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12 hour A&E service would be ‘end game’ for Withybush Hospital

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Protest: Cardiff earlier this year

Protest: Cardiff earlier this year

A LEAKED document has revealed 24 hour A&E services are to be cut at Withybush General Hospital and replaced with a 12-hour service, The Pembrokeshire Herald understands.

A report prepared by Dr Iain Roberston-Steele has been revealed on-line on the SWAT website. The letter states: “It is no longer possible to sustain a traditional 24/7 A&E service at Withybush General Hospital based on middle grade locums and locum consultants”.

Health Board chairman Bernardine Rees was asked by councillors at Full Council recently if the A&E would remain a 24 hour services seven days a week, but she did not confirm that it would.

The shocking document also reveals that since the downgrade in paediatric services overnight there has been increased burden on the out of hours service and that too is branded as “short staffed and at risk”.

The leaked letter says that staffing issues led to the latest crisis in the service, and that a solution needs to be found.Other services that Withybush should not provide services for patients where further or onward care is required will also include ENT, ophthalmology, urology, palliative care, oncology, paediatrics, gynaecology and other specialist services, according to the document.

“Limiting provision at WGH to those services at WGH which are fully staffed and skilled,” it adds.

SWAT chairman Dr Chris Overton told The Herald that the news was  the “end game” for Withybush Hospital. He added: “As predicted for many many years, there will be nothing much will be left at the hospital”

The hospital action group has previously raised concerns that the knock on effect of services removal will result in changes having to be made at Withybush A&E.

Stephen Crabb MP told The Herald: “This leaked document appears to confirm our worst fears about what Hywel Dda and Mark Drakeford have got planned for Withybush. A dark cloud is hanging over the future of our hospital.”

“The removal of a 24 hour A&E service from Withybush is just unacceptable. The Welsh Health Minister should stop hiding away in Cardiff and come down to Pembrokeshire to either denounce these reckless plans or explain why he thinks they make our community safer. People in Pembrokeshire deserve more than behind-the-scenes plotting.”

“Today the UK Government is giving Welsh Ministers an extra £70 million as a result of the increase in English NHS spending. I have asked that the Welsh Government confirm that it will use this money solely for Welsh health services. After all the recent cuts to services, Pembrokeshire should be first in the queue for this spending.”

Party of Wales Mid and West Assembly Member Simon Thomas said: “This is another broken promise on the Welsh NHS by Labour Ministers in Cardiff Bay. I will demand answers from the Welsh Government in the Senedd at the first opportunity to do so on this issue. The people of Pembrokeshire deserve better A&E services.”

“This development about emergency services at Withybush Hospital is very concerning indeed. Welsh Ministers rejected my concerns that losing 24/7 paediatrics would undermine the long term viability of A&E.

“I suspected this but I am amazed it has come so soon. The people of west Wales have been misled by Labour. A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would recruit 1,000 extra doctors. We would train new doctors to keep services local.”

South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart said: “I have not seen first-hand the report that SWAT refers to but if it is accurate, then everything we feared is coming true.  This is death by a thousand cuts for Withybush.  Hywel Dda Health Board has struggled with these staffing issues for years and has yet to solve the problem.  If they are going to use “staff shortages” as an excuse to close any department where they can’t recruit then this will become self fulfilling. We already know that one reason for the GP shortages in the county is the uncertainty over the future of the hospital. Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government in Cardiff needs to get a grip of this situation and bring this uncertainty to an end.”

Commenting on reports that 24 hour Accident and Emergency, and other specialist services are to be removed from Withybush Hospital, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM said: “This news is obviously a huge blow to communities across Pembrokeshire, especially all the campaigners that have worked tirelessly to keep their local services open. A quick response is vital for people suffering from trauma and accidents, and cutting 24 hour A&E cover could well put lives at risk.

“The fact that these services are seen as unsustainable at all shows that there is a major recruitment crisis in our NHS that the Welsh Labour Government seems determined to ignore. I have been repeatedly calling for a cross-party commission with doctor, nurse and patient representatives to sort out the major problems and plan for the future of our NHS. Today’s news shows that this commission can’t come soon enough.”

