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Badger and the balancing act

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badger knows bestSOME people, readers, who shall for the moment remain shameless, seem to think that newspapers and other media should not report news as it is but news as they would wish it to be. To them, every day is a good news day and every mishap, misstep or disaster is an ‘opportunity’. Well readers, over the last few years, readers, there have been plenty of chances for Badger’s chums at County Hall and Health Board HQ to avail themselves of some pretty catastrophic opportunities. Some believe that there should be more stories about diligent councillors doing their altruistic level best with nary a thought about preening their public image or grabbing an extra allowance or three. To those persons, readers, it’s all about ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’. Still, others believe that they and their organizations are misrepresented or represented unfairly by Badger and his ilk. They complain that negative news affects how the services they deliver are perceived and hamper their efforts at recruitment and improvement.

To those people, readers, there are no cuts there are only ‘efficiency savings’ and staffing problems cannot possibly be the result of crappy staff management and salami-slicing cuts. Apparently, readers, such is Badger’s power over the hearts and minds of the surface world that the merest flick of his claw sends shivers through bureaucrats and petty politicians with nothing better to do than take careful aim at the messenger, rather than act on their own faults and flaws. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. Badger is a solitary creature tip-tapping away in his sett, pausing only to look up at the outside world and do some reading. However, those who complain the loudest have public servants on hand to prepare their carefully chosen words for them. Those without wordsmiths on tap are handsomely paid from the public purse, presumably on the basis they are able to string two words together and express themselves in a clear and clearly thought out way. Or so you would think. Words are slippery things, readers, and they do not always mean what you and Badger might believe. Badger wants, therefore, to show you, dear readers, the sort of sign posts that one should look for when questioning the pronouncements made by those in public authority. Here readers, Badger will provide three phrases to watch out for when you are trying to ascertain the amount of horse feathers being peddled on each occasion you might hear them.

1. ‘Everyone agrees that no change is not an option’ This phrase is especially beloved of those seeking to ram through a radical programme for which they have no democratic mandate on the basis that we’ve all gone to hell in a handcart and only they can operate the brake. It impliedly asks you to ignore the fact that they got us into this infernal truck in the first place. It is indicative of prejudgement of a substantive issue that precludes the chance of proper debate around alternatives. The meaning of the term ‘everyone’ in this case can vary from ‘the members of the ‘independent’ panel I appointed who have surprisingly agreed with my objectives’, through to ‘a policy think tank populated by people with ideas and no common sense’, ‘my cabinet colleagues and I’, and – as Badger suspects in Leighton Andrews’ and Mark Drakeford’s cases – ‘the voices in my head’.

2. ‘The level of service has fallen far short of the level of service we usually provide and is below expectations we set for ourselves’ Badger’s bugbear, if badgers have bugbears, readers, is the use of the above phrase in the context of the non-admission admission that the service provided has been appalling. Let’s look at the phrase critically for a moment or two. What is actually being said is that the person or body at fault is one which sets itself high standards and that – in this instance ONLY – those standards have not been met. It is asking you, the engaged reader, viewer or listener, to agree that – for example only – Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board could not possibly have known about the level of elderly patient mistreatment and neglect at Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, despite the fact that the course of alleged misconduct covered many years, was the subject of a number of complaints and involved a significant number of health workers, several of whom have now been charged with criminal offences. If they said what they mean in the way that they really feel about it, something like this would be more appropriate: “Our management systems are chaotic and we systematically ignored complaints and warning signs. Sorry.” (Jazz hands).

