Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus a Gweinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus

Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee

08/05/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Adam Price
Mark Isherwood Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mike Hedges
Natasha Asghar
Rhianon Passmore

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adrian Crompton Archwilydd Cyffredinol Cymru, Archwilio Cymru
Auditor General for Wales, Audit Wales
Hywel Jones Cyfarwyddwr, Cyllid, GIG Cymru
Director, Finance, NHS Wales
Judith Paget Cyfarwyddwr Cyffredinol Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol a Phrif Weithredwr GIG Cymru
Director General of Health and Social Services and Chief Executive NHS Wales
Matthew Mortlock Archwilio Cymru
Audit Wales
Nick Wood Dirprwy Brif Weithredwr, GIG Cymru
Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Fay Bowen Clerc
Clerk
Lucien Wise Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Owain Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:37.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:37.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da, a chroeso i chi i gyd.

Good morning, and welcome to you all.

Good morning, and welcome, everybody, to this morning's meeting of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee in the Senedd. It's a bilingual meeting; headsets provide simultaneous translation on channel 1, and sound amplification on channel 2. Participants joining online can access translation by clicking on the globe icon on Zoom. No apologies for absence have been received from Members. Do Members have any declarations of registrable interests they wish to declare? I see no indications. I remind the public that Members' interests are registered on the publicly accessible register of interests.

2. Sesiwn Dystiolaeth: Cyllidau a Llywodraethu'r GIG (Rhan 1)
2. Evidence Session: NHS Finances and Governance (Part 1)

So, moving on, we start today's proceedings with an evidence session on NHS finances and governance. The Auditor General for Wales published a data tool in September 2023, which summarised the financial position of each NHS health board in Wales, based on information from their 2022-23 accounts. During the financial year, the accounts of all seven health boards have been qualified by the auditor general. This committee have decided to conduct an inquiry to explore the pressures facing health boards in Wales and NHS Wales as a whole, considering their financial and governance issues. As part of this inquiry, the committee will consider NHS finances generally, the escalation framework, the accountability review, and progress in relation to the Velindre Cancer Centre project.

So, I'm pleased to welcome participants to the meeting, and the witnesses who have joined us. I'd be grateful if, for the record, you could state your names and roles.

Bore da. Judith Paget ydw i.

Good morning. I'm Judith Paget.

I'm Judith Paget. I'm the director general for health, social care and early years within Welsh Government, and I'm also the chief executive of NHS Wales.

Good morning, everybody. Nick Wood. I'm the deputy chief executive of NHS Wales.

09:40

Bore da. Hywel Jones, director of finance for the health and social care group in Welsh Government and director of finance for NHS Wales.

Thank you, and thanks again for being with us. As you'd expect, we have many questions, and I'd therefore be grateful if Members and witnesses could please be as succinct as possible, so that we can cover as wide a range of the issues as possible, generated by this topic. Please note that there will be a short break after an hour, roughly, approximately, into the evidence session. So, as convention has it, I as Chair will ask the first question. So, on that basis: how would the witnesses sum up the Welsh Government's overall level of concern about Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board at present?

Thank you. I'll start with that question, if that's okay. So, clearly, the committee will be aware that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was put into the highest level of escalation special measures in February 2023, due to a series of considerable concerns across a range of areas. We set out, and the Cabinet Secretary set out, the special measures framework to guide our work over that first year and, clearly, our approach to special measures has been set out in four stages. The first one, a short discovery stage, which commenced in March 2023. That led into a longer period of stabilisation. And then the third and fourth stages are standardisation and sustainability. So, during the last year, clearly a huge focus within the organisation has been on that sense of stabilising the organisation, focus on appointing new board members, a new chief executive, making sure risk, performance and financial frameworks were agreed with the board, and starting to recruit additional independent members, and now, of course, a vice-chair and independent members are in place.

I think there has been some progress. There are signs of progress, which is positive to see. But I think it's fair also to say that there is still a substantial amount of work yet to be done. As we move into the second year of special measures, the Cabinet Secretary will be publishing, very shortly, a framework to guide the work over the next six months. It will set out all those areas in that special measures framework that require further attention. It will also set out what de-escalation might look like for the organisation, in terms of how we get to that point. I'm hoping that the Cabinet Secretary will share that and publish that over the course of the next week. So, I think a summary would be: some progress, lots more to do, and I think this is a piece of work that will stretch into the medium term; it's certainly not a short-term fix to address some of those issues.

Thank you very much. Anybody wish to comment? No. You mention independent members and, clearly, a key requirement of independent members on a board is to freely, openly and constructively challenge the executive. How confident are you that, within the new regime, the independent members appointed, and to be appointed, will be ready, willing and able to ensure that that function is carried out to the full extent?

So, I think it's important to say that, around the board table, it is a unitary board, so each member of the board has a really important role in determining the strategy and programme of work that the board is going to pursue, including approvals of plans, changes to services et cetera. But I think also, as you say, the executive team then is charged with the delivery of that plan, and it's important, at those board-level discussions, and through committees particularly, that board members feel able to challenge and scrutinise the progress that's been made. But also, of course, share their advice and support in terms of how progress could be delivered. So, I'm confident that the independent chair, vice-chair and independent members that have been appointed, through their induction, are well placed now to fulfil that, making sure that those committees are working effectively. But, clearly, that is one of the things that we will need to continue to work on and support the health board to do over the course of the next six months or so, as all those new independent members settle in to their roles.

09:45

To what extent do you think there's been enough accountability for the past failures identified at the health board?

The board feels, and we feel, that, absolutely, there is accountability. The board is in a very different place now than it was 12 months ago, and the health board has been clearly and visibly held to account by the Welsh Government, by the public, by elected Members, and committees such as this for the things that happened in the past and how they're going to work to put those right, going forward. As I said, we are all trying to work in an environment of openness, of transparency, of sharing what the concerns are, but also setting out where progress has been made, and I think that transparency and openness with the public, as well as with patients and staff, is really important. So, I think the accountability is felt very clearly by the organisation, and I think their evidence session to the committee very recently described that very well.

A series of publicly available reports have named—I'm not going to name them here—officers in the health board as having responsibility for some of the issues highlighted. How confident are you that all those persons have been removed from corporate decision-making roles?

There certainly have been changes in the board. As I said, the membership of the board now, both as chair and as independent members and executive directors, is very different. There have been some changes within the executive team. Clearly, the new chief executive has been appointed, the director of corporate governance appointed, and clearly there are still outstanding issues, which I know the committee won't want to go into—those issues need to run their course in accordance with due process.

How confident are you that those named in those reports, which are now public reports, are not in a position to influence corporate decisions? I think you're referring to investigations into one particular department—finance—but, as I recall, those officers weren't named in those public reports, except in the Ernst and Young report, of course.

Yes, so, I am confident that the health board has taken appropriate action as it relates to individuals who might have been named or implied in public reports. And of the people that I'm thinking of—clearly, we won't want to name them—they are no longer involved in making decisions within the health board at this time.

Okay. As you're aware, HM coroner has identified a disproportionately large number of prevention of future death notices issued to the health board. As I recall, it was more than the other health boards combined. How confident are you that the health board's services now are safe in that context?

So, I think, clearly, the safety of services, patient outcomes and clinical governance of the services was one of the key areas that prompted the special measures action. I think committee members will be aware that there were some specific services that there was a focus on in the course of the last 12 months—vascular services being one, and mental health services being another. Clearly, a significant amount of work has been done in relation to those two specific services, including assurance reviews and independent reviews of mental health in-patient settings. And, clearly, for those two services, there have been improvements, but more work to do.

I think there is a general issue that the board is addressing around the safe systems of care that they need to put in place and they need to ensure that they have. It's the board's responsibility to ensure that their systems of care are safe and reliable. And, of course, that has a number of components to it. So, one of the things that we have been working with them to support is, clearly, a review of clinical governance and patient experience, which has been done by one of the independent advisers, and actions related to that are now being implemented. One of those is, clearly, a new quality management system that I understand the board will be considering at its meeting later this month. But there's a whole host of issues that impact on that: clearly, how the organisation learns from incidents; how they listen to concerns from patients, from their families, and from staff members about concerns that they have; how they create an open culture that supports staff to come forward when they have concerns, or where there have been incidents or near misses, and that those are taken seriously and acted upon quickly and investigated, and changes have happened; and, also, making sure that they have a data system that allows them to understand the quality of the services that they're delivering, where there are issues, and to point them towards where improvements are needed, and that they act on that quickly.

I think the issue with the coroners—and I absolutely understand everybody's concern, and this is one of the areas that will feature in the work programme for the next six months—is making sure that the organisation has arrangements in place where, if there have been issues or concerns raised, in whatever way, that they grasp them, deal with them, investigate them, put changes in place, that they learn from that, that they disseminate that learning throughout the organisation, and they then follow up on that to make sure that changes are implemented.

So, I think there is still a significant amount of work to do in the organisation to get all those elements of a reliable, quality management system in place, and when that is in place, then I think we can be much more confident about the general safety systems in the health board. But, that said, I do know, every day, the clinical teams in Betsi Cadwaladr are working incredibly hard to make sure that patients get a good experience of their care and get good outcomes as well. 

09:50

I think we're frozen. 

Apologies. Whilst we get him back, I will carry on with the questioning. 

[Inaudible.]—the Welsh Government will need to provide to this end?

Chair, I do apologise, you did freeze. Do you just want to repeat the question for the panel, because I don't think they caught it?

I'm sorry. Yes. How long do you estimate that it will take to properly rebuild the health board to the standards you're indicating, and what additional support, if any, do you think the Welsh Government will need to provide to this end?

Yes, that's a question I've been asked quite a few times in the last year, and my answer has remained the same: it will take as long as it takes. As I said in response to a previous question, I don't think this is about short-term fixes. I think we are in this situation for the medium term. I think it's incredibly important that we continue to support the organisation with the improvements, and, clearly, hold them to account where changes are needed. I think we need to ensure that our programme of work gets reviewed and revised, and make sure that it addresses the issues that are of concern, both to us and, obviously, to patients and communities in north Wales. 

I think, in terms of support, clearly, we have, over the course over the last year, made available, I think , around eight independent advisers to support the health board over a range of areas, and I know the health board has found that input to be incredibly helpful. All those independent advisers have given views and recommendations that the health board are now addressing. What we do have available to us now, of course, is the capacity within the NHS executive—which is already deployed in support of Betsi Cadwaladr, as it is in support of other NHS organisation around Wales—and, clearly, they have a suite of skills, capacity and knowledge that we're putting to good use in north Wales. But, of course, if there are other independent issues, advisers that are needed, then we will commission that on a bespoke basis. So, I think the commitment from Welsh Government is to continue that level of support. I think it's incumbent on us to do the best we can collectively for the people of north Wales, and, so, we will continue with this work until we're all satisfied that the changes have taken place and that they are sustainable. 

09:55

Could I add something to that?

