42,000 work days lost to Betsi staff suspensions
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