The Cardiff and Vale’s Health Board’s self-indulgent “celebrations” of the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service have had a bucket of cold water thrown over them by fiesty Cynon Valley Labour MP Anne Clwyd.
Ms Clwyd’s husband – a former BBC Wales Head of News and Current Affairs – died in the Cardiff and Vale University Hospital of Wales at the Heath in Cardiff in 2012 when he was being treated – or was allegedly NOT being treated – for hospital-acquired pneumonia.
Amidst all the “celebrations” for the NHS anniversary this week, Ms Clwyd has stood up in the House of Commons and injected dose of unpalatable hard facts into the festivities and said that what she describes as a ‘cover-up mentality’ in the National Health Service has to stop.
Six years on since her husband died, allegedly neglected “like a battery hen” in the Heath Hospital, struggling to breathe, with his oxygen mask askew, Ms Clwyd had told the House of Commons “sadly my efforts to obtain information regarding his medical care have been met with considerable obstruction from the Board of UHW ” [the University Hospital of Wales].
Anne Clwyd says a “cover-up mentality” is “all-pervasive” at the Cardiff and Vale Health Board (which provides all NHS Health Services in Penarth and Cardiff). She says “I knew that the NHS did not treat its complainants well, but I did not expect to be here still looking for answers nearly six years later.”
An investigation into the death of her husband was carried out in 2014 which – to no one’s surprise – did not uphold the majority of her allegations .
However Ms Clwyd is a former Guardian journalist who is not prepared to be fobbed-off . She, like her late husband, has always been a committed Labour supporter, but accuses the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board of a “dismissive, insulting and gratuitous attitude”.
She says more than 4,500 people have since written to her to recount their own experiences of the notorious NHS complaints system and says there is a culture of “deny, delay and defend”.
Some of Ms Clwyd’s opprobrium is aimed at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board chair Maria Battle.
In advance of the meeting with Ms Battle, Ms Clwyd had asked to see a report on her husband’s treatment – but discovered that the “senior nurse“, Ruth Walker, had taken it on herself not to release the report prior to the meeting.
Ms Clwyd cited this as an example of the Cardiff and Vale Health Board’s “dismissive, insulting and gratuitous attitude to members of the public and to the families of loved ones. It reflects the overall cover-up mentality that is all-pervasive in this health board.”
A Cardiff and Vale Health Board spokesperson says “We have met with Ms Clwyd on a number of occasions and feel that we have made every effort to address in full all the concerns she has raised and shared with her all actions we have taken to address her concerns.”
However in the Commons Anne Clwyd has savaged the salaried members of the Cardiff and Vale Health Board – many of whom are lay Labour Party appointees with little or no specialist knowledge .
Ms Clwyd said “It is heartbreaking to find that the people whom we appoint to safeguard our services, and who benefit from a significant income and a highly respected position in our society, are unable to address the failings of their organisation, engaging instead in obfuscation and half-truths. The cover-up mentality has to stop. We all make mistakes, but we should be ready to admit them.”
Ms Clwyd’s husband Owen Roberts had – she said spent two weeks crammed in a bed, in a “cold, uncaring ward”. Blood tests injdicated he had an underlying infection, but she claimed doctors didn’t examine his blood test data – or Mr Roberts himself . On the last Saturday of his life no doctor had seen him – nor on a Sunday. By Monday – she said – it was “too late”.
She said that if her husband had been given “effective antibiotics when his inflammatory markers were increasing, he would have stood a fighting chance and would have survived that infection.”
In the Commons UK Government Minister Stuart Andrew told Anne Clwyd that “Frankly, patients and their loved ones can be nervous about complaining. Older people, in particular, often do not want, as they see it, to make a fuss. They can sometimes worry that, by complaining, their care may somehow be adversely affected, which is clearly not what she I or anyone else wants. I believe that the extra funding that we have announced, which will come to the Welsh Government, too, over the next five years, will present us with an opportunity to improve the patient experience across the country.”
The NHS in Wales however is run not by Westminster but by the Welsh Labour Government . It states “Every complaint made to the NHS is taken seriously. We have a process in place that requires patients’ complaints to be thoroughly investigated in an open, honest and transparent way, with a strong focus on the involvement of the person raising the concern. There is a commitment to learning from complaints and improving procedures to prevent it happening again.”