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Written Statement - North Wales Conversation – delivering a healthier North Wales 

Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport

 To assist progress of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board under special measures the Welsh Government committed to engaging with people throughout North Wales on the future of the health service in the region to inform the delivery of improved outcomes. To meet this commitment, we have undertaken engagement with staff, stakeholders and the public over the past few months to seek their views.  

We first met with partners and stakeholders and these discussions provided valuable insight to plan the digital and community engagement phase that followed. Engagement comprised an online survey and over 20 drop in workshops/consultation events widely promoted across North Wales. Workshop sessions were held with NHS staff, business networks, young people, colleges, parents and teachers and with communities including three open events held in Prestatyn, Wrexham and Holyhead.

Work is on-going to assess all the views received but I wanted to share with you some of the initial headlines before Christmas. 

Many staff feel that special measures status has provided impetus for much needed change. They also noted that the new Chief Executive’s leadership style is visible with new communication channels being put in place. Proposed areas for improvement include board to ward communication, a clearer strategic direction for the organisation and greater focus on mental health to improve outcomes for patients. 

Staff also indicated they wanted the organisation to operate as a single body across the whole of North Wales. The response from partners echoed this view, with a strong consensus that structural change would be a distraction. This was also raised by the public but with no strong groundswell of support for re-structuring the health board. 

The views expressed by the public on the health board and its services were shaped by their experience and that of their families. Key areas of positive performance highlighted were excellence of care with a focus on compassion, the broad range of secondary care specialisms, and efficient service organisation and delivery. Positive examples provided included Amlwch GP primary care and Glan Clwyd’s Cancer Centre and the general provision of free healthcare and free prescriptions for all. 

Views expressed showed that the public were not always aware of what the health board is or what it does but many respondents noted the need for further improvements to  appointment making systems, communication, ensuring wider access to specialist services, GP and secondary care treatment, being more forward-looking and making the most of technological advances. 

Within the public, private, third and community sector, some extremely positive responses were recorded, endorsing positive comments made by members of the public. Areas for improvement also reflected comments made by the public. Within all the organisations represented the pressures and demands under which health board staff are working was acknowledged and the excellent work of many staff under difficult circumstances applauded.
It is important that we continue to listen to people, staff and stakeholders across North Wales to assess the progress and improvement the health board is making under special measures. These findings will provide further insight for the Welsh Government, the Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales when they review progress next year and for the health board as it continues to engage with the public, partners and staff.