Mark Drakeford says he cannot agree that the best way in which services for people in North Wales could be strengthened would be to reform the health board despite the regular poor record and several reports showing severe failings.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS asked the First Minister about a recent publication on vascular services in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), the findings of which included an amputee’s wife having to “carry him to the toilet” after being sent home from hospital without a care plan.

The report also revealed that the majority of clinical documentation was unreadable or absent, that communication and care planning was non-existent in some cases, and that in one instance, an amputee’s wife had to carry him to the toilet after he was sent home without a care plan. 

Drakeford – who was health minister when BCUHB entered special measures seven years ago before it was moved to targeted intervention shortly before last year’s Senedd election – said he had “no difficulty in apologising”, before failing to say sorry.

North Wales has suffered with a beleaguered health board ever since Labour botched its reorganisation of health services.

Mr Davies pointed out that “since its [BCUHB] formation in 2009, there have been four chief executives, six chairs and now we have targeted intervention”, that has left people there regularly dealing with the worst A&E waiting times and longest treatment waiting list in Wales.

In December, BCUHB saw only 61% of its A&E admittances within four hours. The target is 95%. A month earlier, it had nearly 40,000 people waiting over a year for treatment. 11,782 were waiting over two years.

It was revealed last summer that the highest number of nursing vacancies in Wales were located in the BCUHB area, accounting for just under a third (698 or 32%) of all staffing gaps in the nation.

Late last year, the long-suppressed Holden Report revealed a “culture of bullying” and “low morale” among staff in the Hergest Unit of Ysbyty Gwynedd in the BCUHB area, which was said to be in “serious trouble” and somewhere that “patient care is undoubtedly affected”.

Commenting after FMQs, Andrew RT Davies MS said:

“The performance of North Wales’ health board is completely unacceptable and to fail to apologise and then to reject health board reform when problems are so widespread is incredibly short-sighted and negligent.

“While the First Minister was right to highlight the role of some clinical staff in the poor outcome patients had to suffer, he cannot deny the perpetual role of the Labour Government he leads in failing to make any progress in changing that – he was health minister when it all started.

“Every month, there is a new publication showing healthcare provision in North Wales to be nowhere up to the standard as elsewhere in the UK, detailing the traumas of patients and the demoralisation of staff, leading the collective disgust of the nation.

“The Labour Government has long lost its grip on the health service and no one should put their faith in a government that has a consistent record of letting things in North Wales get increasingly worse. Are we really expected to believe that things will ever get better under?”