Yes. Sorry, Chair. Could I just add something to that? Our focus is on being very clear as to the issues that need to be addressed and the action required, and the supporting evidence of improvement and delivery associated with that. That will be set out in the de-escalation criteria that Judith referred to, which is with the Cabinet Secretary and that we're hoping to have published. So, that will be a very clear framework to follow.

And I think the other thing I'd like to reflect is—Judith described the significant amount of support that's been put in—that it's imperative for us that we and the health board implement sustainable solutions, and that the health board is able to stand on its own two feet. So, I think we've been in a position where, in the past, there have been some sort of quick fixes or use of consultancy support. So, through our processes, we're looking to put the support requirements in place that also enable the health boards to develop and grow their own ability to allow that support to then be removed in the future.

Thank you. I'll bring in Natasha Asghar to take up the questions.

Thank you so much, Chair, and thank you so much for your answers so far. I'd just like to ask you—I like 'top' numbers, so top fives and top 10s—what are your top 10 key priorities for improvement in both service provision, performance and organisational governance, as the health board obviously moves forward to its standardisation phase.

Shall I take that?

You asked for a top 10. I think we'd probably summarise what we've described as a requirement for the health board in four or five key areas, and within there there will be, clearly, priorities. As Judith has alluded to, I think there's still much work to be done on the quality management system and the quality of care that is delivered to the public of north Wales by Betsi Cadwaladr, and that development of how we use the learning from issues, risks and events to drive that service improvement and that quality management improvement would be absolutely at the top of the priority list for where we want the health board to go. Clearly, some of that then translates into their wider performance and delivery standards that we set out an expectation for. We've set out expectations for all health boards this year in terms of performance standards, based around patient experience, patient waits et cetera. For the health board to get into a sustainable, improved position, which is clearly the desire as we move to de-escalate the health board, setting out very clearly performance targets that are aligned to the rest of Wales and that they can sustainably achieve would be, again, up there as a very clear priority.

Some of the earlier questions related to the board, the senior leadership team within the organisation, and whilst we've seen some changes around the executive table, with the appointment of a new chief executive, director of governance et cetera, there is still a need, really, to develop that top team and to put in play a very clear leadership structure in the organisation. So, I think, for the new chief executive, that's got to be a priority as we move through the next 12 months, or certainly six to 12 months, in filling some of those key positions in a substantive way so we're building that capacity in the organisation in order for it to deliver that sustained improvement.

And then, probably, as a final point around those priorities, there's the culture of the organisation, which we're never going to change overnight. But I think it's really important to recognise the challenge for all of the staff who work in the organisation. They're in special measures. That's very draining culturally, and I think it's really important that the leadership team are able to really start to embed that culture of improvement, the learning culture, the well-being of their people.

I don't know whether I've got to 10, but certainly, in terms of the four or five key areas that we're focused on and that we've set out for them, these run alongside, then, their de-escalation criteria as we move forward.

Okay. So, I understand, obviously, that Betsi is the focus today and, obviously, all three of you have quite a mammoth task with what you do. So, naturally, all the things that you've listed I can appreciate. I'm sure everyone in the room can as well. But how often are you, personally and professionally in your own roles, going to be having KPIs on those particular issues that you mentioned, to make sure that you actually hit those goals and hit those targets that you've just mentioned?

Sorry, how often—

How often are you going to be checking up, making sure that you're actually hitting those things that you mentioned?

So, there is a fairly well laid out, and now well-practised, assurance framework that exists, given that relationship between Welsh Government and Betsi Cadwaladr. So, firstly, the Cabinet Secretary, previously the Minister, meets with the board—this has been on a bimonthly basis and will be moving to quarterly, I believe, as we move into this year—where we work through some of the key areas that are in the special measures framework, and she takes assurance directly from the board in relation to some of those issues. The Minister for Mental Health and Early Years also has a separate meeting around her portfolio areas, particularly mental health and learning disability. That happens quarterly. And then I and my team—I personally chair an assurance board that meets at the end of each 90-day cycle to review the progress that has been made in the 90 days, and to make suggestions about where they need to go for the next 90 days. So, those are the regular touch points. There are also others. So, if we have a concern about a particular service, we might have a touch-point meeting on dermatology, orthodontics, et cetera. So, there's a frequency of contact and it's well structured, well laid out, and we've followed it over the course of the last year and we'll continue to do that this year.

10:00

Okay. Thank you so much. Has the health board delivered what the Welsh Government expects from a planning perspective, as it's been taking what was the special measures response plan for 2023-24 and its annual plan for that period into a single plan within a three-year context?

So, I think there is evidence of some progress in terms of where the health board has gone in the last 12 months. We've talked a lot about the stabilisation of the organisation, but I think importantly for the public and what they see in service provision, that's clearly got to be the measure. So, they've started to achieve some of the benchmarks and priorities that we laid out for them, or they laid out in their plan, if you like, for 2023-24. Some of that is evidenced in, perhaps, the waiting times performance having improved. I think we've seen a 22 per cent reduction in the longest waits in Betsi. We've seen quite a significant reduction in diagnostic waits. I'll just double-check. It's about a 30 per cent reduction in diagnostic waits. So, we've seen some progress in the planned care areas. 

They're probably the only health board that has significantly reduced the size of their waiting list—the timeline, maybe not, but the actual physical size of the waiting list has come down quite considerably in north Wales. And they've made real progress in the longest waits. So, they had some very, very long waits for treatment that were completely unacceptable, and would be unacceptable in any health board area, but they've managed to eliminate six, five, and I think they're now down to four-year waits, and there are very, very small numbers of those, whereas previously we had seen very high numbers of very long waits.

Mental health performance has improved significantly over the 12-month period. I think they're achieving around about 80 per cent compliance in a number of the mental health areas. And whilst their cancer care in total number has dropped slightly over the last couple of months, they remain one of the better health board performers from a cancer perspective. They've got some particular challenges with certain tumour sites, particularly skin cancer, at the minute, where there is a capacity issue.

So, I think from a public service perspective in the delivery of key waiting-time measures, we've seen some progress. That really needs to be sustained. And what we're clear about now, as we move into this year, is that they need a very clear and coherent and deliverable plan on a number of those particular areas. So, yes, broadly I'd say that they've started to deliver improvement in overall terms from a service delivery perspective, what we've got to see now is real sustainability in that and some real key drives in some of the other KPI areas, because we have significant concerns remaining in some service areas.

Could I add some points from a financial perspective?

Just some points on the financial perspective just on the last two questions, if that's okay. Obviously, it follows a similar theme around stability. So, the organisation came into the year with a financial plan that wasn't robust, and they were significantly off that plan during the year. They've undertaken quite rapid improvement, in particular around grip and control into the special measures framework and increasing their savings delivery in-year, which has meant that they've delivered improvements from where they started. They are short against the target control total that Welsh Government have set, but have delivered significant improvements in-year, which obviously, we look to see maintained.

The other thing I could add to the previous question, to give some flavour of the interaction on some of the specific areas, is that, in addition to what Judith has described, we have, again from a finance lens, an escalation framework and a clear special measures action plan. We meet fortnightly as Government officials, lead officials from the financial planning and delivery function of the NHS executive, and the senior finance team at the health board, to review that action plan, review progress, seek some additional assurance, put some more support activity in those areas where progress hasn't been as we anticipated. And then we have strengthened—and obviously Betsi Cadwaladr has had a key part in that—our monthly monitoring arrangements and our wider escalation process around financial improvement in-year. So, just to give a bit of context to specific areas.

10:05

Can I just ask one final question, Chair, before—? I know Mike is waiting to ask his set of questions next. On a professional level—. I'm going to ask all of you the same question, please just answer with a 'yes' or 'no'. Are you 100 per cent confident with the plan in place now?

I can't give a one-word answer. I'd say—

—you're not going to be 100 per cent, but I'm reasonably confident in the plan that they've got.

I think they understand their issues; they know what they've got to do. We've just got to support them to do it now.

Yes, I'm confident in the plan.

Okay. Mike Hedges has got some questions for you. So, over to Mike.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Well, I've been on the public accounts committee on and off for 13 years. During the whole of that time, we've discussed Betsi Cadwaladr. What is your assessment of the root cause of the health board’s troubled history? My assessment is that it can't work; its geography stops it working. It's not one you agree with at the moment, but, at what stage will you decide that it can't work? And the second one is: how is the current special measures framework going to address the problems more than all the other targeted interventions and special measures we've had previously?

Shall I start with that one? I think it's really difficult for me to comment on the root cause of the problems in Betsi Cadwaladr. My personal involvement in it only stretches back to November 2021, and clearly the Member has got a lot more history and has observed what's happened over a much longer time.

I think in terms of the root cause, just based on my own experience of working in other parts of NHS Wales, where you're bringing large organisations together for the first time, I think there are all sorts of differences around the way teams work, the way hospitals work, the way geographies work, the way cultures work within individual teams—all of those things we need to be mindful of. And we need to, as a leadership team—when we're working in those organisations where we're trying to bring people who've worked separately together—focus on the things that bind and unify us: so, make sure we're focused on the most important things that we can all agree on and how we're going to work.

I think also there needs to be a focus on, not just the way we work together and how we bring teams and work clinically and engage with our staff and our communities, but also we are a public service, so, being well governed, well led, making sure our financial arrangements are strong, ensuring that we're responding to the reviews of stakeholders, creating opportunities to get external views on our performance, and focusing on culture, et cetera, are really, really important. 

So, I don't know what the root cause is. I can surmise from my own personal experience, but I'm not absolutely sure. What I can say is that the special measures framework that we've put in place is very structured, it's very clear, it's very visible, it's very clear to the organisation what they need to do. We've put in support and we're going to continue with that support, so that we support them on their journey. And as I said before, I think it's incumbent on all of us to actually support them in that work.

The areas that we're focused on are governance, quality of care, performance, leadership and culture, finance and financial management, planning and service transformation and fragile services. And in all those areas, there is work to do. And I think the most important thing, and the thing that we've learnt through our escalation framework across Wales and the feedback we've had, is that we need to understand what the measures are that will support us to de-escalate. And I think we've provided greater clarity on that now than there's been in place before.

10:10

I take your point about it being a new organisation; I accepted that 15 years ago when it was just created. It's been there for 15 years now. I don't think, apart from you, many other people would describe a 15-year-old organisation as 'a new organisation'. I think the health board has been in different levels of escalation for as long as I can remember. I mean, why have the previous targeted interventions, special measures, failed? We know they've failed, because you're back in special measures again.

Well, I think that the most important thing around—. If you're talking about Betsi particularly—

—only about Betsi—is that we clearly have put frameworks in place now. I think we've taken a new approach. I can't comment, I genuinely can't comment on the whys and wherefores of the previous process, but I can speak with greater confidence about what we've put in place at the moment, and the support that the health board is getting in order to make those improvements. I think we have to continue on this journey; I don't think we can be knocked off it. I think there have been some elements of improvement, so we have seen some improvements in various services, and actually, as Carol Shillabeer said when she gave evidence to you, there are some excellent examples of good services in Betsi Cadwaladr and staff working incredibly hard every day to achieve them. And I think from my point of view, I'm focusing on the here and now and the future, and supporting them to move forward.

