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Nursing expert to help troubled Welsh health board

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An expert in mental health nursing is among those drafted in to advise troubled Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which was placed in special measures earlier this week.

Peter Meredith Smith, associate director of Royal College of Nursing in Wales, is among key individuals called on to support the organisation, which has been investigated for serious failings in mental health provision.

Health minister Mark Drakeford announced on Monday that the health board in north Wales had been put in special measures after an urgent meeting of the Welsh government, Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales.

He has since asked Simon Dean, deputy chief executive of NHS Wales, to take charge as “accountable officer” after the health board suspended its chief executive with immediate effect.

The move follows the publication of a report that found “institutional abuse” at the Tawel Fan mental health ward in Glan Clyd Hospital in Denbighshire.

The report said the unit, which was closed in 2013, treated some patients like animals in a zoo.

Mr Drakeford said the special measures intervention followed longstanding concerns about governance and leadership at the health board.

“These arrangements will be monitored closely and reviewed at an early stage to ensure progress is being made”

Mark Drakeford

Improving mental health provision – taking account of the findings in the Tawel Fan report – was among a number of key areas set out by the health minister to be addressed as a matter of urgency, as part of the special measures regime.

Mr Meredith-Smith, who is also the interim chair of the Board of Community Health Councils, has been asked to provide expert advice on mental health nursing.

He will work alongside the mental health team from 1,000 Lives – Wales’ national healthcare improvement programme – to “to ensure there are sustainable improvements in both the culture of care and services”, according to a health board statement.

There have also been ongoing concerns about maternity care at Glan Clyd and primary care services have been identified as another priority area needing improvement.

The minister said questions over the future of maternity services must be resolved and plans for a sub-regional neonatal intensive care centre brought forward.

Mark Drakeford

Mark Drakeford

 “The measures I have announced will provide immediate stability and ensure the board has clear and authoritative advice and guidance in discharging its responsibilities,” said Mr Drakeford.

“Given the seriousness and exceptional nature of the special measures, these arrangements will be monitored closely and reviewed at an early stage to ensure progress is being made,” he added.

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