WHEN the winners of this year’s NHS Wales Awards are announced next month, Dr Andrew Goodall hopes Gwent-based health projects and those behind them will feature prominently.

Aneurin Bevan Health Board’s first chief executive is leaving after almost five years to become the Welsh Government’s director general for health and social services, and chief executive of NHS Wales.

But in an eve-of-departure interview with the Argus he highlighted the health board’s nine awards shortlistings – the most for a single NHS organisation in Wales – as an example of the quality and expertise in the service in Gwent.

“The vast majority of people have a positive experience of the NHS, and it is important to let people know we are focused on quality,” said Dr Goodall.

“I’ve worked in the NHS for 23 years, and value it and care about it very strongly.

“When I came here (in 2009), this was a new organisation, a new approach. It has been challenging on many fronts but very rewarding, and to have nine projects shortlisted for awards is an indication of the dedication and hard work I’ve seen here.”

Development of primary care services and delivering the Clinical Futures service modernisation programme have been among key aspects of the health board’s agenda under Dr Goodall’s tenure, coinciding with a major tightening of budgets following economic downturn, and increased public demand on, and expectations of, the NHS.

“The health board was not just created to be a hospital-based organisation, but is about bringing together primary and secondary care, community services and mental health services,” he said.

“I think we have developed primary care and that area scores very highly in quality measurements.

“Concerns have been expressed about access to GP services, but some of that work has been done, for instance here with the A is for Access scheme.

“Clinical Futures was always about future strategy and I hope we have also made it a strategy for the present.

“It has involved new hospitals, and as chief executive I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the opening of two (Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan at Ebbw Vale, and Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr at Ystrad Mynach) and in helping secure approval for the Specialist and Critical Care Centre

“But it’s not all about shiny new buildings, but the service we provide in and around them, working with local authorities and other bodies to provide strong, integrated services in communities.

“It’s about making people confident about alternatives to hospital, with a responsibility too, to let people know what those alternatives are and how to use them.”

Developing mental health services, including that for armed services veterans, is another highlight for Dr Goodall, along with progress on reducing infections, pressure sores and hospital death rates.

“Performance on cancer treatment targets and standards has been very good too. This health board and Velindre NHS Trust are the best performing organisations in Wales in these very emotive areas for patients and families,” he said.

“The prevention agenda is vital too, in areas like diabetes and obesity, and it’s important to show there are returns from these, that improvements can be made in a year or two, as well as the longer term.

“Overall, I hope we’ve been, and remain, focused on quality, on making sure people have good individual experiences of our services, and that we acknowledge problem areas, take concerns seriously, and demonstrate how we have changed things to address those problems.”