We were previously told by a middle-ranking manager who'd been given their budget in Betsi Cadwaladr that they'd decided it wasn't enough, so they ignored it. Can you confirm that that is not allowed to happen at the moment? Because there's been a tremendous lack of financial control, and, 'I don't think I've been given enough money, so I'll just spend what I need, or what I think I need.'

I'll bring Hywel in in a moment around financial controls, but I think one of the areas of work that the health board has already started on, to be fair, but there is some more work to do, is around supporting line managers, making sure that line managers are well supported and well trained in order to do the work that they've done, to make sure that they have training in financial control and financial control measures, which I know is happening. And that's just an unacceptable situation; the responsibility of line managers to manage and support their services, their staff and manage public money well is incredibly important and needs to be a key focus of their training and development.

How much is it costing to put them in special measures?

I've got the cost of the independent advisers. Nick might have—

Yes, so, I think the independent advice that we funded directly from Welsh Government is around about £164,000. In overall terms, everything else that's funded through special measures is through their directly allocated budget. So, circa £82 million per annum is going into the health board. Some of that is to fund their current financial position, and some of it's for transformation, but it's in the same way that we seek to set out a sustainable financial plan for each organisation in Wales.

I don't expect you to be able to do it now, but could you give us in writing a breakdown of what is being spent on the special measures?

Absolutely, yes, we could provide that.

I don't know if Hywel wanted to say anything about financial controls and training.

Yes, a couple of things and I'll also go back to the Member's previous question, if that's okay, just in terms of what's different in terms of our approach. So, it's a personal reflection that we sometimes see, or have seen in the past, for organisations with less maturity, that when they're in TI or special measures for a particular issue, it becomes about that issue, to the detriment of potentially other areas. The organisation is in special measures as a whole, so de-escalation will require a minimal level of improvement across the whole domain. We're operating in a challenging environment, but the challenge for health boards is to improve the health of their population, deliver improvements in outcome and quality, and deliver performance improvement and deliver financially; it's not one or the other. So, that is the framework that we're putting in place, which is holistic and will be evidence based.

In terms of financial controls, as part of the special measures action plan, the organisation has put a significant amount of work in place on strengthening and revising their scheme of delegation on their approval mechanisms around investments and on their budgetary frameworks. So, that whole control environment has strengthened in this financial year.

10:15

Obviously, if you're running an organisation well, you'll have monthly updates on finance, you'll run those against your plan and it's not necessarily one twelfth of the year's expenditure, it'll be a certain proportion of that. After three months, you'll have a quarterly report. Your quarterly report will be due in, I would say, May to July. What will that show?

Do you want to describe their reporting? Thank you.

The Member's absolutely right, and in broad reporting terms, just to give you some confidence, we have very robust monthly monitoring arrangements with health boards on a monthly basis to an incredibly granular level of detail. So, to give an illustration, savings plans that organisations are delivering across NHS Wales, we monitor them to individual scheme level, and we share that output across individual bodies.

In terms of this financial year, the organisation has submitted a plan that is a deficit plan. The plan that they've described doesn't have enough confidence at this point in terms of the savings that they've set out for the year ahead. That's part of some of the assurance mechanisms that we've put in place now over forthcoming weeks in terms of strengthening their plan.

When I was involved, many years ago, with Swansea, before they were created, local health boards, the two big problems in terms of costs were agency nurses and locum doctors. Is that still the problem?

Specifically for Betsi or across the system?

So, it is still a challenge for Betsi. If I give some wider context around agency in particular, in 2022-23, we spent around £325 million on agency staff within NHS Wales. That's reduced in 2023-24 to a forecast of £263 million, so there is a reduction of about £62 million. Around half of that is in registered nursing. Through our value sustainability programme there's a significant amount of activity happening nationally and locally to drive down agency expenditure, but it is still a feature and a pressure for organisations.

In autumn 2020, the Welsh Government announced a financial assistance package for the health board of £297 million up to the end of March 2024. Has this money worked?

That's a good question. So, that £297 million essentially translates to £82 million per annum over a three-year period, and the residual balance is £51 million for year 1 when that was announced in autumn 2020. Of that £82 million, £40 million supported the organisation's underpinning deficit at that point in time, and £42 million related to improvements and transformation in particular priority areas, namely unscheduled care, planned care, diagnostics and also some funding to support mental health and transformation. Has it worked? So, there's a straight answer to that, which is they still have challenges to balance financially and their performance isn't where we would hope it would be. However, as Nick described earlier, we are seeing significant improvements in some of those areas—

Thank you. That was a very nice 'no'. Are there any consequences for NHS bodies that have not met their year-end financial targets?

A couple of reflections on that, in terms of the 2023-24 position, we set out a control framework and environment during the year. Colleagues will be familiar from our evidence paper in terms of the written statement the Cabinet Secretary made announcing additional funding to the NHS, and we issued significant additional funding to the system along with a reduction expectation of planned deficit of 10 per cent and issued target control totals for the seven health boards against which we held offseted funding within the MEG. Of that £123 million deficit, our control total—the forecast outturn position, obviously subject to audit, is £183 million. That's £185 million across the seven health boards, which is £62 million short of the target control total set.

So, positively, four health boards have achieved those target control totals and achieved that deficit reduction expectation, and of those health boards, one—Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board—is forecasting in-year financial balance. Three health boards haven't achieved the target control total, so Hywel Dda, Aneurin Bevan and Betsi Cadwaladr.

If I come back to consequences, which was the Member's question, I think there are probably a few things for me. The first one is I think the context for each health board that hasn't achieved their target control total is different. So, through the organisational framework and the control framework we put in place, we recognise national pressures that were consistently affecting all bodies. There are challenges for the three health boards I've described that are localised to them. So, if you took Aneurin Bevan as an example, there is significant underlying deficit going into the financial year and challenges around some of their service model and the cost associated with that, and the impact of COVID. They had an ambitious plan that they weren't delivering in-year, which meant that they didn't deliver the 10 per cent improvement expectation. Betsi I've already described in terms of where they were at the start of the year and the improvement they've been on. The challenge for Hywel Dda is different, around their inability, consistently, to deliver the level of savings that are being set out in their plans. So, I think the challenges for those three organisations are different.

We have, through the framework, put significant funding in place that is conditionally recurrent, which is a condition that the Cabinet Secretary agreed to, so what we mean by that is that that funding can be assumed by organisations non-recurrently, but it will not be made recurrent until we're satisfied that significant progress is being made in terms of delivering target control totals and maintaining them. So, in terms of consequence, that's a very active lever in terms of driving forward the level of improvement we expect. And then finally, the other obvious consequence is escalation, so, as we've set out, we've got clear framework and escalation criteria and a clear methodology and approach that we're following and that activity will increase, depending on that position.

10:20

One year, Aneurin Bevan broke even and they were punished for it. All the other health boards got additional money, but Aneurin Bevan, because they'd broken even, didn't need any additional money. What better incentive can you generate to make health boards overspend?

Again, I think there are a couple of contextual points that are important here. The first one is, as we've set out in here, we started the year with a £648 million deficit, we issued in-year actions and activity that I've described, and for the reasons that the Member set out, we deliberately did that in a very clear and transparent way. So, the quantum of resource that we were able to provide organisations in terms of support, that was allocated very transparently and published with a written statement. That was also allocated based on what we've described as a resource allocation formula, which is the formula that recognises population and demographic challenges, amongst other factors, for individual health boards, and is the way we typically allocate additional resources, and a consistent 10 per cent deficit reduction. So, we are implementing a consistent framework with all health boards.

Okay. I'll rephrase the question. If any health board this year breaks even and others don't, will they be financially punished for breaking even, i.e. the extra money will be given to those that didn't break even and the one that breaks even is told, 'You don't need any more money'?

So, there's no intention to financially punish or disincentivise any individual organisations. I think there are two relevant factors. The first is that we are—. Well, it plays heavy on my mind, and we are acutely aware, that we have quite a differential position amongst health boards, as it stands currently. So, Cwm Taf are forecast to outturn at financial balance and Hywel Dda are forecasting a £66 million deficit. It's actually a conversation that I've been challenged with in the system in terms of, 'How do we, if we financially balance, make sure that we're not disincentivised, or that we are appropriately supported for being in that position?' So, that is factoring as part of our thinking prospective in terms of incentives. 

I think the second part of that is that one of the focus areas that we are focusing on, going forward, is refreshing that resource allocation formula and the organisation's position against that. So, for good reasons, some of our allocations to health boards through COVID and subsequently did move away from that formula in specific instances. If you took something like energy, because of the acute and significant pressure that was, we funded organisations on an actual basis. If you took something like planned care, and the £170 million we've allocated, that was disproportionately weighted for the areas of greatest challenge where we had stronger plans. So, we are reviewing those areas with a view to considering where additional resources prospectively are most required.

10:25

I don't want to anticipate your answers, but on energy I suggest you visit some hospitals—the numbers that are so hot that they have to open the windows to get the heat out. That's hugely financially disadvantageous. Can I urge you to go and visit some of these hospitals to see exactly what is happening there by wandering around the wards? 

My final question is on additional funding provided in 2023-24. Do you think there is still a mindset that the Welsh Government will bail out NHS bodies? We know that they have to cover debt—recover any deficit—because it's part of the consolidated accounts, and, as such, they have to cover anything from wholly owned subsidiaries of the Welsh Government. So, although we have Ministers saying all sorts of clever things like, 'Oh, we won't bail them out', legally they have to bail them out, or they have to fund it, because it's part of the consolidated Welsh accounts. Do you think that there is a mindset—? I've talked to some consultants who believe that, 'We'll keep on spending and the Welsh Government will keep on providing.'

Can you describe our approach, which is quite different from that?

Yes, so I understand the question and I think it's a very important one. My honest reflection is that I don't think there is a bail-out mindset. So, the drivers of our position in 2023-24 were through unavoidable demand and inflation. We are not facing a financial challenge that's heavily being driven by discretionary investment—that's not the place that we're in. Health boards and health leaders fully understand, and we're very transparent with them around the budgetary challenges facing the Welsh Government. Health leaders fully understand that in the absence of additional funding from a UK Government perspective, the Welsh Government's choices—if there's additional funding to health, that results in a choice being taken elsewhere. That is very acutely understood by the senior leaders within our system.

I would also reflect that we haven't bailed out health boards in this year. Part of our rationale for the target control total and having that environment was that we could implement a very consistent control framework, being very transparent in how we allocate resources and a consistent approach in terms of deficit reduction, which meant that we held back funding in the main expenditure group and didn't bail out individual organisations. We could have taken a choice in that scenario to provide additional funding to Hywel Dda, with a significant deficit, but we had a very consistent approach for NHS organisations.