William Powell, the Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for Mid and West Wales, added: “Having supported local campaigners in their efforts to protect these services since 2006, this is obviously a huge disappointment. Removing specialist services and a full A&E from Withybush will leave it as nothing more than a glorified cottage hospital, with no equivalent services for miles around.

“With a health board intent on centralising services and a Welsh Labour Government content with them doing so, the people of Pembrokeshire deserve better.”

Spekaing for the Health Board, Medical Director Dr Sue Fish said: “I would like to reassure staff and members of the public that the Emergency and Urgent Care Centre at Withybush General Hospital remains open 24-hours a day and the University Health Board continues to be committed to the long term provision of this service. Senior clinicians continue to meet, and indeed clinicians and managers from across Hywel Dda are meeting today, to discuss how we continue to maintain safe, high quality services with ongoing and significant recruitment challenges. These challenges are faced by many NHS organisations across the UK and are a particular challenge at Withybush EUCC currently. The document referred to is the viewpoint of a single consultant at one point in time and represents no decision by the University Health Board. Changes to paediatric services at the hospital have not resulted in this position, which is a reflection of the ongoing recruitment challenges discussed.

Associate Medical Director for Quality and Safety Iain Robertson Steel added: “I would like to make it clear that this was a private and confidential paper that presents only one contribution from amongst a number being discussed and I am deeply distressed that this has been leaked without the full context.”

letterA letterB letterC letterD

 

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Protest against ‘draconian’ Police and Crime Bill takes place in Haverfordwest

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A SECOND Kill the Bill protest took place in Haverfordwest on Saturday (Apr 17).

One of the organisers told  The Herald: “The new law will be an enormous piece of draconian legislation that includes significant expansion in police powers to curtail the right to protest. The right to peacefully assemble and protest are a fundamental part of any democracy; empowering people to have their voices heard, in addition to holding the Government to account. These rights are universal –they protect peaceful and legitimate protest whatever the cause.“The events at the Clapham vigil and at demonstrations over the last few weeks are a dangerous indication of what the future of protest will look like if the police powers bill gets through parliament.”

A local campaigner, a mother and grandmother said “We are in the process of losing a fundamental part of our democracy, It is important we protect it for future generations. We have messed up so much of their future already-we need to hold the Government to account”.

Aspects of the Bill include:

  • The power for Police forces to shut down protests that they deem too disruptive at their own discretion.
  • Up to a 10-year sentence for demonstrators considered to be causing a “public nuisance”.
  • The power for police forces to impose start and end times on static protests of any size.
  • The power to expand stop and search powers, which already discriminate against marginalised communities. If you live in the Dyfed Powys police area, you are 5 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black than white.
  • Up to 10-year sentences for damage to public monuments’ Police powers will be expanded and custodial sentences increased to “protect” women.
  • These measures are not sufficient to prevent violence and are troubling, considering some police officers’ involvement in cases of violence against women. Significant restrictions on where protests around Parliament may take place.
  • The elevation of trespass from a civil offence to a criminal offence, meaning police and courts can give harsh sentences to Travellers.
  • Increased power of police to seize vehicles and homes from Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities and demanding proof of permission to travel.
  • The bill will criminalise a way of life for these communities.

Some of the proposals in the new bill which is the subject of the protest include putting start and finish times on protests, as well as noise limits. The bill also says damage to memorials could lead to up to 10 years in prison. The bill could also expand stop-and-search powers and includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance,” which is designed to stop people occupying public spaces and doing things like hanging off bridges or gluing themselves to windows.

The bill will be reintroduced to Parliament after the Queen’s Speech, according to the Home Office, with Commons Committee Stage expected to be completed by 24 June.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill delivers on the government’s commitment to crack down on crime and build safer communities,” a Home Office spokesperson says. “We are equipping the police with the tools they need to stop violent criminals in their tracks.” They add that the bill “enshrines our commitment to those brave officers who put themselves in danger to keep rest of us safe into law”.

One protestor told Herald.Wales: “People are getting more angry and more frustrated and they feel like their issues are not being dealt with – but are rather just simply being cracked down on.

“And that is the wrong approach. People are still going to take to the streets and be even more passionate.”

