Jacob Williams
Tuesday 26th March, 2013

SCOOP: Hywel Dda CHC threatened with libel lawsuit

SCOOP: Hywel Dda CHC threatened with libel lawsuit

The Hywel Dda Community Health Council and two of its members, Chairman Mr. Tony Wales and Vice-Chair Dr. Gabrielle Heathcote have been threatened with legal proceedings for including allegedly defamatory content in the CHC’s referral of the Health Board’s shakeup reforms to the Health Minister.

Swansea-based Opinion Research Services, the specialist social research company contracted by the Hywel Dda Health Board to conduct and analyse its formal consultation ‘Your Health, Your Future,’ claims that allegations contained within the CHC’s 27-page referral document “have a continuing potential to damage client and stakeholder confidence in ORS.”

In a legal demand which has been copied by the Community Health Council to its members, it is inferred that the patients’ watchdog, and those involved in compiling the referral document, were:

“…so determined to fight HDdHB’s proposals that they were and are prepared to smear ORS as part of that fight…”

“This is utterly unacceptable and ORS will not stand for it, because a libel of such a kind is seriously damaging to its reputation.”

The missive, sent by commercial law firm Morgan La Roche on behalf of ORS, also states:

“The public interest is not served by the making of precipitate and unsatisfactory referrals by a public body in breach of Guidance. It is not served by the inclusion by that public body of seriously false assertions about the conduct of the consultations relating to HDdHB’s proposals, in which ORS’s reputation has been unjustly injured, it would plainly appear, as deliberate or reckless ‘collateral damage’ in the CHC’s attack upon the HDdHB.”

The lengthy letter, which has found its way to jacobwilliams.com, concludes:

“…ORS requires from the CHC, Mr Wales and Dr Heathcote, all of whom are publishers of the words complained of and jointly and severally liable, the following without delay:

(i) The deletion forthwith from the referral document of the words complained of and any allegation to the same or similar effect both in any hard copy and in any electronic or online form or other form whatsoever;

(ii) A suitable undertaking in a manner and terms to be agreed not to repeat the same or similar defamatory matter;

(iii) The publication of a full and unreserved apology by way of a letter to ORS in a manner and terms to be agreed, which ORS is to be at liberty to show to whomsoever it will;

(iv) The publication of a full and unreserved apology in a matter and terms to be agreed on the CHC website;

(v) Appropriate compensation for the libel; and

(vi) ORS’s legal costs.

If these requirements are not met, the CHC ought to be in no doubt whatsoever that ORS will commence legal proceedings.”

The Community Health Council’s referral, which was delivered to the Health Minister on 25th February, has since been unceremoniously batted back to the CHC.

CHC chairman, Tony Wales, with the referral document

CHC chairman, Tony Wales, with the referral document

On 14th March – the same day on which she was replaced as Health Minister by Mark Drakeford – Lesley Griffiths AM told the CHC in a letter that there are: “several inconsistencies between the case you make and the National Guidance for Engagement and Consultation on changes to Health Services,” and requested that discussions between the CHC and the Health Board should resume.

She told the watchdog that their referral should only have been made as a last resort, and gave a deadline of 5th April for agreements to be made between the two bodies, and for alternative proposals to be advanced on issues that couldn’t be resolved by that time.

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  • Lean

    Any resignations?

  • Chuck

    Hang on a minute, how can these individuals be singled out/named for being potentially sued here?

    I would have thought they acted as ‘the CHC’ in this referral document and not as ‘individuals?’

    The members of the CHC are unpaid volunteers as far as I know. Well I know Tony is and PCC members are, don’t know about the other lady named.

    I guess that old saying is true “no good deed goes unpunished” and what a pity as we are no closer to finding out for 100% definite what will happen to the Withybush SCBU in the wake of the referral.

  • M Thomas

    The CHC was simply carrying out its role and presenting valid criticisms of the system. Do they want the CHC to be gagged? Is this further evidence that the whole system is biased in favour of the establishment?

  • G Hill

    If you’re in the business of public opinion, expect criticism. In my opinion, these are bully boy tactics. If you are in the government health management system at this present time it is mandatory not to accept responsibility for your actions. This has to change.

  • Dilligaf

    You beat the Western Telegraph to this one!

    They have got it up as a BREAKING NEWS story now though mentioning your “scoop” –


    And weren’t they the ones who recently introduced a 33% price increase. Is this 33% going towards you? For sniffing out these stories for them!!

  • Bored Wally

    Jacob, as equal pay disputes don’t seem to be gathering much interest, I wondered when the CHC would be subject to formal proceedings, should you know by any chance.

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