I think the last thing to reflect is—because I understand the suggestion, and, obviously, the implication is a disincentive in terms of cost control and balancing, if there's an understanding that it has to be managed—that these are acute pressures facing all NHS organisations across the UK. They're heavily driven, as I say, by an unavoidable demand and inflation, and there are real challenges and choices that boards have to make in terms of balancing their resources. 

I'll ask you this, and the auditor general's staff may wish to come in: if the health boards overspend by £200 million, when we get the consolidated accounts that £200 million will show as overspend, but the money itself would have to come from the Welsh Government.

That's correct.

Okay, thank you very much indeed. Of course, this committee's interest is not only looking at how much is spent but how effectively and efficiently the public resources are applied, hence the nature of our questions today. There was a personal observation earlier. I should, perhaps, declare that my family and I have been patients of the health board throughout this period, and that the staff we encounter are unfailingly professional, caring and kind in all circumstances. But the problems operationally with the health board were first raised with me as a then Assembly Member in 2009 by families and staff, and the problem then, which persisted, was an apparent belief in the health board that if you targeted the whistleblowers and buried the problem the problems would go away, and of course the opposite happened: they escalated. However, that's my personal observation over. Back to the agenda. Can I'll bring Rhianon Passmore in for some questions?

10:30

Thank you very much, Chair. I'm going to move to value and sustainability as a subject area. What tangible impact has the work of the national value and sustainability programme board had to date? I don't know who'd like to take that first.

The value and sustainability board has played, actually, a really important part in our work this year to try and support the NHS to improve its financial situation, but also look at things like efficiency, productivity and the value we're getting from our investment. It's focused its work in a number of areas, and generally the support has been really welcomed from the NHS, which is really good to know. Each of the organisations has their own—many of them have their own—replicated arrangement in their own organisation, again which is supportive. I'll ask Hywel just to outline some of those areas and some of the changes and improvements we've made as a result of that. Thank you.

Thank you. Thanks, Judith. Thanks for the question. So, as Judith described, we strengthened some of these arrangements in August 2023. So, Judith chairs a monthly value and sustainability board with representation from lead chief executives and lead directors across peer groups and organisations. We've structured that work around five work streams that reflect our main spend areas within NHS Wales, namely workforce, medicines prescribing, CHC, non-pay procurement and clinical variation or service configuration. It is supported through the financial planning and delivery team of the NHS executive in terms of intelligence, insight, monitoring, benchmarking, all of the obvious information outlets. 

Just in terms of tangible impacts, I think some headlines, really. I referenced earlier some of the national focus on agency, supporting the local work that organisations have been undertaking, and that's seen a reduction in our forecast agency spend of around £63 million. We've refreshed our interventions not normally undertaken policy and given a clearer framework on procedures that we perceive to be of lower value. That is supporting some of our health board work and plans. We've got a really comprehensive medicines value programme in place, which is proving very fruitful in terms of scale and spread of medicines opportunities in particular. From a CHC perspective, the national team have also undertaken a systematic review of some of the higher-cost packages of care to ensure that the package of care commissioned and the quality of care provided is robust and is against the standards set out. I guess finally, from a non-pay procurement perspective, we have got a single non-pay plan and framework that supports all health boards.

I think some of the value—no pun intended—of this is actually supporting the visibility of the actions that organisations are taking to deliver financial improvement and enhancing the scale and spread of those with urgency.

Thank you. So, in terms of the Welsh Government, then, holding bodies to account for achieving the opportunities identified through the programming board, what is your brief take on that and how well embedded do you think the concept of value-based healthcare across NHS bodies is? How would you comment on those two points?

Thank you. So, just in terms of the value and sustainability arrangements, in principle it's a support mechanism to support scale and spread for NHS organisations, who are ultimately accountable and responsible for delivering financial performance, including savings delivery. We are testing health board approaches to having a clear opportunities framework and translating that to delivery as a key part of the escalation framework and activity with all organisations. And finally, we're addressing it through very detailed monitoring.

I mentioned earlier the work of the financial planning and delivery team. So, two aspects to that. We've got monthly intelligence at a very granular level, where we will highlight where organisations have implemented changes effectively, which organisations are outliers and improvement expectation around those. We're also making some improvements to our routine monthly monitoring arrangements, which mean that that's very visible in terms of our activity. Can I ask for the second question again? Was it value-based healthcare?

10:35

Yes, value-based healthcare.

Yes, in regard to—. To be honest, you've actually referenced that in an earlier point. You'll just have to bear with me a moment, because my questions have disappeared off the screen. Two minutes. In reference to the point that Mike Hedges brought up, in regard to the fit-for-purpose nature of the financial accounting framework and the incentives or disincentives that are built in, I don't know if there's any wider point on that, but, based on your knowledge of that system and the Welsh Government's review of NHS bodies' plans, are you satisfied that the NHS has the capacity, bearing in mind how overstretched they are, and capability to plan and deliver financially sustainable services? What is your take on that?

Thank you. So, I guess, in broad terms, and reflected in part of the evidence today, our approach is to get to a position where we have a health balance that is within budget and we have health board plans on an improvement trajectory that get to a balanced position. I think that will be more challenging for some organisations than others, and the pace of that will, therefore, differentiate across organisations. I think it's challenging to deliver financially sustainable services within NHS Wales within the wider public finance environment that we are operating in. Like I said earlier, these are challenges facing all health boards in Scotland, all organisations in England, so it is really challenging.

I think we are challenged nationally at times, if I was honest, around our capacity to support organisations, with a number in escalation, for the volume of potential areas of support that could be provided. Another honest reflection is that I think 'it's variable' is the honest answer. Part of the process we're putting in place is looking to get absolute clarity on the improvement trajectory for individual health boards, what actions are required to deliver that, and therefore what capacity and capability may be required to deliver that, if that is in addition to what is already in place in terms of organisations' plans. Judith, Nick?

In regard, then, to those significant cost pressures, and the NHS facing difficult decisions, what does that terminology refer to? What sort of decisions might that entail? And are we now at a point where those difficult decisions have to be enacted? Could you shed some light on that? I don't know, Judith, if you can speak to that particular question.

I think the Cabinet Secretary has been really clear that, despite the increased investment in NHS Wales, for which everybody is hugely grateful, and recognises that savings had to be made across many parts of Welsh Government, and its ambitious plans—. I think the Cabinet Secretary understands, and I think the broader Cabinet understands, that actually some of the changes that are required as a result of the financial pressures will be considerable. But I think the most important thing to say is actually some changes are required because they're the right thing to do for service models to drive quality and sustainability into our system.

So, if I can interrupt you—. Sorry to interrupt you, Judith, because I know you want to finish. But what I'm getting at is: when you say these changes, what are these changes? How would you encapsulate them? Because it's sometimes quite nebulous, isn't it, difficult decisions and changes. What are we talking about?

I think we can probably see—. But not just—. The point I'm trying to make is that these won't just be driven by financial pressures, they'll be driven by other pressures, which are around how do we make sure that we provide services in NHS Wales that are to the highest quality, deliver the best outcomes and are sustainable over time from a workforce perspective. So, I think we will see—and I think we are already seeing in parts of Wales—changes to services. So, I know, in Aneurin Bevan, the patch that I live in, they've made some adjustments to their maternity services to close their midwifery-led birth units at the Royal Gwent and Nevill Hall, and centralise the service at the Grange. It's those sorts of services, and I think we'll see more of that. So, yes, they make better use of the workforce that we've got. That might then result in us not having to provide more agency or, indeed, for medical staff, locum costs. But actually they're delivering good quality care and the care that patients want.

10:40

So, to paraphrase what you're saying, because I realise that there's a limited time, we are talking in terms of the centralisation of excellence in a geographic cluster, and also you've mentioned less usage of agency and locums. 

I'm going to move on, if that's okay, Chair. So, the majority of the Welsh Government's health and social care budget goes to the NHS. What is your department doing to ensure social care receives sufficient funding, noting, for example, the direct relationship between health and social care in areas such as securing timely discharge of patients from hospital? If you could speak to that.

Thank you. So, first of all, we absolutely recognise the critical relationship, obviously, between health and care. From a wider Welsh Government perspective, obviously the Member will be aware that the funding responsibility for social care core services is with local authorities, and there has been an uplift of around 3.1 per cent in core funding for 2024-25, while recognising, of course, the demand on those services. 

I guess from my perspective, from our perspective, we absolutely recognise that local authorities are considering how services need to adapt to meet those demands, working with health colleagues, and there are two key focus areas from our perspective. The first is eliminating profit, which features heavily in our plans, and the second one in particular is the regional integration fund. So, we have maintained and prioritised the regional integration fund at £146 million, and we are investing heavily in regional partnership boards, local partnership mechanisms, with the integration fund as a key part of that, to look to drive that improvement. 

I don't know if Nick wants to add anything on delayed transfers of care.

Yes, just on the discharge piece that you referenced, the Cabinet Secretary chairs a joint action group featuring health and local authority leaders, looking at all of the reasons and issues around delayed transfers of care and the pathways of care that patients experience coming in and out of hospital. I think the focus of both the regional integration fund but also the work that we've been doing locally on primary care clusters in terms of enhancing community capacity absolutely focuses on that discharge journey and how we can expedite that. I think there are two sides to that. One is obviously getting people home as quickly as possible, or as clinically safely as possible. But, more importantly, it's actually building capacity in the community to stop them having to use hospital services in the first place, and what can we deliver locally in the community. There has been a lot of work with local authorities, local third sector providers and health looking at how we enhance community capacity to avoid conveyance and avoid admissions into hospitals. It has got to be a balancing act on both sides of the coin, really.

And obviously, in that particular area, there is huge potential in terms of both improvement in patient service and delivery and the flow through, but equally in terms of being able to scale up that integrational progress. I suppose my question very briefly, if you could, is: is there enough capacity and money in the system to be able to at pace scale up the process that you're talking about sufficiently to be able to make the changes that are necessary?

[Inaudible.]—around money, it's around the capacity that's available and how quickly we can transform services and shift resources both from secondary care into primary care, but also build that capacity. There are sustainability challenges in local authority areas of care, as well as in health, and how we fill that gap is really challenging. It's not necessarily a monetary issue, it's more about available services and how we best use some of the technology or digital advances that are also in communities to support the need for fewer people, but a more enhanced service. 

10:45

I don't have time to go into that further, but thanks for that. And finally, very briefly, in terms of the very large backlog of maintenance there is for the NHS, both estate and digitalisation, how are those issues being reconciled and balanced, as you put it, with the constraints on capital funding? I don't know who would like to answer that. 

Thank you. 'With difficulty' is the honest answer; I think it's extremely challenging. And capital availability is challenging, obviously, across Government and all other parts of the UK. Our capital budget for 2024-25 has been increased, for which we are grateful; it's a £40 million increase to what is now a £440 million envelope. There is an expectation on that £40 million increase that £30 million of that will support as a contribution towards addressing some of those backlog challenges, and £10 million to support the transformation agenda and digital. It is a challenging ask, managing that balance of supporting backlog and investment in future services. We have recently undertaken a capital prioritisation exercise with NHS organisations, who have all submitted a 10-year capital outlook that is prioritised, that sets a clear framework for us to have a more robust challenge around those immediate priorities and how those solutions can be managed in the future. 

