Written Statement: NHS Wales Accountability Ministerial Advisory Group

I am putting in place a task and finish Ministerial Advisory Group, which will reflect on the current governance structures within NHS Wales and provide observations of any strengths or weaknesses and comment on the accountability structures. The group, which will be supported by a secretariat and members independent from government, will provide a view about whether accountabilities are clear, and appropriate and will advise on any recommendations necessary to strengthen them.

Given the time that has passed since the current governance structure was introduced in the NHS Wales Act in 2006, and the recent introduction of the NHS Wales Executive and the new tools to drive improvements in performance, I will be undertaking a review of our existing arrangements to ensure they are fit for purpose given the challenges ahead for our health care system.

Under the current governance structure of NHS Wales health boards, NHS trusts and special health authorities are accountable to the Minister for Health and Social Services through their respective chairs.

The NHS Wales Executive became operational on 1 April 2023. This was a commitment made in A Healthier Wales, as recommended by the Parliamentary Review of the Long-term Future of Health and Social Care, with the aim of consolidating national activity and bringing a consistent approach to planning, priority setting based on outcomes, performance management and accountability. It was reconfirmed in the Programme for Government.

Establishing the NHS Wales Executive has not changed statutory accountability mechanisms. All NHS organisations remain directly accountable to Ministers through their chairs, and the Welsh Government and Ministers will continue to set priorities, targets and outcome measures for the NHS.

The group will be asked to explore the levers for change which are intended to provide some new tools to drive improvements in performance and outcomes as part of the NHS Wales Executive’s aim of a stronger guiding hand, through clearer and more robust accountability, through escalation arrangements and through the provision of additional support, guidance and help to the service.

The group will advise me of its recommendations by 31 March 2024.