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Neyland: Health Board want solution in place before closure

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Chat: Neyland Town Council members chatted with Health Board officials before the meeting

THE HYWEL DDA HEALTH BOARD hopes to have a solution in place by September for residents of Neyland affected by the closure of the St Clements Surgery.

The Health Board confirmed that they are speaking to a number of other providers about services being kept in Neyland but added that if they created a level of anxiety or concern in the area it could work negatively against them.

The Argyle Medical Group’s application to close the Surgery was accepted by the Health Board and will be closing on September 1.

The Group had originally applied for the surgery to close in April but that was rejected by the Health Board.

Argyle Medical Group currently has its main practice in Pembroke Dock and another in Pembroke called St Oswalds.

The decision to close the surgery prompted anger amongst Neyland residents and a public meeting was held with representatives of the Argyle Medical Group in January and over 200 people attended.

The Town Council also called for a second public meeting with the Health Board but they refused and instead offered to meet with the council to discuss the issues.

That meeting took place on Tuesday, June 5, where Town Councillors posed a number of questions to the five Health Board members in attendance.

Prior to the meeting a Town Council spokesperson told the Herald they were ‘very worried’ and ‘concerned’ for the people of Neyland about how they would access services in Pembroke Dock.
The spokesperson added: “We feel it is totally unacceptable for residents of Neyland and we need to find some way of easing the burden on the residents.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Health Board officials assured the Town Council that they were working towards a solution and that they hoped to have that solution in place before the closure of the St Clements Surgery.

Health Board Director of Primary Community and Long Term Care, Jill Paterson said they were talking to other practitioners about a solution but did not want to confirm who they were.
Jill said: “Whenever we get a situation around a change in practices it is very difficult for patients that might be affected by that so I want to assure you that we have heard the views and one of the issues is the issue around travel. The contract for this practice rests with the Argyle practice, the Health Board isn’t taking over a contract at this point and the practice is not returning to us.

“At this point, what the practice is saying, they have got sustainability issues but they are advising that they will continue to provide the care for patients who were previously being seen at St Clements, but clearly, on the other side of the water.

“We know it is the wish of the St Clements practice that the majority of them still want their patient care being provided in this site.

“The reason we are not taking over the practice is that we don’t have the contract coming back to us to allow us to take over.

“Access to services was very much considered by the Primary Care Applications Committee at the time which the decision had to be made and on the other hand we were weighing up the sustainability issues the practice was facing with the significant reduction in their medical manpower.

“What we also needed to do, and we’re still in that discussion, is recognise that whilst in the interim, the practice will continue to offer that service to St Clements patients, it’s incumbent on the Health Board to think about the other options that might be available.

“I think the difficulty, at this point, is we are still in the process of those discussions with other providers of services in the local area, but we’re not at a point in which anything can be confirmed.”

Cllr Bill McGarvie asked if the closure of the Surgery could be delayed until an option was in place.

Jill responded: “We are still a few months from that closure and I’m hoping that we would be able to be at a point where we’re able to be more confident in articulating a more local option for St Clements, we’re in lots of discussions at the moment, there are things that other providers are putting forward that we need to work through.

“I’m hopeful that by the time we are coming towards the closure point there will be a level of confidence that we can give around that future option.”

Councillors also asked if transport would be provided to take patients to Pembroke Dock and Health Board Vice Chair Judith Hardisty said they were currently exploring all of the options.
Cllr Gareth Lawlor asked why St Clements was the one chosen for closure instead of St Oswalds in Pembroke.

Judith Hardisty said: “That was the question we put to them, why St Clements and not St Oswalds? Their argument was, in using the resources they’ve got they felt they could better provide the services they’ve got by concentrating that in Pembroke Dock.”

Cllr Lawlor also asked about staffing levels in St Oswalds and it was revealed that it was currently staffed at the same level as Neyland.

Cllr McGarvie asked if there could be a nurse-led service in Neyland and he was told that was one option that had been considered.

Vice-chair Judith Hardisty later went on to say that Argyle Medical Group had admitted that when they merged they didn’t do enough to properly merge their services and added that they do understand the strength of feeling at the decision they have made.

She also said that as soon as they had anything definite they would share it with them and that they would make sure Argyle Medical Group will meet the conditions that had been laid down.

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Can Pembrokeshire still afford Wales’ lowest council tax?

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PEMBOKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Finance Director, Jon Haswell said council tax would need to rise significantly to meet service needs in the wake of a 0.4% cut in Welsh Government funding.

Although its the smallest cut out of all the councils in Wales, the cut puts the authority £600,000 out of pocket

He was effectively saying that the councils coffers will be empty and that something has to change, and change fast.

