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Health board boss criticised for cycling more than 20 miles around Cardiff during lockdown

A health board boss has been criticised for cycling more than 20 miles around the Welsh capital during lockdown.

Len Richards, who has been chief executive of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board since June 2017, took to Twitter on May 12 after enjoying his first “midweek ride of the summer”.

According to his own tweet, Mr Richards cycled a total of 21.4 miles, visiting areas including Cardiff Bay Barrage and Penarth, as well as the city limits to the north.

Here is his tweet:

The Welsh Government’s guidance at the time stated that exercise should not involve “going a significant distance” from home.

It also states that an accident or breakdown “far from home” would place an “additional strain” on health services.

A nurse working for Cardiff and Vale UHB, who did not want to be named, said they were stunned when they saw Mr Richards’ tweet.

Len Richards, chief executive of Cardiff and Vale UHB

The NHS employee said it was “staggering” that the NHS boss – who earns more than £200,000 a year, would take such a risk – and then post the results for everyone to see.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – I thought it was a joke at first,” they said.

“Then I saw that it was his Twitter account and that he’d cycled virtually the entire length of Cardiff. It totally lacks common sense. Someone of his standing should know better.

“What if he had an accident or even a puncture? It would have involved other people coming to his aid – and this was at a time when the Welsh Government was still telling people to stay local.

“How is a 21-mile bike ride around Cardiff an essential journey? If you need exercise just stay where you live and do a few laps.”

The health worker described Mr Richards’ ride as a “total disregard for public safety”.

“It really hits a nerve when the rest of us have had to stick by the rules – and then there’s someone in his position and power stretching them.

“He may say ‘I wasn’t breaking any rules’ and I was sticking to the guidelines’, but he can’t deny that big bike ride is hardly in the spirit of the rules either.”

Another NHS staff member added: “The cycling route map he posted showed him travelling through many Cardiff villages, and I thought it was completely unacceptable.”

Mr Richards, the former chief executive of Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service in Australia, said he was sorry if some people felt his journey wasn’t “in the “spirit of the guidance”.

He said: “I regularly cycle and walk to work as a way of keeping fit. I can confirm that I completed a solo, 6am ride on May 12 to and from home,  which I openly post on twitter as part of my ongoing training for the CarTen and to promote physical activity and wellbeing.

“I’m a keen cyclist and know the local area and local routes well. The ride was about 10 miles out and 11 miles back which I do not consider an unreasonable distance and do not believe I was breaking any guidance.

“As part of my role, I regularly travel around all hospitals throughout Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan – the distance I covered on my bike ride is just a normal work route for me and a way of escaping the pressures of my role and me keeping physically and mentally well. A stance I have championed in using fitness as a way to de-stress and keep fit.

“This was not one of my normal commutes and I’m sorry if some people feel that this was not within the spirit of the guidance.”



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