Two managers were relocated after a woman was found dead at a North Wales mental health unit, it is claimed.
The incident at Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Hergest Unit in Bangor came on April 20 this year, some five months after the Welsh Government announced it was bringing Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board out of special measures.
The provisional cause of death has been given as hanging at an inquest into her death which opened in May..
Tonight Plaid Cymru claimed that it may have been “premature” to bring the health board out of special measures in November last year.
For its part, the health board said an investigation into the death is taking place and that it does not comment publicly on staff matters.
Plaid Cymru says a letter from an anonymous whistle blower reveals that senior staff have been moved from posts following the death of a patient from suicide in April this year.
The death happened at the Hergest Unit, a specialised mental health hospital situated within the grounds of Ysbyty Gwynedd.
Plaid Cymru said these allegations have been confirmed by Jo Whitehead, the Chief Executive of BCUHB, who was subsequently alerted to the anonymous letter by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW).
Plaid Cymru said that in a letter dated June 21, 2021, Ms Whitehead confirmed to HIW that the West Head of Operations and the West Head of Nursing had been “relocated” to take up “alternative” duties, and that an external investigation would commence following the death of a patient by suicide in the Hergest Unit.
It has been eight years since concerns raised by staff at the Hergest Unit were first documented, and eight years since Robin Holden was commissioned to undertake an investigation into the mental health unit.
The findings from Holden’s report preceded another critical report at another mental health unit in the BCUHB, which led to the health board being placed in special measures in June 2015.
BCUHB was taken out of special measures in the run up to the Senedd elections, but Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS says “ questions must be asked ” over this decision.
Mr ap Iorwerth said “enough is enough” and that Welsh Government must be held accountable for the “ premature ” decision to take BCUHB out of special measures.
He added: “The continued scandals must be urgently addressed, and my heart goes out to all the families that continue to be affected by these tragedies. Questions must be asked how Betsi Cadwaladr was able to come out of special measures when serious problems within mental health units clearly persist.
“Staff members have told me in recent days that problems of underinvestment and under resourcing still haven’t been addressed. Enough is enough. Leadership arrangements have once again been highlighted as a weakness – both by the staff that I’ve been speaking to, and in the letter from the Chief Executive.
“Welsh Government must accept responsibility for addressing these long running and deep rooted issues. If no decisive action is taken, these tragic episodes will continue, leaving an ever growing list of bereaved families with unanswered questions.”
This afternoon, the health board responded to the death and another case.
Jo Whitehead, BCUHB Chief Executive, said: “We express our deepest sympathy to the families of those patients affected by these two tragic incidents.
“There is an independent investigation taking place and the findings of which will be reported to our public Quality, Safety and Experience Committee.”
“It would not be appropriate for us to speculate on the findings of this independent investigation at this stage.”
But she wouldn’t confirm whether the staff had been relocated.
She said: “We are unable to comment publically on individual staff matters however we can assure that all staff will be treated fairly and in accordance with our values and polices.
“We encourage and welcome staff to raise concerns and we are confident the independent investigation will provide the Health Board with objective facts and recommendations.”
The board did not comment on Plaid’s suggestion that it may have been brought out of Special Measures prematurely.
The Welsh Government said BCUHB “continues to be in Targeted Intervention”.
A spokesperson added: “Improvements have been made, but there are four key areas, including mental health, that require significant action on the part of the organisation and these are accompanied by a level of continued oversight from Welsh Government officials.
“We have committed a further £82m per year over three-and-a-half years to support the health board as it enters a new phase under targeted intervention and continues its ongoing work to improve.”
They said this “substantial” investment will be used to “improve unscheduled care, build sustainable planned care, including orthopaedics, and deliver improvements in mental health services.”
Get the North Wales Live newsletter delivered to your inbox every day for FREE – sign up here