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Media captionVaughan Gething says the health board needs longer-term plans

The troubled health board serving north Wales will remain in special measures for two years, Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced.

Betsi Cadwaladr health board's chief executive Prof Trevor Purt, suspended since June, is stepping down.

The board has been under the highest possible level of Welsh government intervention for four months.

A report in May found "institutional abuse" at the Tawel Fan mental health ward in Glan Clwyd Hospital.

In June, it emerged there was a fraud investigation into aspects of the board's spending plans.

'Difficult time'

On Thursday, Mr Gething said "longer-term plans" were needed to build on "this initial phase of stabilisation in order to tackle more fundamental challenges, particularly to improve mental health services in north Wales".

"Whilst I recognise this is a difficult time for the organisation, I want to put on record the feedback has been extremely positive on the response from staff," he said.

"Their dedication and energy will be critical to tackling the challenges ahead in delivering day to day and improving the services for the population of north Wales."

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Media captionInterim chief executive Simon Dean says special measures provided a focus

Betsi Cadwaladr chairman Dr Peter Higson said: "I am pleased that the deputy minister has recognised the progress we have made in a number of key areas.

"The board knows that there is a great deal to do as we develop the health service which the people of north Wales need and deserve."

Interim chief executive Simon Dean said: "Progress is being made in a number of key areas identified when special measures were announced four months ago.

"I know that, working together, the organisation will address the current challenges with confidence and ambition."

Image caption Prof Trevor Purt was suspended after the board was placed in special measures

In a statement, the board confirmed that suspended chief executive Mr Purt had stepped down and was "considering the process for the recruitment of a successor".

"He will return to work in England where he will contribute to a number of NHS projects including the wider integration both across partner organisations and within the NHS more generally," the statement said.

"He will build on the experience he has gained over six years in the Welsh NHS system."

'Serious concerns'

The head of the north Wales patients' watchdog, the community health council, welcomed the news the board was staying in special measures for two years.

Geoff Ryall-Harvey said the problems were never going to be resolved in 100 days.

"It took them years to get to this and it'll take them at least two years to get out of it," he said.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said the decision "reflects serious concerns over the pace of progress at the health board in recent months".

He said it "suggests that the Welsh government is far from confident that swift improvements can be made".

Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd said the issues that led to special measures were "ultimately down to Labour's mismanagement of our NHS".

Liberal Democrat Aled Roberts said the board's position showed the "scale of Welsh Labour's failure to effectively oversee the Welsh NHS".