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Deputy Minister visits Withybush

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Pictured (back row): Some of the international junior doctors with (front row, left to right) Dr. Chris James, Consultant Physician, Vaughan Gething, Deputy Health Minister, Bernardine Rees, Chair of Hywel Dda UHB and Erika Cowie, Deputy Medical Education Manager for Withybush

Pictured (back row): Some of the international junior doctors with (front row, left to right) Dr. Chris James, Consultant Physician, Vaughan Gething, Deputy Health Minister, Bernardine Rees, Chair of Hywel Dda UHB and Erika Cowie, Deputy Medical Education Manager for Withybush

DEPUTY HEALTH MINISTER, Vaughan Gething AM, visited Withybush General Hospital on Monday (Feb 1), to meet Hywel Dda University Health Board staff and patients.

Mr Gething visited a new community-based eye care service which has reduced the journey time for hundreds of patients travelling some of the greatest distances in the UK to access eye care.

Patients in the HDUHB travel to one of two sites to access wet AMD services, either at Amman Valley Hospital, in Ammanford, or Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth.

Changes to eye services

For some patients in Pembrokeshire and south Ceredigion this has required return journeys in excess of 100 miles for review, and sometimes a second journey for treatment (injection).

Vaughan Gething said: “I’m pleased to see how the £400,000 investment from the Welsh Government is making it easier for people to get treatment for wet AMD closer to their homes – this is an example of the NHS providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”

Consultant Ophthalmologist Mr Richard Wintle responded: “This project will improve the quality of life for approximately 340 patients, often elderly and vulnerable, currently experiencing a significant travel burden. It will also release some capacity within our whole service, allowing us to treat more people who are waiting for care and improve patient outcomes.”

Minister meets new doctors

During his visit the Deputy Minister met with some of the international doctors have now been employed directly by HDUHB as clinical fellows to support the junior doctor rota and maintain emergency and medical services at the hospital for the Pembrokeshire population.

They have been provided with a two-year training scheme which mirrors many elements of the traditional core medical training (CMT) scheme for junior doctors in the UK after Withybush Hospital was not allocated any CMTs in August of this year.

The training programme offered by HDUHB is the first of its kind in Wales and aims to recruit doctors to rural hospitals in an environment of a shortage of junior doctors across the UK. As part of the scheme, the health board purchases an e-portfolio for each doctor to enable them to build their competencies and achieve qualifications just like other trainee doctors in the NHS.

Complex demands on ambulance service

We asked Mr Gething about the continuing and troubling lag in ambulance response times across the HDUHB area in general, and Pembrokeshire in particular.

The Minister told us: “The people of Pembrokeshire, and the same goes for everywhere else, are entitled to the same level of quality healthcare.

“However,” the Minister continued, “the demands placed on our emergency ambulance service are more complex than ever before and are growing yearon- year. It is clear if we are to meet these demands and ensure the best outcomes for patients, we need to transform the way in which we deliver emergency ambulance services.”

As to how that transformed service might be delivered, the Minister said: “The new clinical response model, which we will pilot in Wales, has been designed by Wales’ top ambulance service clinical leaders and is based on firm evidence. It is a move away from the system based solely on the eightminute response time target, which was introduced 42-years ago, to one which measures how successful our ambulance clinicians are in ensuring they have the most positive impact on clinical outcomes and people’s quality of life.”

But what about the crucial red call response times? “The system looks at every red call to find out establish the circumstances behind any delay: Whether the location is geographically remote, or whether a different sort of activity or first responder could deal with the call. The use of community first responders, not only paramedics, to get more quickly to incidents can be the difference between life and death.

“We take very seriously the responsibility to have appropriate response times for those who need it, that’s why we changed the model: it is about people who need a fast response.”

New models of rural healthcare

In relation to GP shortages and the continuing decline in general practice numbers, Mr Gething told us: “The shortage of GPs joining practice is a UKwide problem, and it is not only limited to Wales, or Hywel Dda.

The MInister continued: “We recognise the challenge, however, and need different models for what works and I am encouraged at the way we are finding ways of using different parts of the same workforce. Collaborative working with other professionals and innovative ways of delivering services make this area a more attractive one for GPs to come to.”

On that collaborative working, Vaughan Gething said: “I am pleased to see that Hywel Dda Health Board is working with Powys Health Board and other parts of Wales to find ways of more effectively using resources to deliver health care to people when and where we need it.

“We need to remember, however, that there are advantages to coming here to work. This is a fantastic place to live and GPs not only come to a place to work.”

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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