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Board asks charities to dig deeper

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Handed a poisoned chalice? Steve Moore

Handed a poisoned chalice? Steve Moore

CANCER charities and volunteers were left perplexed by the presentation of the Local Health Board’s plans for the future of cancer services in Pembrokeshire.

The meeting, held on Monday (Feb 23) morning at Withybush Hospital’s Postgraduate Centre, was intended by the Health Board to be a discussion of fundraising plans for the often-promised new Cancer Day Unit and new inpatient cancer unit. However, it developed into a thorough and critical examination of the board’s occasionally difficult relationship between charitable fundraisers and the board.

The sailing was not all through difficult waters. There was genuine and touching warmth between many of the people present directed towards those who had treated them.

The goodwill in the room extended to new Chief Executive, Steve Moore, whose efforts to meet with the public and listen to them had evidently been appreciated.

Sue Lewis, the County Director for the board, acknowledged past problems. With regard to the general medical admissions being made to Ward 10, she said that the pressures upon hospital beds over the winter months had meant that those admissions were unavoidable; however, she said that a new Ward 10 would definitely be a cancer ward. Sue Lewis was at pains to say that the discussions on Monday were for the provision of cancer services in Pembrokeshire only.

The good news given by the board was that enough money had been raised to build the new day unit in the location of the current Ward 10. Charities were told that the former Ward 14, as previously revealed by The Herald, would house paediatric care beds. However, the good news was tempered by the Health Board confirming that it had not secured any funding for the ‘new’ Ward 10 to be sited in the location of the present Ward 9.

Plans had been drawn for the new inpatient unit. But money to build it was there none.

And so the board asked the charities to help them.

The challenge put to the charities was stark. In terms, the board said: “You have raised so much money over the last eleven years. Please raise the same again, but in a very short period of time.”

Responding for Adam’s Bucketful of Hope, Chris Evans-Thomas told the meeting: “After all the fundraising charities have done, we need something tangible in return.” She sympathised with new Chief Executive Steve Moore, who had, she said been ‘handed a poisoned chalice’. Directing her fire at the Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay, she made it plain that she expected it to pay up.

Margaret Bond, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Withybush Hospital Cancer Day Unit Appeal, highlighted the reliance of the charities themselves on the goodwill of the public, while trying to turn pennies and pounds into the type of sums that can fund equipment purchases for patient care.

Sophie Thomas gave an overview of the work of The Paul Sartori Foundation in end of life care, while the representative of Shalom House Palliative Care Centre drew attention to the struggles faced by small charities in continuing to provide services complementary to those provided by the NHS.

Responding, Sue Lewis stated that while the board would look to the Welsh Government to pitch in, and ask for generous help from larger national charities, there would, nevertheless, be a significant demand upon the goodwill of local charities.

Paul Hawkins, the Operations Manager for the Board, was at pains to spell out that in order to begin work on phase two of the plans – reconstructing an inpatient unit to replace that removed – he would need ‘a clear sight’ that the £1m target for the new unit was on track.

Quite what that meant if the target was not in ‘clear sight’ after the completion of the Cancer Day Unit was not spelled out.

The issue of trust was raised by more than one representative of a charity. Mr Hawkins was told point blank that at least one of the charities represented did not trust the board to deliver. The Herald understands that, in light of the trust issues, charities are very likely to place significant strings on any other money they hand over to the board.

The charities also expressed grave concerns about the displacement of money from their central charitable activities towards the building of a new Ward 10. Sophie Thomas, from The Paul Sartori Foundation, expressed particular concerns about the finite amount of money available for charitable giving in Pembrokeshire and the way in which third party resources, on which patients depend, might be adversely affected.

Lyn Neville of Pembrokeshire Cancer Support was not at the meeting but he has repeatedly raised questions about where the extra money will come from. He told The Herald that he was worried about the path the board had taken: “The original plans were always to build the Day Unit last. I am very concerned that we might have a new Day Unit but no dedicated cancer ward. I am also concerned that – even if the money is found for a new ward – there will be difficulties in sustainably staffing it.”

