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Recruitment policy plays with patient safety

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IN A hard-hitting interview with The Pembrokeshire Herald, a veteran health campaigner has revealed that the

Unable to cope: Glangwili Hospital

Unable to cope: Glangwili Hospital

Board’s recruitment policy runs the risk of putting patients at risk as additional duties are placed on already overstretched staff. Retired surgeon, Peter Milewski calls the Board’s approach a “disestablishment policy” and said that services have been “pared to the bone.” He reveals that the Board deliberately delays recruitment, even when it knows well in advance of future vacancies. Last week, The Herald wrote about the way in which Glangwili Hospital is unable to cope with the influx of patients from Pembrokeshire. In the second of our two-part report on how local health services are coping with change, we turn to how staff at Withybush are coping with the strain.

In 2010, the health board introduced a formal policy that no vacancy was to be filled without jumping through lots of hoops. In practice the Board’s recruitment policy was found regularly to result in about six months’ delay, as shown by the gross delay this year in replacing Dr Anne Barnes MBE, with the result Dr Barnes had to come out of retirement to ‘hold the fort’ for inpatient cancer care. No advertisement was placed to replace Dr Barnes until after her departure, which was closely followed by the departure of the only remaining specialist doctor located permanently at Withybush. Health campaigner Peter Milewski told us: “I don’t know if the ‘disestablishment policy’ is still being applied across Withybush, but just before I spoke with you I heard that – certainly in theatre – people who leave are not being replaced, or if they are, only after a long interval.

“The Board even produced a flowchart showing all the stages to be followed before a recruitment advert could be placed.” Peter Milewski continued: “If, say, 50 posts a year have been managed like this for four years, and the result in each case is a delay of six months, how much money has been saved? Let’s say the relevant incomes were, as a conservative estimate, £15,000 – then you’re talking about 200×7500 = £1.5 million saved in four years. “Of course, it could be a great deal more than that. The saving on a consultant post, for example, would be £40-50k in six months. I think my own post wasn’t filled after I retired for about a year.” Meanwhile the remaining staff – already pared to the bone – have been placed under great stress.

The Herald understands that there are many examples of the stress under which frontline staff are working. One nurse has left a surgical ward saying she is so overworked that she is worried she will make a mistake and lose her registration. Theatre nurses are routinely told to work on the wards at night, though many of the more experienced ones have lost their familiarity with ward work. We asked Mr Milewski about these incidents and he confirmed that he had heard similar complaints from nursing staff: “One experienced nurse recently complained to the Nursing Council about this, and named those at the hospital who were ordering her to go to the wards. Another experienced theatre nurse has previously launched a grievance process about being ordered to work on Intensive Care when she had no intensive care skills, which would put her in a vulnerable position.

“The Nursing Council advice on this, I understand, is quite clear. That is, you should not undertake work for which you are not fully qualified.” Peter expressed his personal concern that if and when things do go wrong, it will be staff who take the blame: “I have become more and more convinced over the last few years that the basic strategy is to squeeze the system till it squeaks. When it squeaks is when mishaps occur. But they don’t care because those mishaps can nearly always be attributed to human error, and not systemic failure. “There is no acknowledgment that what they are doing increases the chance of human error. “The only thing that can then reverse the situation is if the failings are as grotesque as at Stafford in England: only then does an inquiry identify the link between system and humans.”

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Rider of a motorbike taken to hospital following collision with a car

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A COLLISION which involved a car and a motorbike on Friday afternoon (Jun 18) saw one person being transferred to hospital.

Dyfed-Powys Police have confirmed that the collision, which happened at approximately 1.17pm at Dwrbach, Scleddau, involved a white Seat Ibiza and a black Suzuki motorbike.

The Herald understands that the accident happened at a junction near The Gate Inn public house.

The incident caused the road to be closed while emergency services dealt with the situation.

The rider of the motorbike was transferred to Glangwili Hospital for treatment.

A Police spokesperson said: “Dyfed-Powys Police attended a two vehicle road traffic collision which occurred in Scleddau, Fishguard early Friday afternoon, June18th 2021.

“The collision involved a white Seat Ibiza and a black Suzuki motorbike. The rider of the motorbike was taken to hospital.

“The road was closed for emergency services to deal with the collision.”

A rapid response vehicle and an ambulance were dispatched to the scene.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called to attend a road traffic collision involving a motorcycle at Dwrbach, Fishguard at 1.17pm on Friday 18 June. We sent one rapid response vehicle and one emergency ambulance. One patient was taken to Glangwili Hospital for further treatment.”

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Residents urged to be alert to Covid-19 symptoms following cluster of cases

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PUBLIC HEALTH WALES, Pembrokeshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board are urging members of the public to be alert to COVID-19 symptoms following the identification of a cluster of cases in the Tenby area.

The 22 confirmed cases are linked to social and sporting events and local schools and have generated a large number of contactssince the first cases were confirmed on Saturday, 12 June. 

A number of individuals, including pupils, are currently isolating and close contacts of the positive cases continue to be traced.

From Monday 21 June to Sunday 4 July, a mobile testing unit will be available for local residents in and around Tenby to access if they have symptoms.

This is based at Salterns Car Park, Marsh Road, Tenby, SA70 8DU.  To book a test visit the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or ring 119.

Residents can protect themselves and others from Coronavirus by remaining at least two metres away from everyone else, washing their hands regularly, and by wearing a face covering where required. 

The virus disperses in a well ventilated environment, so opening windows and allowing fresh air to circulate is another way to keep ourselves safe.

Residents should take up the vaccine when offered, and self-isolate and get a test if they or anyone in their household develop symptoms.

As well as the three most common symptoms of Coronavirus – a fever, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell – people with any of the following, wider symptoms that are persistent and/or unusual for them are also strongly encouraged to get a PCR test:

  • Mild summer cold symptoms – including sore throat, runny nose, headache
  • Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known COVID-19 case
  • Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test

If you have any of the above symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated, please stay home and book a PCR test through the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or ringing 119.

When booking your PCR test, you will also be asked about your symptoms: if you have wider summer cold or flu-like symptoms as described above, rather than the classic three symptoms, choose ‘None of these symptoms’ and then choose one of the following options to enable you to complete the booking:

• My local council or health protection team has asked me to get a test, even though I do not have symptoms or

• A GP or other healthcare professional has asked me to get a test.

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Paul Davies submits views to Health Board Consultation

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Senedd Member Paul Davies has fed his views into Hywel Dda University Health Board’s consultation, “Building a Healthier Future after Covid-19.”

In response to the Health Board’s proposals, Mr Davies has made it clear that he opposes any movements to centralise or downgrade services at Withybush hospital.

Mr Davies said, “I cannot emphasise how important this consultation is and so I’d urge everyone across Pembrokeshire to read through the Health Board’s proposals and make their views known. In my submission, I’ve made it crystal clear that the people of Pembrokeshire should not have to travel further for vital health services.

“I want to see Hywel Dda start prioritising Pembrokeshire by investing in services at Withybush hospital so that it can support people living and working across the county.

“There’s still time to feed into the consultation and have your say on the Health Board’s plans. The deadline is Monday, June 21 and you can find more information here – https://www.haveyoursay.hduhb.wales.nhs.uk/building-a-healthier-future-after-covid-19.” 

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