3. ‘Lessons must be learned; and they will be learned’ Now, readers, this is a phrase that can be deployed in almost any circumstance in which the speaker or writer needs to verbalise contrition while signalling that they want to brush a scandal under the carpet. It is most often deployed by those seeking to demonstrate that, no matter what previous failings there may have been, they are committed to sorting them out and hope that you will not notice that they are the group or individual responsible for the cock up in the first place. A special ‘sad’ voice is used to deliver this phrase, possibly to distract attention from some pretty lumpy carpets about the place. Jamie Adams used to love this one when he rattled on about the failings in our county’s education system that his administration had put right. Did you know, readers, that the administration that piloted Pembrokeshire’s education system into the mire is the same one that seeks your approval for digging it back out of the mire with the help of the Welsh Government? Did you know that Jamie Adams was Deputy Leader of the council for four years and a deputy Cabinet and Cabinet member for three or four years before that? Because if you didn’t, readers, Jamie isn’t about to tell you. Otherwise there is a risk that, unlike some of his Cabinet colleagues and IPPG stooges, you will be able to work out how many beans make five and where the buck must ultimately stop. No wonder it was once said ‘I have seen the future and it smirks’. Looking at Jamie Adams one can see the future is now. Badger is not demonstrating bias here, readers. Badger thinks that statements coming from authority should be forensically examined. After all, readers, policies mean pounds – and pounds mean you and me are going to pay policies’ prices. It is right to approach a statement with an open mind in the hope of judging whether, on balance, one agrees with a policy or not. It is our duty to read and listen critically and to question authority. Sometimes authority will be right, but we must always test it first and judge it. Badger is a sceptic, but that does not mean he is a pessimist. Badger always travels hopefully, readers, when reading a pronouncement, listening to a speech, following a debate. It is hardly Badger’s fault that it is usually better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

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Ambulance terror response fears in Wales over hospital delays

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Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter

AMBULANCE chiefs in Wales say they may not be able to respond properly to terror attacks because of hospital handover delays.

It follows a report highlighting the risk of “catastrophic harm” to the public if crews are busy at A&E departments during major incidents – this includes concerns about the availability of ambulances following a fire on a ferry heading to Fishguard last year.

The Welsh Ambulance Service service raised concerns after a mass-casualty simulation found it would have failed to provide an adequate response three out of four times.

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to prioritise cutting handover delays.

The tests were conducted after the Manchester Arena bombing public inquiry.

That found a host of failings by emergency services in the attack’s aftermath.

The warning follows the service’s claims some medics could not to respond to an explosion at Treforest Industrial Estate, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, in December 2023 because they were stuck outside Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

A major incident was declared after the blast in which a woman died.

Next week a report will be given to the ambulance service board alleging hospital officials failed to release crews from the hospital site.

Swansea Bay University Health Board denied this, saying ambulances were freed.

The ambulance service has questioned the effectiveness of release procedures.

Chief executive Jason Killens has written to Welsh health boards for assurances.

It fears it may not be able to respond to them properly because of hospital handover delays
The ambulance service fears: It may not be able to respond properly because of hospital handover delays

The ambulance report said if a major incident was declared there was a risk an “effective, timely, or safe response” may not happen.

“(This would result in) catastrophic harm (death) and a breach of the trust’s legal obligation,” it said.

The main reason for this was “lost capacity due to hospital handover delays”, over which, it said, it had no control.

It added it was not assured hospitals had plans to release ambulances effectively.

Welsh Ambulance Service operations chief Lee Brooks said it had plans to deliver an effective response to major incidents.

He recognised handover delays were a problem.

“Our ability to send a large-scale response to an incident may be hindered if our people and vehicles are not immediately released by emergency departments,” Mr Brooks said.

The report also highlighted two other occasions where the service had been concerned about ambulances not being released.

These included the fire on the Fishguard in 2023 ferry as well as a gas explosion in Swansea the month after.

Swansea Bay health board said it took its responsibilities seriously and had major incident plans.

Jason Killens
Welsh Ambulance Service boss Jason Killens says as many as 30,000 hours are lost each month due to waits to transfer patients to hospital

“These include agreed protocols to enable the rapid release of ambulances from the emergency department in the event that a major incident is declared,” it said.

“We can confirm that on the evening of the Treforest Industrial Estate fire our major incident plan was invoked and that we did release ambulances.”

Handover delays were raised in the Senedd last week after the health committee was told ambulance crews often see only one patient a shift.

