Hywel Dda Health board sends solicitor's letter over alleged defamation of senior staff

Questions have been raised over Hywel Dda Health Board's use of public funds after a solicitor's letter threatening possible legal action was sent to a hospital campaign group.


The letter to Save Withybush Action Team chairman and consultant obstetrician Chris Overton, dated November 8th, refers to a SWAT leaflet and web publications, which allegedly defamed Hywel Dda bosses.


Solicitors Morgan Cole said its client encouraged debate but was "concerned at the manner in which that debate appears to now be taking place."


The letter also refers to an image of the grim reaper, which it claimed was on SWAT's website, but Mr Overton's response said: "This is held on a website controlled by Mr Peter Milewski, a former member of SWAT, who used to be our webmaster."  


Mr Milewski said: "The poster referred to was one of the original ones dreamed up by SWAT late 2011/early 2012 and was actually the brainchild of its chairman Chris Overton.


"After we resigned from SWAT in early 2012 the posters remained on my website.  As Mr Overton didn't attempt to defend it in his letter I have removed it."


The solicitor's letter had called for the publications to be withdrawn.


In his response, Mr Overton confimed the leaflet was no longer being distributed and the grim reaper image was on another website.


He added: "Whilst we are happy not to use the names in your letter on any future publications that we may produce we will continue to tell the truth about health service provision in our area and will not allow our free speech to be undermined."


Mr Overton told the Western Telegraph he had been warned about legal action during a conversation with an executive member of the health board in August, but added:
"The health board did not want to do this during consultation, yet they are now willing to waste public funds on a defamation case".


Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies said: “Is it appropriate that the health board is using tax-payers money to pursue legal issues, whilst at the same time saying that they want an open public debate on health care services in the area?


"The people of Pembrokeshire and groups like SWAT have the right to challenge changes in services, which they believe will put the safety of the public at risk, without the fear of facing legal action."


A spokesman for the health board said: "The health board has a duty to protect employees and the reputation of the NHS and will appropriately seek to address defamatory comments.


"The aim of the letter to SWAT was to have a defamatory leaflet, which included allegations involving both the health board and named individuals, withdrawn from circulation and to prevent any potentially defamatory remarks being used in the future.


"The response from SWAT seems to accept it is inappropriate to attack individuals if there is to be a proper debate about the NHS in west Wales."
 

Comments (10)

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12:09pm Wed 21 Nov 12

Tttoommy says...

We all know that some english team have been brought in to make Withybush unsustainable in the longer term YET there's plenty of money to threaten ppl who believe in democracy and free speech.
RESIGN RESIGN RESIGN
We all know that some english team have been brought in to make Withybush unsustainable in the longer term YET there's plenty of money to threaten ppl who believe in democracy and free speech. RESIGN RESIGN RESIGN Tttoommy
  • Score: 0

4:50pm Wed 21 Nov 12

ScoobyDooby says...

Bullies, who are using taxpayers' money to stifle debate. If individual staff believe they are being defamed, it is not for the Health Board to threaten to sue on their behalf
Bullies, who are using taxpayers' money to stifle debate. If individual staff believe they are being defamed, it is not for the Health Board to threaten to sue on their behalf ScoobyDooby
  • Score: 0

9:48pm Wed 21 Nov 12

Marcusrose says...

It is absolutely ridiculous to try centralising services in an area 120 miles by 90 miles in one hospital. They have moved about 11 vital services from Prince Philip Hospital Llanelli by stealth to Carmarthen since 2003 and want to downgrade the A&E it to be nurse led. Prince Philip Hospital has about 160,000 living within 12 miles. Glangwili 60,000. You will have to fight with all your might to retain your services, I think their aim is to build a new hospital in Carmarthen eventually.
It is absolutely ridiculous to try centralising services in an area 120 miles by 90 miles in one hospital. They have moved about 11 vital services from Prince Philip Hospital Llanelli by stealth to Carmarthen since 2003 and want to downgrade the A&E it to be nurse led. Prince Philip Hospital has about 160,000 living within 12 miles. Glangwili 60,000. You will have to fight with all your might to retain your services, I think their aim is to build a new hospital in Carmarthen eventually. Marcusrose
  • Score: 0

10:11pm Wed 21 Nov 12

Honest Local says...

