The Home Office and Attorney General’s Office have blocked calls for a public inquiry into the death of a 10-year-old boy who died after a failure to carry out a medical test which would have identified a rare treatable condition.
Former First Minister Rhodri Morgan became a late convert to the idea of a public inquiry into Robbie Powell’s death just before he retired from office a year ago.
His successor, Carwyn Jones, also felt an inquiry might help the Welsh NHS “learn lessons” about future care.
It would also, no doubt, help Robbie’s family – considering they have spent years campaigning for the full facts about Robbie’s death to be made public.
However, Mr Jones took advice from Whitehall departments on the matter of a possible joint inquiry. The Welsh Assembly Government said this week: “Confirmation was received during the summer that the Home Office and Attorney General’s Department were not agreeable to the setting up of a joint inquiry. Since then the First Minister has been considering the matter further.
“ The First Minister’s decision is not to cause a public inquiry into this matter under the Inquiries Act 2005, but to initiate an independent investigation and report into this case, which will make recommendations with a view to the future running of the health service in Wales. The details of the investigation, including its starting date and the name of the investigator, will be made known shortly.”
Robbie Powell, of Ystradgynlais, died at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, in April 1990 of Addison’s disease after a test that could have diagnosed this rare but treatable condition was not carried out.
An inquest in 2004 returned a verdict of death by natural causes aggravated by neglect.
His father, William Powell, has campaigned for a public inquiry ever since.
Mr Jones said many issues raised by the case fell outside the Welsh Assembly Government’s responsibilities.
“The issues that fall within the Assembly Government’s remit mainly touch upon the operation of the health service in Wales,” he said. “An independent investigation by one person simply doesn’t meet the needs and requirements of this tragic case.
“While the structures and systems in the health service have changed significantly over the years, I am of the opinion that the facts of an individual case can illustrate weaknesses, or potential weaknesses, which did exist and which are relevant to the workings of the system and arrangements now in place.”
Nick Bourne, leader of the Welsh Conservatives at the Assembly, has urged Carwyn Jones to reconsider the decision.
“The process announced by Carwyn Jones is a long way from what is needed – an open and transparent review into the circumstances surrounding Robbie’s death,” he said.
“This is what Robbie’s father has been tirelessly campaigning to achieve and it is what I have been calling for since 2003.
“An independent investigation by one person simply doesn’t meet the needs and requirements of this tragic case.
“Before his departure from office, former First Minister Rhodri Morgan agreed that a public inquiry was the right course of action and I urge the current First Minister to look again at (his) decision.”