Mr Killens said as much as 30,000 hours were lost monthly in Wales due to waiting to transfer patients to hospital.

Patient safety was at risk, he said, with handover times averaging more than two hours. The target is 15 minutes.

Sam Rowlands MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “It’s not good enough for the Labour Welsh Government to just ‘expect’ Health Boards to solve handover delays.

“We need substantial reform of the entire health system to clear the backlogs of getting patients out of hospital as well as in.

“Our Welsh Conservative plan of NHS reservists, along with care hospitals will deliver that immediate support needed to enable the Ambulance Service to save lives.”

The Welsh government said it expected health boards to cut patient handover delays as a priority over the next six months.

It said this year it was investing an extra £180m to help health boards and regional partnership boards manage more people in the community and avoid ambulances and hospital admission.

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Joy as St Davids Cathedral Music Festival gets into full swing

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THE ST DAVIDS Cathedral Festival is in full swing, offering a captivating array of performances that have enthralled audiences and celebrated the rich tradition of music in the historic setting of St Davids Cathedral. The event bring world-class musicians in Britain’s smallest city, running from 24th-29th May.

The programme of events kicked off on Friday, May 24, with The Children’s Chorus and Band, and Vox Angelica, Vicars Choral and Choral Scholars by Candlelight.

On Saturday night, May 25, festival-goers were treated to a truly stunning performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) under the baton of renowned conductor Martyn Brabbins. The evening’s programme featured masterful renditions of works by Brahms, Sibelius, and Mathias, with the extraordinary violinist Inmo Yang delivering a particularly unforgettable performance.

Audience members and performers alike expressed their appreciation for the concert, with many calling it an evening to remember.

Photographer Chris Limbert captured the essence of the night, showcasing the cathedral’s breathtaking atmosphere and the musicians’ passion.

Earlier that same day, one of the festival’s most anticipated events took place: the ‘Choristers Unplugged’ concert.

This event, a favourite among the choristers, saw the young singers performing to a packed audience.

The concert featured a delightful and whimsical pink theme, with choristers donning costumes inspired by ‘Wonka’, ‘Barbie’, ‘Six’, and other popular themes.

The performance was a resounding success, demonstrating the choristers’ versatility and love for music of all genres. Special recognition was given to the Head Chorister, who was praised for expertly curating the programme.

Festival attendees Laurence and his companion expressed their joy at being part of the event, noting how the concert’s atmosphere allowed them to share in the choristers’ enthusiasm and appreciation for a wide variety of music.

The St Davids Cathedral Festival continues to be a highlight in the regional cultural calendar, bringing together talented musicians and appreciative audiences in one of the country’s most iconic and spiritually significant venues.

As the festival progresses, it promises more remarkable performances and memorable experiences for all who attend.

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Injured climber rescued from cliffs near St Govan’s Head

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AN INJURED climber was rescued from the cliffs near St Govan’s Head on Friday afternoon, May 24, in a dramatic operation involving multiple agencies. The climber found themselves stranded on the perilous rocks, prompting a swift response from coastguard rescue teams and an RNLI lifeboat.

At approximately 3.50pm, HM Coastguard Dale, St Govans, and Tenby teams, along with the Angle RNLI lifeboat, were paged to assist in the rescue. The lifeboat was the first to reach the climber, providing immediate casualty care. However, due to the climber’s precarious position, evacuation by boat was deemed impossible.

In a statement on their Facebook page, HM Coastguard Dale praised the collaboration, stating, “This was another great example of multiple agencies working together for a positive outcome.”

The coastguard teams then initiated a rope rescue operation. Using a rope rescue stretcher, they successfully extracted the injured climber to the top of the cliff. The climber’s partner, who was also on the cliffs, was safely recovered during the operation.

Once the casualty was safely at the top, paramedics took over, providing necessary medical care. The coastguard teams were subsequently stood down, concluding a successful multi-agency rescue effort.

The quick and efficient response highlights the vital role of coordinated efforts in emergency situations, ensuring the safety and well-being of those in perilous conditions.

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