Welsh health care failings, as Paul Davies AM urges the First Minister to give inspectorate more power.

First Minister Mark Drakeford AM was asked today to defend the way the Welsh Government’s health care monitoring body, Health Inspectorate Wales, is run.

The poorly-funded body receives less funding than any other Welsh inspectorate, with a meagre £3.5million backing compared with £13m for Care Inspectorate Wales, and £11.3m for schools inspectorate ESTYN.

Despite this huge difference, the inspectorate is set to face further cuts of almost £200,000.

Quizzing the First Minister, Mr Davies asked why lessons have not been learned from the terrible health care failings of recent years, and why HIW is the only inspectorate body of its kind in the UK that is not fully independent from the Government which it is in place to monitor, despite claims that it is.

He said: “We have seen a number of high-profile cases of serious failings in care at health boards in NHS Wales – from the Kris Wade scandal at ABMU, to the serious safety concerns at maternity services in Cwm Taf, and the horrific failings at Tawel Fan.

“Even though HIW raised concerns about all of these terrible failings, it did not have the power to intervene when it needed to without first seeking permission from the Health Minister, and therefore it is not independent.”

The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee undertook general scrutiny of  Health Inspectorate Wales last week and received evidence from the inspectorate. It was revealed that little has changed for the body since the Welsh Government commissioned Marks’ Review in 2015.

The review found that HIW had ‘too few resources,’ and that ‘it should be able to take independent decisions on the most appropriate enforcement actions in relation to NHS bodies, without having to make a request to the Minister for Health and Social Services’.

Speaking outside the chamber, Paul Davies commented:

“These shocking figures make for sorry reading.

“It’s of great concern to myself that the Welsh Government continues to disregard the terrible events of recent years, by not putting stronger safeguards in place to protect health care users.

“The First Minister’s response that there are proposals which he ‘intends’ to bring forward to aid the work of the inspectorate would be of some comfort, if I believed he would treat the matter with the urgency it needed.

“The people of Wales need to have faith in the independence of the health care inspectorate, and not be forced to watch the Welsh Labour Government drain it of its resources. It needs the independence to do its job.”