Health board to fight ruling to make report into whistleblowers’ concerns public

A health board chief says he is fighting an Information Commissioner ruling which told it to release a report into whistleblower complaints at a mental health unit.

The controversial Holden Report into whistleblowers’ concerns on the Hergest unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd was completed in 2013.

Yet Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board refused to make it public, citing confidentiality worries for staff who contributed.

Earlier this month the Local Democracy reporting Service revealed how senior case officer at the ICO, Catherine Dickenson, ruled on June 30 the health board was wrong.

She said it must release the document after a 14-month Freedom of Information battle with a member of the public.

Ysbyty Gwynedd at Bangor

The Commissioner’s Office ordered the board to “disclose a full copy of the report with only the names of individuals subject to the grievances redacted – dismissing Betsi’s claims the study would compromise staff confidentiality.

She gave the health board 35 days to publish the damning document, or be in contempt of court.

Yet interim chief executive Simon Dean used exactly the same argument of staff confidentiality to justify appealing the ICO’s decision, right on the 28-day deadline for challenging the ruling.

He said: “We have a duty of care to our employees and are concerned that publishing this full report would breach the confidence of those members of staff who contributed to it.

“Since this report was produced in 2014, we have taken a range of actions to improve standards of care on the Hergest Unit.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Simon Dean
Betsi’s interim chief executive Simon Dean

“Reports from unannounced inspections of the unit by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales show that standards of care, staff morale and leadership arrangements have improved in recent years.”

The Holden Report centred on the management of mental health commissioning, mental health services and other issues on the 42-bed psychiatric unit.

Staff blew the whistle on practises there over concerns for the care of vulnerable patients.

The report’s author Robin Holden said staff relationships on the unit had “broken down to a degree where patient care is undoubtedly being compromised”.

ICO investigator Ms Dickenson referred to Tawel Fan ward at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in her ruling against the health board – referencing the Ockenden Report into institutional abuse there.

Tawel Fan report author Donna Ockenden
Tawel Fan report author Donna Ockenden

She said it contained more detail than the Holden Report but “did not result in claims pursued for breach of confidence”.

She also rapped the board for the length of time it took to reply to the FOI request asking for the report’s release.

At the time of the ICO’s ruling Geoff Ryall Harvey, chief officer of patient advocates North Wales Community Health Council, said the board should not appeal.

He said: “North Wales CHC welcomes the decision of the ICO to ask for the release of this important report.

“Had it been released in early 2013, then the events at Tawel Fan may have been avoided.

“We believe it is in the public interest for BCUHB not to appeal this decision.”

The health board should must have lodged its appeal with the First-tier Tribunal (information Rights) by yesterday.

The tribunal confirmed it received the board’s appeal on the morning of July 28, the deadline day for challenging the ICO’s ruling.

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