42,000 work days lost to Betsi staff sus­pen­sions

Bangor Mail - - NEWS -

MORE than 42,000 work­ing days have been lost in the past three and a half years due to staff sus­pen­sions at a be­lea­guered health board.

And fig­ures re­veal 65 mem­bers of Betsi Cad­wal­adr Health Board’s 16,772 work­force are cur­rently sus­pended.

But union bosses have ac­cused the Welsh Con­ser­va­tives of “chas­ing easy head­lines” af­ter the party un­cov­ered the statis­tics in a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest.

The health board said the num­ber of sus­pen­sions equates to just 0.5% of its work­force, with staff sus­pended au­to­mat­i­cally dur­ing on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

In to­tal 42,292 work­ing days have been lost due to staff sus­pen­sions since 2014/15 – that’s equiv­a­lent to 116 years, based on a 365-day year, 24-hour op­er­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Con­ser­va­tives, the num­ber of pa­tients wait­ing more than a year for rou­tine surgery has in­creased by 2,550% over the same pe­riod.

In Oc­to­ber 2016, six mem­bers of staff at the Bryn Hes­keth older peo­ple’s men­tal health unit at Col­wyn Bay hos­pi­tal were sus­pended.

In March of last year, a phys­io­ther­a­pist was sus­pended for 12 months af­ter stor­ing more than 800 pa­tient records at her home and the home of a col­league.

An­gela Burns, Shadow Health Sec­re­tary, de­scribed the find­ings as “ex­tremely wor­ry­ing”.

“The Welsh Labour Gov­ern­ment placed Betsi Cad­wal­adr in spe­cial mea­sures two-and-a-half years ago, yet pa­tients and their fam­i­lies are still wait­ing for dis­cernible im­prove­ments to ma­te­ri­alise,” she said.

“These fig­ures are ex­tremely wor­ry­ing, and demon­strate the fi­nan­cial and prac­ti­cal cost of se­ri­ous, on­go­ing is­sues. We have consistent­ly called for a clear plan to bring the health board back to its nor­mal sta­tus, but these rev­e­la­tions un­der­line the scale of the cri­sis fac­ing min­is­ters.”

Re­gional AM Mark Ish­er­wood added: “An ex­tra £10m has been spent on keeping the health board in spe­cial mea­sures, and its bud­get over­spend looks set to reach £50m, yet we still haven’t seen a cred­i­ble plan to turn things around.

“Now we learn that staff sus­pen­sions are cost­ing the health board a con­sid­er­able sum each year.

“It’s a toxic mix and pa­tients and their rel­a­tives are bear­ing the brunt of Labour’s mis­man­age­ment.”

Re­spond­ing to the find­ings, a spokesman for the health board said: “Given the na­ture of our work, sus­pen­sion is of­ten an ap­pro­pri­ate neu­tral re­sponse to se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions where in­ves­ti­ga­tions can of­ten be com­pli­cated.

“De­ci­sions on sus­pen­sion are not taken lightly and other op­tions, such as re­de­ploy­ment or some form of re­stricted prac­tice, are al­ways con­sid­ered.”

Donna Hut­ton, Uni­son Cymru Wales’ head of health, said: “The Welsh Con­ser­va­tives are chas­ing easy head­lines which dam­age trust.

“Some­times sus­pen­sions are nec­es­sary to al­low in­ves­ti­ga­tions to be com­pleted. Those in­ves­ti­ga­tions around med­i­cal prac­tice can be more lengthy and com­pli­cated. Whilst we’d all like shorter pro­cesses, we can­not agree that should be au­to­matic where care of the pub­lic is con­cerned.

“Ei­ther you want the truth to come out of in­ves­ti­ga­tions and pa­tients to be re­as­sured and pro­tected, or you try to imag­ine con­tro­versy to make a party po­lit­i­cal point. Ar­ti­fi­cially com­plet­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions early risks a mis­car­riage of jus­tice.”

A Welsh Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “Progress has been made in some key ar­eas un­der spe­cial mea­sures, but more is needed.”

Sixty five mem­bers of Betsi Cad­wal­adr Health Board’s 16,772 work­force are cur­rently sus­pended

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