Last year Pembrokeshire’s council tax went up by 12.5% – the first double-digit increase in Wales since 2004 – but Pembrokeshire’s Council Tax bills are still the lowest in Wales.

At the Audit Committee meeting on Thursday (Oct 18), Mr Haswell warned that on current predictions, based on the Welsh Government’s standard spending assessment of what it thinks the council needs, council tax would need to rise by 28% or more unless services were cut.

That is 2% less than Plaid Cymru councillor Mike Williams’ said it would be at Full Council the week before (Oct 11), but it’s pretty close.

As we reported on Friday in our print edition, Cllr Williams turned his own fire on the previous administration for placing Pembrokeshire into its current financial position, pointing out that the actual rise in Council Tax needed to address the funding gap in March this year was in excess of 30%.

He said: ‘It’s about time some members had a wake-up call’ as to the current state of the Council’s finances and the previous administration’s totemic policy of having the lowest Council Tax in Wales. Firmly pointing the finger at Cllrs Adams and Davies following their earlier questions, he suggested they needed to look to themselves to find the origins of the authority’s current difficulties.

RECAP – WHAT WE REPORTED LAST WEEK

A 0.5% cut in funding to Pembrokeshire County Council will result in significant and potentially devastating cuts to public services.
As we previously reported, the Welsh Government announced its budget settlement for Welsh local government last week.
While that settlement shows ‘only’ a 0.5% cut in the Pembrokeshire’s Revenue Support Grant, the reality behind that headline figure is grim.
And there is little comfort to be taken in the news that Pembrokeshire’s cut is smaller than that inflicted on neighbouring Carmarthenshire. Pembrokeshire’s budget is far smaller in proportion to Carmarthenshire’s. Our County’s resources are stretched to breaking point following years of the folly of the ‘lowest Council Tax in Wales’ policy in twenty-two years of rule by the ‘Independent’ group, most lately under Jamie Adams.
While money was washing around local government that policy was sustainable. However, once systemic cuts came in 2008 – and persisted for ten years and rising – there was no fat to trim and cuts are now deep into the bone of frontline services.
The Welsh Government funding takes little or no account of the Council’s obligation to pay wage increases negotiated centrally which far outstrips the money provided to meet them, changes in National Insurance, changes to teachers’ pensions, the effects of inflation, and the impact of regulations affecting buildings’ maintenance.
Hit seven ways from Sunday by a barrage of deep cuts to its budget delivered year-on-year for the last decade and in the teeth of the fallout of a Council Tax policy which has left the Council’s cupboard bare, there is no way for the Council to resolve its financial position without making even deeper cuts than those already contemplated and revealed exclusively in this newspaper last week.
The social care budget’s ‘protection’ by the Welsh Government has left all Councils floundering; because Pembrokeshire has a high proportion of older residents, it has been hit hard. The Council has even less money to spend on other services as the proportion of a smaller revenue ‘pie’ is taken up by protected budgets.
The devastation being wreaked by cuts is unsurprising. In 2014 dire warnings were given about the cumulative effects of continuing cuts before that year’s budget. Almost five years’ on, the situation is even worse than predicted.
With the Cabinet unwilling to ask for a further large Council Tax increase for next year, real savings will be hard to find. Something somewhere has to give.
The only hope is that the UK Government actually delivers real relief from austerity instead of tinkering at the edges.

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Man who assaulted Tenby barmaid avoids jail

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A MAN who touched a barmaid’s bottom and then offered her money for sex has been made the subject of a suspended prison sentence.

Mark Adams, aged 55, had denied sexual assault but was convicted by a jury after a trial at Swansea Crown Court.
Today, Adams was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 20 days of rehabilitation.
He must also pay £3,230 in prosecution costs.
The jury heard how Adams did not dispute that he asked the barmaid in a Tenby pub for a “selfie” as a pretext to get close to her and touch her bottom.
He then offered her £300, and then £400, to spend time with him but agreed that really meant having sex with him.
Adams, of Tintagel Way, Portsmouth, told the jury the approach had worked in the past with other women.
Judge Keith Thomas told Adams he had followed up with sexual assault with a humiliating offer of money for sex.
His behaviour, said the judge, came from an inflated sense of his own importance.
The court heard that his victim no longer felt safe in her place of work or in her home town of Tenby.
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Missing pensioner last seen in Haverfordwest

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is conducting enquiries to find missing 72 year old, Gordon Phillips. He was last seen on the afternoon of Sunday October 14 at the County Hotel in Haverfordwest.

He is described as white, approx. 5’8 tall, has white collar length un-brushed hair, a white beard, and was wearing a shiny black puffer jacket, black baseball hat and baggy blue jeans.

Anyone who has seen Gordon, or has any information about his whereabouts is asked to contact police by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number: 07811 311 908.

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