More patients from North Wales will receive treatment at hospitals in England as part of a new contingency plan. 

The plan has been strategised by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, Welsh Government and NHS England in response to concerns over vascular services in the region. 

In February,the Royal College of Surgeons in England released a damning report into the service in North Wales, which led to Health Ministers issuing an ultimatum to improve or to face going back into special measures. 

Betsi responded by setting up an independent panel, chaired by Susan Aitkenhead, aimed at addressing any potential issues and a week later, an investigation into vascular services was opened by the Health Board following 'concerning safety incidents'.

New safety measures were implemented as a result, but they were removed on May 23, 2022 following a review that showed they were not adding any safety benefits.

A recent study has raised concerns about patient safety quality concerns by the Vascular Quality Panel, which has led to additional measures being reinstated. 

With the primary concern being the ability to provide a safe service for the population of North Wales, meetings have been taking place to discuss how best to deliver this.

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Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan said: "Meetings have taken place with the Health Board, Welsh Government officials and the national leadership team in NHS England to develop options for alternative service provision with English provider trusts.

"As a result of the immediate service challenges and following wider discussion with English providers, an agreement has been reached that, during August, some patients may be transferred to Royal Liverpool University Hospital or, as already happens for North Wales residents with major trauma injuries, Royal Stoke University Hospital.

"I am also pleased to inform Members that I have now received and accepted advice on the establishment of an All-Wales vascular network. The Welsh Government is providing funding to establish interim network arrangements for vascular including the appointment of an interim national clinical lead."

Dr Nick Lyons, executive medical director at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “In response to feedback received from external reviews and our continual focus on patient safety, we have again reviewed the way we deliver care to patients on some of our vascular pathways. This includes contingency planning to ensure that there is no interruption of care for those needing aortic surgery.

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“As a result, a very small number of patients each week may receive their surgery at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital - or the Royal Stoke University Hospital, as already happens for North Wales residents with major trauma injuries. Each patient will be contacted to discuss their care and will be supported as required.

“Very specialised care for some patients is already provided by specialist vascular centres in England and we work in partnership with them to manage complex cases. We are grateful for their continued support.

“These contingency plans recognise the operational challenges we are experiencing due to staff sickness absence combined with recruitment difficulties.

“We also have concerns about a small number of vascular surgical cases. This follows independent scrutiny by the Vascular Quality Panel, which the Health Board commissioned and established in response to the findings of the invited review by the Royal College of Surgeons, the second part of which was published in February this year.

“We expect these arrangements to remain in place until we are assured that the service is deliverable, robust and sustainable. The service will be kept under review and updates will be provided as appropriate.

“We remain committed to the model of a networked vascular service for North Wales and continue to work to secure its sustainability and deliverability.”

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service has a dedicated helpline to provide support and guidance to vascular patients who may have questions about their treatment and care.

Telephone:  03000 851389. Open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, except Bank holidays.