Haverfordwest Kill the Bill protest 2021

Protests – a senior police officer’s view

A police boss who describes himself as an “experienced protester” says a report on how protests are policed is one sided, illiberal and undermines civil and political rights.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is so concerned that he has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to complain about it.

The UK Government used the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS),“Getting the balance right?, when they were drafting the controversial Police, Crime,  Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Arfon Jones, the new North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner at Police HQ in Colwyn Bay.

According to the inspectors, the balance had tipped too heavily in favour of protesters.

The legislation will give the police powers to set start and end times for static protests and stop protests if they are judged to be too noisy or too “disruptive”.

Protesters face fines of up to £2,500 and up to 10 years in jail if they are convicted.

Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “Although equilibrium should be struck between individual rights to protest and the general interests of the community, I simply do not agree the balance tips too readily in favour of protestors.

“The recommendations in the report are one sided, illiberal and undermine civil and political rights and are not in the public interest.

“The new powers in the proposed act are not necessary and will prevent protest as we know today. The whole purpose of protest is to disrupt and to seek change.

“The police have enough powers to police protests and do not need more. I do not believe that HMICFRS have the balance right in this report and as an *experienced* protestor for the last 50 years the perception that police are favourable towards protestors rights is a fallacy.

“Policing protests has always been, and always will be, a tool of the state to control its citizens and I will have no truck with it.

“Automatic Facial Recognition in non-violent protests is a privacy intrusion and should not be used.

“Non-violent protests should be policed as events not as a public order exercise.

“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will afford new powers to officers to tackle protests, including measures aimed at static protests and a new offence of ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’, which is in part defined as causing ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’.

“In a democracy the right to protest sometimes means people are inconvenienced, such is the price of living in a society where voicing support for a cause of your choosing is permitted. “These proposals seek to whittle that right down to such a degree that any demonstration, large or small, may be heavily restricted or even curtailed altogether. The effect on free expression will be substantial.

“The report is short-term and politically driven. Policing should be very careful not to be drawn into the situation of being arbiters of which protests can go ahead and become stuck in the middle.

“The policing of industrial action in the 1970s reminds us that policing protests may cause long-term damage on the relationships between community and police.

“The United Kingdom and its people have been through a very difficult year, with exceptional Covid-19 restrictions coming to an end as the pandemic recedes. 

“This is a time for reflection and consideration, not a time to be rushing through poorly thought out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression.

“Such laws may shield ministers and corporations from public dissent, but who would wish to live in a society where such matters are guiding principles of legislation?”

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Approval recommended for dockyard plans

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A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week.

Despite many objections from heritage organisations, Council planning officers recommend the development’s approval.

However, the Planning Committee will only indicate whether it is ‘minded to approve’ the proposal instead of giving it the go-ahead.

The Welsh Government has called in the application for decision by the next Welsh Government minister responsible for planning and infrastructure developments.

That means the Welsh Government will consider the Report presented to the Committee and weigh it against the objections received.

HERITAGE ASSETS VERSUSECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The application is to develop a brownfield site within the former Royal Dockyard.

It seeks outline planning permission for the demolition or part demolition and infill of various buildings and structures, modification of existing slipways, erection of buildings and ancillary development. 

The development is intended for port-related activities, including the manufacture of marine energy devices, boat manufacture, repair and erection of plant.

The application is for outline planning permission. All matters relating to access, appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale are reserved for consideration as part of reserved matters applications. In practice, as many councils – including Pembrokeshire – have discovered, once outline planning is granted, reserved applications tend to proceed despite potential negative impacts.

A similar situation arose with Milford Haven Port Authority’s hotel development at Milford Marina, where councillors’ concerns were largely overruled by the existence of outline planning permission for the development.

Part of the proposal would see the former graving dock and timber pond infilled, the part demolition of existing slipways, and some buildings on site.

Both the graving dock and timber pond are Grade II listed. Buildings near the development are also listed, including the iconic Sunderland flying boat hangars.

The existing caisson gate currently in situ at the dock’s southern end would be removed and conserved. It is unique in Wales and a rare example. The planning report states that the caisson gate would remain within the marine environment without development and deteriorate. 

The development would include a new ‘super slipway’ built over the land extending into the River Cleddau and the construction of massive new industrial sheds to accommodate new marine technology.