One charity campaigner, who did not want to be identified, told us that they were concerned that the board turned to charities to raise money for this specific capital project but not others, saying: “Refurbishment should be part of a rolling programme for all areas of the hospital, paid for out of core funding.”

The Health Board was due to provide a press release following the meeting. At the time of going to press, the board has confirmed that a press release is now scheduled for next week.

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Ongoing incident closes busy Haverfordwest road

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A MAJOR road in Haverfordwest has been closed due to a police incident this afternoon (May 5)

A man was seen holding onto the outside railings of a bridge, talking to police officers.

The police said: “We are dealing with an ongoing incident, with concern for the welfare of a male, which has meant the A487 between Cartlett Road and Thomas Parry Way in Haverfordwest has been closed.

“Motorists are asked to avoid the area and find alternative routes.

There are reports of long queues for motorists in and around Haverfordwest with some drivers messaging The Herald saying “Town is gridlocked.”

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James Oulton found not guilty of 30 counts of sexual assault against 11 ex-pupils

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JAMES OULTON, 34, the primary school teacher who was accused of 30 charges of sexual assault against pupils has been found not guilty of all charges at Swansea Crown court today, following a lengthy trial (May 4).

The charges, now dismissed, had related to his time as a Haverfordwest primary school teacher, between 2012 and 2018.

Mr Oulton had described the accusations as a “witch-hunt”.

He confirmed he had made a formal complaint against one officer involved.

Speaking after the verdict, James Oulton said: “I am glad two years and eight months of hell for my family, colleagues and friends has come to an end.”

“I’m just glad it’s over and that the jury came to the right verdict.”

The press was only able to report on the prosecution case, but not the defence case – because Oulton him self via his barrister had made an application to the court for a press restriction.

The Herald feels that this press restriction on the reporting of both sides of the case, once granted, was unlawful, and is appealing to the Court of Appeal on a point of law.

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Nineteen arrests and weapons seized during knife crime action week

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NINETEEN people were arrested and a number of weapons were seized as police took part in a national week of action against knife crime, police have said.

Dyfed-Powys Police has released its results from Op Sceptre, which ran from April 26 to May 2, during which officers across the force took part in activity to crack down on crime involving blades.

The week was led by the force’s roads policing units (RPU), with a focus on targeting operations in key areas throughout the four divisions.

Neighbourhood policing teams were instrumental in engaging with shopkeepers, creating educational videos for communities on social media, and working with RPU on joint patrols in crime hotspots.

Inspector Andrew Williams said: “There have been some excellent results forcewide  from this year’s Op Sceptre, and as a result of the increased proactivity in key areas, there has also been a vast amount of other offences detected.

“This was thanks to some outstanding work by roads policing units, neighbourhood policing teams, the joint firearms unit and response officers.

“Our approach was to educate our communities on the laws around carrying and selling knives, and the dangers associated with having a blade on your possession, which was backed up with operational activity across the force.

“This has been very well received, and will be continued during the next operation.”

During the week 20 stop searches were carried out, resulting in seven arrests and numerous weapons being seized.

Twelve people were arrested for drug driving following stop checks on vehicles, one of which led to the discovery of a cannabis cultivation in the Cardigan area.

Traffic offence reports were issued to 41 drivers, and two people will be dealt with for failing to stop for officers when requested.

Neighbourhood policing activity saw engagement with 95 shop owners and community leaders, with officers and PCSOs reassured to find that most businesses were complying with the Challenge 25 policy. Those who were not will be dealt with accordingly.

Insp Williams said: “Our work to tackle knife crime will continue as we consider intelligence logs that were submitted during the operation and develop targeted plans to deal with concerns in our communities.

“We would also like to remind people that while our knife amnesty has now concluded, the best way to dispose of an unwanted blade is to take it to your local recycling centre.”

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