Thank you. Could we go into a short break as promised? If we could resume,please, at 10:55. Thank you. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:46 a 10:57.

The meeting adjourned between 10:46 and 10:57.

10:55
3. Sesiwn Dystiolaeth: Cyllidau a Llywodraethu'r GIG (Rhan 2)
3. Evidence Session: NHS Finances and Governance (Part 2)

Welcome back to this morning's meeting of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee. I invite Adam Price to take up the questions.

Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Dwi am droi at gwestiynau yn ymwneud â'r Ganolfan Ganser Felindre newydd. Rŷch chi wedi nawr rhoi cymeradwyaeth i'r ymddiriedolaeth i weithredu'r contract. Ydy hynny'n gywir?

Thank you, Chair. I'm going to turn to questions regarding the new Velindre Cancer Centre. You have now given approval for the trust to execute the contract. Is that correct?

Ond dydych chi ddim wedi cymeradwyo'r achos busnes terfynol.

But you haven't approved the final business case.

That's correct. We've approved the mutual investment model element of the contract. The final business case required further detail and further work, particularly around the plan for construction and how we move forward the final design details. So, that's work currently under way, and we are hoping that, by early summer, we'll be able to approve the full business case.

Ar yr olwg gyntaf, byddai'n taro pobl, yn gyffredinol, yn rhyfedd eich bod chi yn gallu cymeradwyo'r contract heb eich bod chi wedi cymeradwyo'r achos busnes terfynol. Beth pe baech chi'n penderfynu eich bod chi ddim am gymeradwyo'r achos busnes terfynol? A fyddai yna unrhyw oblygiadau ariannol neu gyfreithiol, o bosib, i hynny?

On the face of it, it would strike people, in general, as a bit strange that you can approve the contract without having approved the final business case. What if you were to decide that you didn't want to approve the final business case? Would there be any financial implications or legal implications in that regard?

We've obviously gone through a prolonged business case approach with Velindre over the last few years. The difficulty or the challenge, if you like, with the final business case approval related to some issues regarding equipment and, as I say, the final design elements. So, from the perspective of are we going to move to complete the transaction and build the new cancer centre in Whitchurch, we are; it's ensuring that the full business case sets out exactly how the equipment will be procured, how that will be funded, some of the other relative aspects of the transforming cancer services. The construction element of the building, in effect, is delivered through the MIM contract, and that is what we've approved. So, clearly, if we pulled out, there would be consequences, but I don't think, at this point, from what we've got in the final business case, we're not going to seek to approve it. What we wanted to make sure of was that it was absolutely where it needed to be before we got that final ministerial approval on it.

11:00

Ond ydy'r ffaith eich bod chi wedi dweud nawr bod yr elfennau yn ymwneud â'r MIM a'r contract wedi eu cymeradwyo wedi lleihau unrhyw allu i negodi sydd gyda chi, cyn belled â'r elfennau eraill sydd tu allan i'r MIM? Hynny yw, oes llai o leverage gyda chi nawr oherwydd eich bod chi wedi prynu mewn i'r project i bob pwrpas beth bynnag?

But has the fact that you have said now that the elements regarding the MIM and the contract have been approved reduced any ability to negotiate that you have, regarding those other elements that are outside of that? Do you have less leverage because you have bought into the project, effectively, anyway?

No. The MIM contract that we've entered into is to construct the building to the design as described within financial close. The elements that remain to be settled are those that are funded outside of the MIM contract. So, some of the equipment purchase is through Welsh Government capital purchase rather than through the MIM contract. So, I don't think it reduces our leverage with the contractor who is building the building for us.

In some respects, we needed to get to the point where we agreed the contract to build to avoid further expenditure and further risk, because it had taken so long to get from identification of the partner to the point where we'd reached financial close. So, we were in real danger, if we hadn't got to the point of financial close, of incurring further expenditure with that contractor while we went through further iterations of the process.

Gadewch inni droi at y cwmnïau sydd yn rhan o'r consortiwm Acorn. Mae lot fawr o aelodau o'r consortiwm, ond mae yna bryderon penodol wedi codi yn ymwneud a dau gwmni sydd yn rhan o'r consortiwm, dau brif gwmni, sef Sacyr o Sbaen a Kajima o Japan. Allwch chi jest esbonio i ni sut oedd hi'n bosib parhau prosiect o gaffael cyhoeddus gyda chwmnïau lle mae yna wahanol brosesau cyfreithiol wedi bod sydd yn codi amheuon ynglŷn â’u derbynioldeb fel darparwyr yng nghyd-destun caffael cyhoeddus? Rydych chi’n gyfarwydd gyda'r cefndir, wrth gwrs.

Let's turn to the companies that are part of the consortium, Acorn. There are many members of the consortium, but concerns specifically have arisen regarding two companies that are part of the consortium, two main companies—Sacyr of Spain and Kajima of Japan. Can you just give us a little explanation as to how it was possible to continue with a public procurement project with companies where there are different legal processes that have raised doubts as to their acceptability as providers in the context of public procurement? I know you're familiar with this context.

In summer 2023, it was apparent that Sacyr and Kajima, as you referenced, had been taken to court over allegations of collusion. Both of those cases are not yet concluded because both parties have appealed their cases. The trust and the Welsh Government sought legal advice from DLA Piper on the validity of both companies to tender for the contract, and the advice was that, at the pre-qualification stage, both of the companies were entitled to answer 'no' on the self-evaluation because we'd basically entered into agreements, and the legal proceedings were undertaken after the pre-qualification. So, at the time that they were tendering, the legal cases hadn't been brought.

Both agreed to notify the trust if any of the legal proceedings and the status of those legal proceedings changed, and they've both also agreed to a self-cleansing process around compensation and in respect of any damages relating to the case. So, we took very clear legal advice to ensure that we weren't in breach of any procurement rules, and that the trust weren't in any breach of any procurement rules. And, obviously, these cases have yet to be concluded, so we don't know where we're going to finish.  

11:05

Adam, sorry, the Chair had his hand up. Are you okay to—

I have a couple of supplementaries, Adam, if I may, and then I'll come back—

Can I just finish on this? Come in, by all means, Chair, after I've asked this question. In relation to the court cases, just to be clear, two Kajima executives were found guilty in 2021 of the relevant illegal practices. That was appealed, but based on the information that I've seen, the relevant court of appeal in Japan confirmed their sentencing in March of 2023. Are you saying that that case is still live? Because the legal process, I think, generally, is that once it goes to a court of appeal—. That has ended now, hasn't it, and those executives have been found guilty. It has been confirmed, and, therefore, that is not a live process. Do you have further information— 

I don't have any further information. I would honestly have to check where that is. The legal challenge piece, or their ability to tender for the contract, was—. As I say, we received legal advice that they were able to tender and we weren't in breach, because these cases had happened, or the knowledge of the cases was, pre the pre-qualification questions, but I'd have to double-check where we are on that. 

But you also said that they'd given an undertaking to inform you if the status of those cases had changed. If what I have just said is correct, the status of that relevant case has changed. It doesn't seem to me that you are aware of the detail of what I've shared with you. It would be reasonable to assume, therefore, that, possibly—well, certainly—the status change that I referred to hasn't been shared with you. The question is has the company shared it with—

As part of the consortium. 

—the partner? And if they haven't, aren't they in breach of their undertaking?

Well, they would be, but I need to check whether the trust has been informed and whether or not the consortium as a whole has been informed. I don't have that information. 

Further to that, I can understand in terms of the original decision in terms of whether to bar them, but surely the fact that this has happened during the period that you were considering going through the outline business case and then the final business case is a relevant factor that should have been part of your consideration as to whether to continue with the contract. Because if the information that I have available to me is correct, that case was confirmed, and that finding was made against those two senior executives. So, isn't that a reasonable basis for you to say, 'Well, hang on now, we shouldn't proceed on the basis that we had previously, because this, now, is not undetermined; it has been determined'?

As I say, I need to check where we are with that decision, and how that, then, relates to the contractual arrangements that we've got. 

Thank you very much. On that point, I share very much the concern expressed by Adam Price, based on written submissions we received. The submissions we received said that public procuring bodies are obliged to exclude any supplier currently convicted or found guilty. Is that also your understanding? As Mr Price indicated, Kajima was convicted in March 2021 in Japan, and we also understand that Sacyr, a Spanish company, was convicted in July 2022 in Spain. We're also made aware of proceedings in England regarding one of those companies, and we also understand, as Mr Price has indicated, that the Kajima appeal led to the original conviction being upheld last year. Again, isn't it the case that, in conducting its due diligence in the roles you've explained for the Welsh Government, you should have been aware of these factors, having checked them?

11:10

If that is the case, that's not the information that we have, and the trust has taken—. So, in terms of the original bids for the contracts, the trust took legal advice on whether or not Kajima and Sacyr were able to bid. Subsequent to that, I am not aware of any further advice that's been issued, but, as I said to Mr Price, I need to check on that and come back to the committee on whether or not, therefore, they're in breach of what was the contractual arrangement.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Gadeirydd. Mae yna ychydig bach o wahaniaeth barn ynglŷn â sut i ynganu Sacyr—dwi ddim yn siŵr—ond rŷn ni'n gwybod ba gwmni rŷn ni'n sôn amdano. Mi oedd Sacyr, ynghyd â nifer o gwmnïau adeiladu eraill yn Sbaen, wedi derbyn dirwy, yn eu hachos nhw, o oddeutu €16 miliwn ym mis Mehefin 2022 gan gomisiwn cystadleuaeth a marchnadoedd cenedlaethol Sbaen, yn sgil tystiolaeth o gydweithio amhriodol o ran prisio gan y cwmnïau dan sylw dros gyfnod o 25 mlynedd. Mi oeddech chi, rwy'n credu, unwaith eto, wedi dweud, gan fod hwn ond yn benderfyniad interim, doedd e ddim felly yn ffactor penderfynol ar hyn o bryd, oherwydd roedd y cwmni yn dweud eu bod nhw'n mynd i apelio. Mi oedd yr apêl hynny fod i ddigwydd ym mis Hydref 2022, felly ydych chi'n gallu dweud wrthym ni beth oedd canlyniad yr apêl hynny gan Sacyr i'r dirwy yn eu herbyn nhw?

Thank you very much, Chair. There's a little difference of opinion about how to pronounce Sacyr—I'm not sure—but we know which company we're referring to. Sacyr, together with a number of other construction companies in Spain, had been fined, in their case, around €16 million in June 2022 by the national competition and markets commission in Spain, as a result of evidence of inappropriate collusion on prices by those companies over a period of 25 years. You, I think, once again, said that because this is only an interim decision, that it wasn't then a deciding factor, because the company said that they would appeal. That appeal was supposed to happen in October 2022, so could you tell us what the outcome of that appeal was from Sacyr on the fine against them?

I couldn't. I'm not aware of what the outcome of that appeal was.

