Financial Irregularities at the Betsi Made Public…

I have heard allegations of serious financial mismanagement and ‘services’ being commissioned on the basis of personal connections in the north Wales NHS for years. Much of this information was given to me in confidence so none of it has appeared on this blog, but I did wonder how long it would be before an indication of such practices in the north Wales NHS emerged in the media.

It has happened this morning – BBC News Wales online is running a story regarding the Wales Audit Office highlighting ‘a lack of transparency and poorly managed conflicts of interest’ in the Betsi’s funding of a charity event Paperwork was not processed although the funds were still transferred and procurement guidelines were not followed.

As ever, a Betsi spokesperson has made a statement telling us all how keen they are to ‘learn’ from this (in the same way that they ‘learn’ every time yet another can of worms is opened at the Betsi or yet another person’s death is deemed ‘avoidable’). I note that the spokesperson referred to ‘misunderstandings’ – of course, that’s all it was. Just a misunderstanding. (Readers might remember from my blog post ‘After the Betsi Came Into Being’ that a reference was made to ‘misunderstandings’ when I produced evidence of abuse, neglect and serious service failure.)

From what I have heard I suspect that this example of ‘a lack of transparency and poorly managed conflicts of interest’ is only the tip of a very big iceberg. And one member of the Betsi Board – Lyn Meadows – has previously featured on Frank Field’s blog and in Hansard when she was involved in another ‘irregularity’ in her capacity as a non-executive director of a Health Board in the north west of England.

Rumours of ludicrous spending decisions and questionable commissioning have swirled around the north Wales NHS for years. Just before the North West Wales NHS Trust died, Elfed Roberts and Martin Jones appeared in a local newspaper proudly unveiling the purchase of a very expensive machine that went ping. I was told that the purchase of this machine was predicated solely on the fact that under NHS funding/restructuring arrangements, Martin and Elfed had only a limited time before they lost the power to make substantial purchases. So they bought a machine that went ping. I was later told that they couldn’t afford to fund the staff necessary to operate the machine that went ping.

More recently I discovered that someone known to me in Gwynedd had established an ‘executive coaching business’ and was boasting on her website that she had been commissioned by the Betsi to provide ‘training’ to their staff. I also noticed that on her website this ‘executive coach’ had told a few whoppers about her previous ‘expertise’ and CV. I know this person well and I know that she also spectacularly mismanaged a big joint project between a university and the NHS some years ago. This was very widely known and there was much unhappiness all around after this project disintegrated. Threats of legal action were made and there were rumours that the funding body concerned had requested that the funding be repayed. This person still has personal connections in the Betsi. So when I saw her website I put in a FoI request to find out whether she had indeed been commissioned by them. Yes, she had – and they had indeed paid this person several thousand pounds for ‘training’ their staff. Anyone who knows this ‘executive coach’ would know that she doesn’t have the background to deliver meaningful ‘training’ of the type that was alleged to have been delivered. (I imagine that those being ‘trained’ would have noticed this.) So I wondered who exactly in the Betsi had commissioned her. I put in another FoI request and was told that it was a decision taken by the Area Operational Manager (West) and Educational Manager (West). When I asked for the actual names of these people, I was told by the Betsi that they were refusing permission for their identities to be revealed. I bet they were – what’s the betting that they knew that if I found out who they were that I would soon be able to find a personal connection with the ‘executive coach’?

May I suggest that the Wales Audit Office now starts taking a very big interest in the Betsi?