Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which provides National Health Service Wales (NHS) services across North Wales, has backed down and resolved to consult on its plans to reconfigure Obstetrics and Gynaecology services that it provides across the region thanks to a legal fight from local campaigners with the backing of the British Medical Association Cymru (BMA).
In February, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board unexpectedly announced that it had decided behind closed doors to temporarily close the consultant led maternity services at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan.
Represented by Capital Law and supported by the BMA, campaigners Annick Cummings, a GP from Pendyffryn Medical Group and Rhian Roberts, a mother from Denbigh, challenged the decision on the basis that the Health Board made no attempts to consult the public and staff before making its decision.
In May this year, the case was adjourned and the court imposed an interim injunction, preventing the Health Board from closing the maternity unit and making ancillary changes to the maternity unit at the hospital. The court also ruled that the Health Board was to disclose more information and documents about its secret decision to close the maternity services at Glan Clwyd hospital.
On 7 July 2015, a High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, ordered that the decision of the Health Board should be quashed and that the Health Board pay the legal costs of Mrs Roberts and Dr Cummings. The Health Board was also ordered to carry out a process of consultation as to whether there is a need to close the service in accordance with its statutory obligations.
Andrew Brown at Capital Law, said: “Health Boards are duty bound to act fairly and exercise their decision making powers in accordance with a statutory framework requiring them to consult with the Community Health Council, clinicians and members of the public in circumstances of this nature. Sometimes a genuine threat to public safety limits that process as urgent remedial measures need to be taken. But in this case, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board made the fundamental error of ignoring those who were best placed to assess the threat to public safety – the clinicians actually working on the ward. Closure would have spelled disaster and the clinicians had to take a stand. The BMA passionately supports its members and hired us to overturn what was an unfair decision. We’re delighted with the outcome which not only has positiveramifications for the community of north east Wales but also sends a warning shot to any public body contemplating cutting corners.”
Capital Law is part of the BMA’s recently launched alternative business to service the legal needs of its 154,000 members, BMA Law Limited. The new service provides the full range of consumer legal services in association with a number of law firms, including Capital Law.
Timelines of events:
- 10 February 2015 – decision made by Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board to temporarily close the consultant led maternity services and other ancillary changes at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.
- 21 April 2015 – proceedings were issued on in the High Court.
- 7 & 8 May, 2015 – the hearing took place at Mold Crown Court. The hearing was adjourned.
- 8 June 2015 – Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services for Wales, announced that The Health Board was being put into special measures in accordance with the NHS Wales escalation framework.
- 9 June 2015 – Professor Trevor Purt was suspended from his post as Post Executive of The Health Board. Mr Simon Dean (Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Wales) was appointed as interim Chief Executive and accountable officer of The Health Board.
- 1 July 2015 – the Health Board confirmed it no longer sought to contest the Claimant’s claim and would start a process of consultation regarding the immediate future of obstetrics and genecology services it provides across North Wales.
- 7 July 2015 – High Court quashes the decision of the Health Board.
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