Unwaith eto, hynny yw, oni bai bod y broses apêl yna wedi cymryd blwyddyn a hanner, ac nid dyna oedd y disgwyl, mi fydd statws y broses yna wedi newid, oni fydd, un ffordd neu'r llall. Naill ai bydd yr apêl wedi ei wrthod, fel digwyddodd yn achos Kajima, neu mi fydd y cwmni wedi llwyddo. Buaswn i wedi tybio pe bai'r cwmni wedi llwyddo y buasen nhw wedi rhoi gwybod i chi, ond, os nad ydyn nhw wedi llwyddo, mae hi'n fwy difrifol byth. Unwaith eto, onid oedd y cwmni, fel rhan o'r consortiwm, wedi dweud wrthych chi y bydden nhw'n rhoi gwybod i chi ynglŷn â natur unrhyw newid yn y statws cyfreithiol? Mae'n amlwg nad yw hynny wedi digwydd, o ran eich gwybodaeth chi, beth bynnag. Felly, wnewch chi wneud ymholiadau a dod nôl atom ni?

Once again, unless the appeals process has taken a year and a half, and that's not what was expected, the status of that process will have changed, either way. Either that appeal will have been rejected, as happened with Kajima, or the company will have been successful. I imagine if the company had been successful, then they would have informed you, but if they haven't been successful, then it's even more serious. Again, hadn't the company, as part of the consortium, told you they would inform you about the nature of any change in its legal status? Clearly, that hasn't happened, as far as you know, anyway. So, could you please make inquiries and come back to us?

Absolutely. Just, I think, for clarity, the contractual arrangements with the Acorn consortium are with the trust, so we'd need to ensure that—. It's whether they've informed the trust or not, rather than, obviously, the Government position, because the contract is issued by the trust and held by the trust.

Ocê. Rwy'n deall y gwahaniaeth hynny, ond oni fyddech chi'n disgwyl i'r ymddiriedolaeth eich hysbysu chi, er mwyn ichi graffu o ran eich rôl chi, o ran craffu ar yr achos busnes a hefyd wneud y penderfyniad dros ganiatáu'r cytundeb?

Okay. I understand that difference, but wouldn't you expect the trust to inform you in order that you could scrutinise in terms of your role, and in terms of scrutinising the business case and also making the decision for allowing the contract to go ahead?

11:15

Absolutely, we would expect the trust to inform and we would expect it to feature, as you've alluded to, within either the outline business case, the full business case or the contractual arrangement. 

Iawn. Efallai y bydd yn rhaid inni ddychwelyd at y materion yma maes o law. A gawn ni droi at y model ariannu a'r model clinigol ynghlwm wrth y ganolfan newydd? Pa sicrwydd rydych chi'n gallu rhoi i ni fod y ganolfan newydd a'r trefniadau ariannu trwy'r MIM, y model buddsoddi cydfuddiannol, yn rhoi'r gwerth gorau posib am arian wrth edrych dros oes y contract a thu hwnt?

Okay. Perhaps we'll have to return to these issues. Let's discuss and turn to the financing model and the clinical model associated with the new centre. What assurance can you give us that the new centre and financing through the mutual investment model provide optimal value for money when looking over the lifetime of the contract and beyond?

So, over the period of assurance around the contractual arrangements and the financing of the model, a number of independent assessments have been taken, both from the design and structure of the building itself and then, obviously, the financing. And, in both cases, it was seen as representing good value for money to go through this process. I think the differential over the full lifetime was a benefit of circa £15 million in total terms, even at the point where we've reached an annual service payment, I think, of £34 million, which is obviously higher than what the original projection was. 

We've also done an assessment of the value and benefits of the programme. It's always quite difficult with health projects to extract significant value and benefit, but in this case it has come out at about, I think, £0.96 for every £1 that has been invested. So, broadly, it represents good value for money. The construction is obviously of a sustainable and green nature. I think it's going to be the first all-electric hospital, certainly in the UK, probably in Europe, by the time it's built. And we've looked, from a size and design perspective, to futureproof it, based upon anticipated ambulatory cancer care demands. So, it broadly meets all of those objectives, as well as the benefits and, clearly, a value-for-money question.

Adam, I'm so sorry to interrupt you, but I think Mike wanted to come in. 

You said the contract was with Velindre University NHS Trust, and I have no doubt about that. Is it underwritten by either the Welsh Government or the Welsh NHS? If I was the contractor, I would be very loath to contract with an organisation that could be closed down tomorrow. Are you underwriting it?

So, the MIM element, the purchase, annual service payment is, obviously, underwritten by the Welsh Government treasury, so yes. 

Ydych chi'n ymwybodol bod un o'r ddau brif gwmni, Kajima, yn ddiweddar wedi mynd â chonsortiwm neu bartner yn ymwneud ag ysbyty a'r ymddiriedolaeth iechyd cysylltiedig yn Lloegr fel rhan o brosiect PFI i'r llys oherwydd anghydfod yn ymwneud â'r contract PFI? 

Are you aware that one of the two main companies, Kajima, has recently taken a consortium or a partner relating to a hospital and the associated health trust in England as part of a PFI project to court because of a dispute relating to the PFI contract?

No, I'm not aware of that. 

Ydy hynny, efallai, yn pwyntio at rai o'r peryglon o dan y mathau hyn o gytundebau, lle mae yna gytundeb yn fras—heb wybod y ffeithiau manwl ynglŷn â'r achos llys—ond anghydfod yn ymwneud â phrosiect PFI yr ysbyty? Felly, mae'n debyg iawn, yn nhermau cyffredinol, i'r hyn rydych chi'n trafod. Ydy hwnna'n codi consyrn ichi?

Does that, perhaps, point to some of the risks under these sorts of contracts, where there is general agreement—without knowing the detailed facts of the court case—but also a dispute relating to the PFI hospital project? So, it's very similar, in general terms, to what you're discussing. Does that raise any concerns for you?

So, the project and the way in which it has been structured and the way in which we've sought assurance and oversight of the process has been overseen from a Welsh Government perspective—from both the Welsh Treasury perspective and the NHS Wales perspective. So, I pick up the NHS Wales perspective in terms of, as we've talked about, the model of the hospital and the way in which it's set out. The financing element of the programme, so the MIM contract, is through the Welsh Treasury. We've had significant Welsh Treasury representation on both the oversight board that we have within Welsh Government of the project and also through the investment board that I chair from an NHS perspective. So, all of the elements around the risks of the MIM contract, and the way that's structured and the way that has worked, have had significant input from finance colleagues—who are far better qualified from the financial risk perspective than I am—to ensure that it meets the requirements of both the NHS, but also the Welsh Government in total terms.

11:20

Un o’r prif bethau sydd yn deillio o’r achos llys rwy wedi cyfeirio ato fe ydy'r aneglurdeb ynglŷn â'r gweithdrefnau datrys anghydfodau sy’n codi’n aml iawn gyda chytundebau PFI—hynny yw, y ddau barti yn anghytuno ynglŷn â phwy sy’n gyfrifol yn ariannol am rywbeth neu'i gilydd, yn fras iawn. Dŷch chi ddim yn ymwybodol a ydy hynny wedi cael gwaith craffu penodol gan eich tîm chi yn sgil yr achos llys yma neu yn sgil y cwestiwn yn gyffredinol ynglŷn â beth all fynd yn anghywir ac sydd yn peri risg i'r pwrs cyhoeddus, felly.

One of the main things that stems from the court case that I've referred to is the lack of clarity in terms of procedures relating to dispute resolution that arise very often with PFI contracts—namely the two parties disagreeing about who's responsible financially for something or other, in quite general terms. You're not aware whether that has been specifically scrutinised by your team as a result of this court case or as a result of the general question of what could go wrong and what could cause a risk to the public purse.

So, I'm sure that colleagues within, as I've referenced, the Welsh Treasury will have scrutinised the dispute resolution part of the contract. The MIM contract has also had input from a local partnership forum, which has a MIM specialist, who works for us—well, works on behalf of the Welsh Government as part of the assurance process. So, I'm absolutely sure that that has been considered. Whether it's been considered in relation to this particular dispute that you reference, I would have to check.

Ocê. A gawn ni jest troi yn gyflym at un o'r materion eraill? Thema arall sydd wedi codi yn aml ynghylch y prosiect yma yw a ydy'r ganolfan yn cynrychioli'r model clinigol gorau o ran triniaeth canser i'r dyfodol a'r newidiadau rydyn ni'n gallu eu gweld ar y gorwel o ran sut mae hynny'n cael ei darparu? Sut ŷch chi'n ymateb i'r feirniadaeth hynny?

Okay. Can we just turn quickly to one of the other themes that has arisen quite often in relation to this project, which is whether the new centre represents the best clinical model in terms of cancer treatment for the future and the changes we can see on the horizon in terms of how that treatment is provided? How do you respond to that criticism?

So, I think there are views around cancer care and the delivery of cancer care—that there are benefits from a co-location model and there are benefits from a regional service delivery perspective. The Velindre Cancer Centre has consistently delivered ambulatory oncology and cancer care as part of a regional network in south-east Wales linked to the University Hospital of Wales and the surgical element of cancer care. And that's a long held model that works well in the south-east of Wales and that also works in south-west Wales centred around Morriston. 

So, the opportunity that presents itself with the new transforming cancer services programme, which includes the Velindre hospital, also has satellite radiotherapy units at Nevill Hall Hospital, and we are looking to increase the capacity for ambulatory care and for care closer to people's homes. And so, there is a move with cancer care to deliver as much of that care as possible in local centres or near people's homes, which is what this model is premised on. 

The argument against, which is one of co-location for emergency and for when there are significant risks to patients during their treatment, is well versed. But whether it was co-located—or as is the case in the Cardiff area in Velindre—it would require transfer anyway from that ambulatory to the emergency centre. Now, unless it was directly next door, that would be via an ambulance or emergency vehicle. So, there is significant benefits from what we're doing in terms of separating and having that regional cancer model; it is fully supported by the commissioning health boards and is being supported by the cancer network for Wales.

I'm not a clinician, but I can only give you what evidence was presented both at the network and as part of their procurement of the services. So, it's a well-travelled model; it's one that we've had for a number of years with Velindre. Whilst there are risks, those risks have not necessarily materialised in the care that we've been giving at Velindre previously.

11:25

Rŷch chi'n dweud ei fod e'n fodel sydd wedi teithio yn bell—well travelled. Ydy e'n fodel sydd yn bodoli yn unrhyw le, neu ydyn ni'n disgwyl gweld y model yma yn parhau mewn llefydd eraill, neu ydy pawb arall yn symud tuag at fodel sydd yn ymdebygu yn fwy at y model cydleoli roeddech chi wedi cyfeirio ato fe?

You say that it is a model that is well travelled. Is it a model that exists anywhere, or do we expect to see this model continuing in other places, or is everybody else moving towards a model that is more similar to the co-location model that you referred to?