What a tragedy for free speech and again the big brother attitude from our Hylwe Dha health board. Mr Overton has spoken out, tried to alert the public to these devious plans, and now NHS money is being used to pay lawyers to keep him quiet. Who makes these decisions in this organisation, and surely they must realise that this only further alarms the public - or more likely they just dont care and will roll on until Withybush,and all other services in Pembrokeshire are decimated.The sadness is that this is all controlled by a Pembrokeshire man Mr Tony Martin of Haverfordwest - but helped of course by the team he has brought in from Roachdale and Manchester. . Oh dear what is to become of us all !
What a tragedy for free speech and again the big brother attitude from our Hylwe Dha health board. Mr Overton has spoken out, tried to alert the public to these devious plans, and now NHS money is being used to pay lawyers to keep him quiet. Who makes these decisions in this organisation, and surely they must realise that this only further alarms the public - or more likely they just dont care and will roll on until Withybush,and all other services in Pembrokeshire are decimated.The sadness is that this is all controlled by a Pembrokeshire man Mr Tony Martin of Haverfordwest - but helped of course by the team he has brought in from Roachdale and Manchester. . Oh dear what is to become of us all ! Honest Local
  • Score: 0

1:19pm Sun 25 Nov 12

Tttoommy says...

Surely we've seen something similar with Carmarthen County Council where the council is funding a HUGELY expensive court action - is it that as we're so far from the centre of things that these organisations seem quite happy to take these actions (or at least threaten them) as despite going against Government guidelines no one seems prepared to stop them or do anything about their inappropriate behaviour? i.e the bullies win as no one will stand up to them
Surely we've seen something similar with Carmarthen County Council where the council is funding a HUGELY expensive court action - is it that as we're so far from the centre of things that these organisations seem quite happy to take these actions (or at least threaten them) as despite going against Government guidelines no one seems prepared to stop them or do anything about their inappropriate behaviour? i.e the bullies win as no one will stand up to them Tttoommy
  • Score: 0

1:24pm Sun 25 Nov 12

Tttoommy says...

To honest Local - You've named a person here - I wonder if you know whether he and his family are protected and have private health care, If you don't know maybe It would make a good slant on the story for the Western Telegraph to at least ask the question
To honest Local - You've named a person here - I wonder if you know whether he and his family are protected and have private health care, If you don't know maybe It would make a good slant on the story for the Western Telegraph to at least ask the question Tttoommy
  • Score: 0

2:42pm Sun 25 Nov 12

quentin says...

That is not what public money is for. Hywel Dda Health Board should be ashamed of themselves...... but of course there's no chance of that from these blinkered officials.
That is not what public money is for. Hywel Dda Health Board should be ashamed of themselves...... but of course there's no chance of that from these blinkered officials. quentin
  • Score: 0

3:42pm Sun 25 Nov 12

Honest Local says...

Tommy, Please understand that I have nothing against anyone having private healthcare if they are able to afford it, I am concerned however that people who cannot afford this and have to use our NHS should be able to access local services here in Tenby, Pembroke Dock and in Haverfordwest, and to get to Carmarthen or Swansea is not easy and is also expensive for many people. Over the past 50 years many people have helped to develop Withybush Hospital and why should these current chiefs throw it all way ?
Tommy, Please understand that I have nothing against anyone having private healthcare if they are able to afford it, I am concerned however that people who cannot afford this and have to use our NHS should be able to access local services here in Tenby, Pembroke Dock and in Haverfordwest, and to get to Carmarthen or Swansea is not easy and is also expensive for many people. Over the past 50 years many people have helped to develop Withybush Hospital and why should these current chiefs throw it all way ? Honest Local
  • Score: 0

9:45pm Sun 25 Nov 12

Tttoommy says...

the point I was trying to make was whether those ppl who as far as I can see are there only to eventually close Withybush will suffer from their actions the way the rest of the ppl in Pembrokeshire will suffer as a result of the decisions they are making.
Another story on the website about loads of local ppl making donations to the cancer wards for instance just going into a central pot - wonder if that's the "central pot" the wages get paid from - once again in the real world -not organisations like this the Police would be involved
the point I was trying to make was whether those ppl who as far as I can see are there only to eventually close Withybush will suffer from their actions the way the rest of the ppl in Pembrokeshire will suffer as a result of the decisions they are making. Another story on the website about loads of local ppl making donations to the cancer wards for instance just going into a central pot - wonder if that's the "central pot" the wages get paid from - once again in the real world -not organisations like this the Police would be involved Tttoommy
  • Score: 0

6:02pm Mon 26 Nov 12

Doc Malik says...

I think it is high time that we give Hywel Dda LHB and its officers the credit they are due for all the hard work they have put in during the consultation on NHS provision in West Wales. Who else could have taken an anonymous bunch of bureaucrats and turned them and the body they head into an object of such derision and mistrust in such a short period of time? Well done all of you!
I think it is high time that we give Hywel Dda LHB and its officers the credit they are due for all the hard work they have put in during the consultation on NHS provision in West Wales. Who else could have taken an anonymous bunch of bureaucrats and turned them and the body they head into an object of such derision and mistrust in such a short period of time? Well done all of you! Doc Malik
  • Score: 0

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