JOBS AND THE CITY DEAL

The planning report claims the facilities erected will support anywhere between 288 and 975 full-time equivalent jobs in Pembrokeshire and make a substantial contribution to the local economy. However, the report also notes that the numbers of jobs claimed cannot be corroborated.

This proposal is linked to the establishment of the Marine Energy Test Areas (META), the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) and the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone (PDZ). These collectively comprise the Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project. 

The project forms part of the Swansea Bay City Deal to facilitate the next generation of marine renewable energy technology.

Companies who could potentially gain from the development have signalled their support from the proposal.Although their enthusiasm is predictable, the economic potential for local businesses cannot be ignored.

DOCKYARD ESSENTIAL TO TOWN’S EXISTENCE

However, a raft of objections also exists.

The Council received representations from, among others: The Victorian Society; The Georgian Group; Hywel Dda University Health Board;  Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre; Pembrokeshire Historic Buildings Trust; Pembroke Civic Trust; Naval Dockyards Society; The Commodore Trust; Ridgway History Group.

Not all of those organisations objected to the principle of development. For example, Hywel Dda expressed concern about the potential effect on access to South Pembs Hospital and patient care. However, most criticised the impact on the historic environment of the Royal Dockyard. Individual objections also expressed the same concerns.

The Naval Dockyard Society points out that the Dockyard construction was the reason for Pembroke Dock’s creation as a town. Without it, the town would not exist.

The Society continues: ‘The proposed scheme would severely damage Pembroke Dock Conservation Area and crucial listed buildings. 

‘The Grade II* Graving Dock would be infilled and partially built over, the Grade II Timber Pond infilled and built over, and the Grade II Building Slips Nos 1 and 2 partially demolished and removed. It would also be detrimental to the adjacent Grade II Carr Jetty setting, which adds to the group value of these threatened structures at Pembroke Dockyard.

‘These structures are the last and most important features of the magnificent and unique assemblage of thirteen slips, graving dock and timber pond constructed and functioning 1809–1926. 

‘Pembroke Dock specialised in building warships during the transition from wood to iron and steel, sail to steam and turbines. 

‘While the eastern slips were sacrificed in 1979 for the Irish ferry terminal and the deep-water berth Quay 1, we now live in a more responsible era, when significant community assets merit planning protection.

‘The Royal Dockyard established at Pembroke Dock from 1809 was unique: the only one in Wales, the only one on the west coast of Britain, and the only one created solely as a shipbuilding facility. 

‘It built over 260 warships for the Royal Navy, including many of the most prestigious warships of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as five royal yachts. Many of these vessels were built on the two large slipways at the western end of the yard threatened by the current development proposal’.

THE COMMUNITY’S VIEW

William Gannon represents Pembroke Dock Town Council on the Milford Haven Port Authority. Mr Gannon recently hosted an online event that reviewed the application and gave local people the chance to express their views.

We asked him what the public had to say about the plans.

Listening to the community: David Gannon (photo credit: David Steel)

William Gannon told us: “The feeling of the Community following our Zoom Meeting was that we welcome the 1800 jobs and the £63 Million of investment that the Pembroke Dock Marine Project has promised. 

“However, the Community is concerned about the Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock’s loss, which will be buried beneath the new slipway. Both The Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock are Grade 2 Star listed heritage assets.

“The Community are also concerned about the size of the two ‘super sheds’ that may be built. It is felt that these sheds are both too large and ugly, and they will damage the appearance of the Dockyard and The Haven and could damage Pembroke Docks plans to develop Tourism in and around the Dockyard.

“Our Community is looking to strike a balance between the need to develop the Dockyard and to preserve our Heritage Assets. 

“We believe that we can do this by working with The Port to develop a solution that allows for both.”

The Port Authority plans to infill the dock and pond in such a way as to preserve the structures and excavate them in the future. Once they are built over, however, the circumstances that would be possible or even likely are unclear. 

The Port Authority also proposes to use digital media to provide an ‘augmented reality’ experience to show visitors what the Royal Dockyard looked like before its development.

The Port says that part of the land, the Carriage Drive, would be enhanced and restored under its plans for the site.
The balance between preserving heritage and creating future jobs in one of its pet project areas is one the Welsh Government will wrestle with on this application and others.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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