So, I think there's evidence of both. So, there's evidence, I think, in the north of England, where co-location models have been developed. I think there's been one referenced previously in I think it's the Liverpool area, and there's also one in the Manchester area where you've got co-location, but you've also got in those regions ambulatory cancer care units as well as those co-located models.

And as I referenced earlier, the transfer of—. The co-location model is for those patients at high risk for complication or challenge whilst receiving their care and so they can be rapidly escalated to the high-acuity part of the unit. Only if they are directly in the same sort of building would that transfer not involve transfer via an emergency vehicle. So, I think it's determined I think partly by the type of patient and the acuity of patient, and then the level of how that risk is managed by the system.

Roeddech chi wedi cyfeirio at y cynnydd o ran lefel y ddarpariaeth radiotherapi yn Nevill Hall, er enghraifft, a hefyd mae yna gynnydd tebyg, onid oes, o ran darpariaeth cemotherapi yn Nevill Hall ac yn Ysbyty'r Tywysog Siarl, ond gallwch chi fy nghywiro i os ydw i'n anghywir. Gyda’r model rhwydwaith o ganolfannau lle rŷch chi'n gallu darparu cymaint ag sy'n bosib o'r driniaeth mor agos at adref â phosib, ydy hwnna ei hunan yn dad-wneud yr achos gwreiddiol dros gynyddu'r capasiti mewn un man yn unig? Hynny yw, gan dderbyn bod yna angen am y math o gefnogaeth ambulatory roeddech chi'n cyfeirio ato fe, ond yn ogystal â’r ddadl dros gydleoli o ran achosion mwy dwys, a oes gwir angen cronni cymaint o gapasiti mewn un lle, lle mae rhannau eraill o’r rhwydwaith yn dechrau tyfu yn eu capasiti nhw?

You referred to the progress in terms of the level of radiotherapy provision in Nevill Hall, for example, and also there has been similar progress, hasn't there, in terms of chemotherapy provision in Nevill Hall and in Prince Charles Hospital, but perhaps you could correct me if I'm wrong. With this network model of centres where you can provide as much as possible of treatments as close as possible to home, does that in itself go against that original case of one area only and one place only? Accepting that there is a need for ambulatory support that you referred to, as well as the argument for co-location in terms of more serious cases, is there a real need for putting so much capacity in one place, where there are other parts of the network starting to grow in their own capacity?

So, I think it's a simple answer there—I think we need both. So, there's growth in the region in terms of that locality-based care—whether that be Nevill Hall, Prince Charles, other locations—that is required that results in people receiving their care close to where they live, and then there is a need for a centre where you get that, to some extent, economy of scale where you can utilise effectively the resources that we've got that are based at Velindre, and its proximity to, obviously, the population centre, but also some of the other facilities that are available in the Cardiff area, whether that be through the genomics park and work that's going on in north Cardiff or whether it be UHW. So, I think there is a need for both elements of capacity from the work that we've done.

If we look at the demand for cancer care going forward, we've already seen that post-pandemic 25 per cent increase in the number of people who are receiving cancer care. The demand for cancer care is, certainly in some tumour sites, exponentially growing, so we need to make sure that we're almost futureproofing the provision that we've got. As services and treatments advance, again, there will be—. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy treatments are advancing all the time, and we need to make sure that we have the capacity to be able to deliver those treatments, preferably close to where people live.

11:30

As you mentioned futureproofing, could I just ask you a final question from me on this area of the clinical model? I just want to reference a paper that is in the public domain, but a policy paper that went to the infrastructure investment board in December 2020 in relation to the project. It basically says that the current model, or the proposed model, basically, of the new centre does not achieve the following important features. It's a long list, but if I could just pick a few of them, on futureproofing, it does not achieve the most futureproofed model of care, specifically developments in cell and gene therapy and more intense immunotherapy and immediate access to on-site positron emission tomography computed tomography scans. It goes on: the ability to deliver all phase 1 clinical trials. There's a long list there. Presumably, you're familiar with that paper. Does the paper not reflect your view, or do you think it's a reasonable assessment of—?

I think it's a reasonable assessment of the considerations that are needed for the future of cancer services and some of the developments, whether it be PET scanners et cetera. The decision that was taken at the time—. So, I think you referred to—that was December 2020, wasn't it? At that point, the proposed cap expenditure on the building exceeded the budgetary position for the build, and a number of areas were removed from the case to bring it back down to, I think it was, at the time, about £214 million of capital expenditure to build the building. So, those elements were removed at that point. There is facility on the site and within the outlying construction to further expand the site in the future if required, which could then be used to meet those expectations and capacity requirements should further capital become available in which to do that.

So, how were those elements that the paper identified as not being delivered by the current model and that you recognise as a fair assessment—could they have been better delivered by a co-located model next to the university hospital, for example? 

I think it's difficult to state whether that would be 'yes' or 'no'. The PET scanning element will be partly an equipment and partly a physical size issue. Genomic therapies and some of the genomic elements are less well developed, and I don't think will rely on a joint site, necessarily; they are future service developments that will come on board as we move forward. So, I think, depending on the space that you had for a joint site, and whether or not the capital expenditure relates to that would be more or less than what is currently being proposed—that could determine whether or not that's an advantage of being co-located, or otherwise.

11:35

Thank you. I realise I've used up a lot of my time. Would you like me just to finish some of the detailed questions? 

Ocê. Jest i droi, yn derfynol o ran yr adran yma, at rai cwestiynau mwy penodol ynglŷn â'r gwariant a'r costau hyd yma, mewn gohebiaeth â'r pwyllgor y llynedd, gwnaethoch chi awgrymu bod cyllideb o £29 miliwn wedi'i chytuno'n gynharach ar gyfer y taliad gwasanaeth blynyddol ynghlwm â'r prosiect. Beth yw'r sefyllfa ddiweddaraf o ran y costau hyn? Fyddai hi'n iawn i dybio bod y ffigur yma yn ffigur termau arian parod a fydd yn codi dros amser?

Okay. Just to turn, finally, to some more specific questions on costs and expenditure to date, in correspondence with the committee last year, you suggested that a budget of £29 million had earlier been agreed for the annual service payment involved in the contract. What is the latest position on these costs? Would it be right to assume that this is a cash terms figure that will be subject to uplifts over time?

As you rightly point out, Mr Price, it was £29.5 million, I think it was, at the time, that was agreed. Partly due to inflation, partly due to increases in base rates and gilt rates, the final annual service payment that was part of the financial close was £33.9 million. That £33.9 million is in element fixed and in part variable index linked. So, the facilities management element of the service charge is index linked, the remaining is not. So, the maximum, over the lifetime of the programme, that we've calculated it could get to is £36 million, if the full 9 per cent indexation was applied to the FM part of the contract. But in essence, we estimate that it'll cost, over the lifetime of the project, £835 million in payments for the scheme in total.

Ocê. Diolch yn fawr am hwnna. Ydych chi'n gallu rhoi'r ffigur ar gyfer y gwariant ar y project hyd yma, yng nghyd-destun y rhaglen trawsnewid gwasanaethau canser ehangach? Ac ydych chi'n gallu rhoi sicrwydd i ni fod yr arian yma wedi'i ddefnyddio at y dibenion gwreiddiol a gymeradwywyd?

Okay. Thank you for that. Can you provide us with the figure relating to expenditure on the project to date, in the context of the wider transforming cancer services programme? And what assurance can you give us that these funds have been used for the original approved purposes?

I think the spend on the transforming cancer services to date is circa £75 million. The capital expenditure in total for the centre is now at £312 million, which will be covered by the annual service payment. We've made provision over the period from 2021-23 of around £5.7 million in advanced works, which has been spent and the works have virtually been completed. So, that is the road network and the access arrangements to the site. There were changes from the original programme of advanced works involving the—I'll make sure I get it right—the Hollybush bridge, which was intended to be built as part of the access, I think, to one part of the site. That was changed, and we've managed to get access to avoid impacting on local residents who live in that area where the Hollybush bridge access was going to be. So, there was a slight change in the way in which the moneys were spent related to the advanced works package. All of that has been assured and seen, if you like, as part of the process that we've gone through over the last couple of years. So, yes, in answer to your question, yes, I'm assured that the moneys have been spent on the programme. It was slightly different from what was originally laid out. The advanced works costs are broadly in line with where we expected them to be, and the transforming cancer services package, from a Welsh Government capital expenditure perspective, is circa £75 million at this point. There will be further expenditure as we move forward.

11:40

A beth yw'ch dadansoddiad chi o gostau cylch oes llawn y project, a faint o werth y contract cyfan gyda chonsortiwm Acorn sy'n ymwneud ag ariannu'r gwaith adeiladu cychwynnol?

And what's your analysis of the full lifecycle costs of the project, and how much of the value of the overall contract with the Acorn consortium is regarding the initial building work?

So, aside from the capital expenditure that has already been committed, as I say, for the advance works and the preparation of the site, I think I'd just reference the figure of £835 million, which will be the approximate cost over the lifetime, the 25 years of the MIM contract, subject, obviously, to some degrees of indexation over that period of time. The financing of the MIM element of the contract has been done through a lending panel, so they will, clearly, have provided the funding. So, the actual payments to the contractors—. So, the capital expenditure, as I alluded to, I think is £312.25 million at this point.

Fe wnaethoch chi gyfeirio'n gynharach bod hwn wedi cymryd amser hir iawn—bron i ddwy flynedd ers i'r broses gaffael ddechrau. Pam mae hi wedi cymryd mor hir?

You referred earlier to the fact that this has taken a very long time—nearly two years since the procurement process was commenced. Why has it taken so long?

So, I think there have been a number of issues related to getting to financial close, from the decision to appoint a contractor to this point now. Some of those are planning related. So, we've had ongoing issues, the trust has had ongoing issues around the planning consents for the site in particular. Probably the biggest delay was around the habitat protection elements of the programme and the agreement around the mitigation of dormice on the site, which was in negotiation with Natural Resources Wales, and the securing of a licence for that mitigation. That took considerably longer than any of us felt it should have taken, but the process of agreeing the mitigation took a very long time to get through, and that was then linked to the planning elements of the programme.

And then, subsequent to that, we've done value engineering on the contract to ensure that we absolutely nail down the design of the programme before financial close, partly linked to some of the inflationary pressures that we saw in the economy and, obviously, in construction. And then the base rate increases impacted on the financial model. So, there were concurrent risks, if you like, around planning, habitat mitigation, design engineering, to make sure that we got best value for money, and then the financing of the deal, all culminated in us not being able to get to financial close in the time that we wanted to.

Jest yn olaf—fe wnes i anghofio gofyn i chi—oeddech chi'n ymwybodol bod cwmni Sacyr, nôl yn 2022, wedi eu hatal rhag ceisio ar gyfer unrhyw gytundebau caffael cyhoeddus yn Sbaen?

Just finally—I forgot to ask you—were you aware that Sacyr, back in 2022, had been suspended from applying for any public procurement contracts in Spain?

Wrth i chi ofyn am ragor o wybodaeth, fel rydych chi wedi ei wneud, a fyddech chi'n gallu holi'r ymddiriedolaeth yn y lle cyntaf, ac wedi hynny'r cwmni, ydy'r ataliad yna yn dal mewn lle? Achos mae'n fy nharo i fel rhywbeth pwysig i ni fod yn ymwybodol ohono fe yn y cyd-destun yma. Iawn. Diolch yn fawr.

As you ask for more information, like you have done, could you ask the trust in the first place, and then the company, whether that suspension is still in place? Because it strikes me as something that is important for us to be aware of in this context. Okay. Thank you very much.

Thank you so much for your questions, Adam. Chair, would you like to take over with the remaining questions?

Yes, thank you—very briefly. In the two minutes following your previous reply to me, and that's all it took, I found media coverage confirming that sentences given to executives at Kajima, a Japanese construction company, were upheld by the Tokyo high court on 2 March 2023, and that, on 7 July 2022, Spain’s national markets and competition commission fined six construction companies in Spain, including Sacyr, £16.7 million for colluding over 25 years in submitting bids for public projects, and stating they'd decided to bar the companies from working with public authorities. Would it not have been reasonable for this committee to expect that you would have at least carried out an equivalent two-minute check at that time, especially when this committee had previously written to you, highlighting our concerns about these issues?

And if you could answer, perhaps, my final question in this context as well. In announcing it had reached a final agreement with the Acorn consortium, including these two companies, the trust said the centre would not now open until 2027. How confident are you that this timescale will be met? When in 2027 are you expecting it to open? And are you confident that the trust has the capacity and capability to manage a contract of this size, and what support will you be providing them with accordingly?

11:45

In answer to your first question, I think, yes, it was reasonable to assume that we should have had that information, and I'm going to go back this afternoon and find out why we haven't got that information.

On the trust's ability to deliver the construction phase, it is anticipated that the first patient will be seen in April 2027. We are currently working with the trust and with PwC to ensure that we have very clear oversight of their management case and management plan for the delivery of the construction over the three years between now and then, and we've already put some support in to that through local partnerships company in the form of advisors, and we are looking to ensure that they have the correct structure and project management and due diligence around the construction phase of this programme. So, we'll be alongside them, supporting them, to make sure that we have the project team in place to deliver this because it is quite clearly a big construction process. They are a relatively small organisation, in management terms and resource terms, so we will make sure that they've got the resources required to deliver on time, so that we can deliver in the next two to three years, as described.

Thank you. As you know, we've run a bit over time. We have two outstanding questions. Are you able to stay to answer them, or would you prefer that we write to you with those questions for you to reply in a letter?

Happy to stay. Either, whichever suits the committee.

Okay. Well, while you're here then, thank you, I'll hand over to Natasha. If you could conclude the questions.

Okay, thank you very, very much, Chair. I was also going to say, and I hope I'm not overstepping, but in relation to some of the questions that Mr Price asked in relation to the legalities of the actual situation, and also what the Chair asked, it might be worthwhile putting it in a letter afterwards, once you have the answers to those questions, and sending it to the committee later on.

I'm going to go backwards now, so my apologies. It's not so much relating to Velindre, but actually in relation to the NHS Wales oversight and escalation element, if that's okay. So, what drove the review of the oversight and escalation framework and, in particular, the decision to move from four to five levels of escalation?

Thank you. So, the original oversight escalation framework was introduced in NHS Wales in 2014, and so clearly it was time to have a look at it. Based on the experience of operating it over that time, views from NHS organisations who'd gone through escalation, views of tripartite partners, et cetera, and based on our own learning from applying the framework within Welsh Government, we thought it was time to do a refresh. We also looked at what was operating in NHS England and NHS Scotland, so we drew on good practice, and again they're learning as well. Some of the feedback we were getting—and I was hearing similar messages before I came into Welsh Government—was, 'Please, can we really clear about the levels of escalation? Can we have a very clear framework? Can we be really clear how de-escalation operates? Can we see this as a supportive approach, not a punitive approach? And can we make sure that whatever we put in has the ability to identify concerns at the earliest stage, and try and resolve them without the need for escalation?'

So, what we've done through the framework is, we believe, address all those issues, including adding a new level, which is level 2. So, level 1 is routine monitoring, similar to what it is now. There is a new level 2. The new level 2 is something that can be initiated by officials. It doesn't require a ministerial decision, and it will allow us, where we've identified something, or partners have identified something of a concern, to have those early conversations with the organisation to say, 'Look, we've spotted this, we're getting feedback on this, please can you go away, have a look at it, come back to us and tell us what's the root cause, can it be addressed really quickly, what are you going to do about it?' When it's deployed—it hasn't been as yet; obviously, the framework was published in February of this year—we hope that additional level 2 will enable us to maybe prevent some of the things from getting to escalation, to give us some early opportunities. So, that's the thinking, what we did, and where we've got to. 

11:50

Okay, because I was going to ask you a sub-question about improved arrangements, but it seems that you've got those covered in the answer. Obviously, as we're all aware, every single health board in Wales is currently under some form of escalation, one way or another. Now, I appreciate the challenges ahead, but I do feel to an extent—and I'm sure we can all agree—that it does almost devalue the currency of escalation, and perhaps may create a culture of this becoming normalised and common practice. What would you say to that?

So, I have conversations with chief executives when they are going to be escalated by the Minister, and I can be absolutely clear that they do not want to be in any level of escalation. Their only motivation when we talk to them about why and what we're going to do is, 'Please can you tell us what we need to do to put this right?' I don't see any complacency at all in the system. I think people understand it and don't want to be escalated. There is still a sense of this not being where they want to go, so I don't get that sense of complacency. I also have, obviously, the opportunity to speak to people when they're being de-escalated, and hear, actually, the positive reception of that as well.

So, I think, across the system, I can see how that might appear to be the case, especially as we've had to address some of the financial and planning issues associated with the significant financial pressures in the last financial year, but I don't get a sense of complacency at all, and I still get a very strong sense that nobody wants to be in that level of escalation, in any level of escalation. And when they get the letter saying they're in routine monitoring, that's a good place for them to be. 

Okay. So, do you think the Welsh Government has sufficient intervention capacity and expertise to call upon when the NHS bodies require turnaround and support? And, also, just a sub-question as well, how has the creation of the NHS executive helped in this regard?

So, we had a review of capacity within the department last year, and we did supplement our performance and escalation team with a couple of additional colleagues, and that's worked well. The NHS exec is absolutely fundamental to our ability to have capacity, skills, capability, to support organisations. It doesn't just do that, but it is available to us to deploy into organisations, and it is the bringing together of those functions into a single function, as I said, alongside clinical networks, alongside the national programmes, alongside the value in health programme, which is now, actually, giving us a huge opportunity to provide support to organisations, probably at every level of the escalation framework.

Okay. So, are you satisfied that NHS Wales is currently focusing on the issues that are important? For example, is there enough focus on patient experience, clinical outcomes, mortality rates, and in all likelihood, is this going to be the theme going forward or are there other areas that you need to focus on?

The escalation framework is really clear. We require a focus on the quality of care, on governance, leadership, finance, strategy, planning and clinical services' performance and outcomes. It is really clear what the expectations are. That is also relayed through to chairs' objectives from the Minister as well, and I think what we're doing through the escalation framework, through special measures frameworks, and TI frameworks, is having a consistency of approach that means that we are consistent in our ask from Welsh Government, but organisations can be consistent in terms of their focus as well.

11:55

Okay. I think we can all agree in this room that we all believe that leadership is really important, and strong leadership at that. So, how do you feel that Welsh NHS bodies are currently being led at the moment, and do you feel that there's any room for improvement anywhere, going forward?

I think, when we look out across NHS Wales, clearly some of them are in levels of escalation. So, we've talked a lot about Betsi Cadwaladr today and the really important leadership function that that organisation will have now to move itself through the special measures framework. I think we have a number of things that we draw on to give an assessment of whether organisations are well led. So, we, clearly, have internal audit reports, we have reports from Audit Wales, we have input from Healthcare Inspectorate Wales in terms of their inspection visits, and we gather a lot of information, and, clearly, the Minister sets really strong organisational objectives for chairs, and they cascade through the vice-chair to independent members as well. So, I think we've got a lot in our armoury to gather data and intelligence to tell us about the organisations and their leadership, but also investment in ongoing training, development, development days and those sorts of things are critical to that as well.

I'm really glad you mentioned the Minister, because that was going to be my next question. Now, the Minister actually announced last July the NHS accountability review. Given that the Minister then followed that by saying that the current service is not fit for the future, how can we expect the review to herald any significant changes in governance structures and accountability arrangements?

Yes, so, clearly, it was a ministerial Cabinet Secretary review. As yet, it hasn't been shared with officials, or certainly with me. But, my understanding is that she has an expectation to publish it over the course of the next month or so. I think she gave a commitment to that. So, I'm waiting to hear from her in relation to that review and further action from officials that might be needed. 

Okay. My final question, you'll all be pleased to know: NHS chairs' performance objectives were being strengthened to link to planning framework requirements and accountability conditions. So, has this process concluded and, if so, are there any particular key changes or, in fact, any pointers that have, indeed, been noted or made, going forward? Also, how are objectives set for chairs distinguished from those for chief executives? I think that, as a committee, we'd really like to know how that works.

Okay. So, the Cabinet Secretary sets the chairs' objectives. She has been working with officials to strengthen that arrangement, because she is really keen that both organisational objectives and performance objectives are reflected in the chairs' objectives. We have just come to the conclusion of that process. Draft objectives have been shared with the chairs of NHS bodies and we've had some comments back. The final versions are currently with the Cabinet Secretary, ready to be issued. They have changed, so they again link back to the performance framework that we have for Wales. So, the performance objectives link to the performance framework, and then organisational objectives link back to, as I've just discussed, some of the segments in the oversight and escalation framework. So, clearly, these things link together.

My expectation is that, once those objectives are issued, the performance objectives or the objectives that are very much in the delivery space will then be cascaded to the chief execs. The chairs set the chief execs' objectives. I'm anticipating that those will be cascaded then to the chief exec. The Cabinet Secretary will meet with chairs frequently over the course of the year, depending on their level of escalation. So, clearly, she meets the chair of Betsi Cadwaladr every month. Somebody who might be the chair of an organisation that might be in routine monitoring she might only meet once or twice a year. So, I think it will be a graduated approach.

Thank you so much. Chair, that's it for my questioning for now. Thank you. 

Thank you very much indeed. Well, that brings us to the end of our questions for our witnesses today. A transcript of our meeting today will be published in draft form and sent to you, the witnesses, for you to check for accuracy before the final version is published.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod hwn, ac o'r cyfarfod cyfan ar 15 Mai 2024, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting, and from the entire meeting on 15 May 2024, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, I now propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of today's meeting and for the entirety of the meeting next Wednesday, 15 May. Are all Members content? Thank you. I note that all Members are content, and therefore I would be grateful if our clerk could take us into private session.

12:00

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:00.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 12:00.