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Empty promises as election looms

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Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 14.39.37A PRESS release from Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies has claimed that in the event the Conservatives are able to form an administration after May’s elections to the Senedd, it will act to return services transferred from Withybush back to the Haverfordwest hospital.

At the same time, Angela Burns, Mr Davies’s fellow shadow front bench spokesperson issued her own release pledging the reopening of Tenby’s Minor Injuries Unit. With elections upon us later this year, a conversation Mr Davies had with local health campaigner David Williams appears to add more flesh to the bones of Mr Davies’s promise to return clinical specialisms to Haverfordwest. On the Save Withybush SCBU page, David Williams recounts a conversation he had with the AM. And the first question alights upon a key point.

Asked whether he has made the statement because the Conservatives haven’t a hope of a being in power after May 16, Mr Davies denies the promise is an empty one. However, as Mr Davies is wellaware, the chances of the Conservatives being in a position to bring such a policy to fruition is mathematically negligible. As a statement of principle, Mr Davies’s words might merit praise as a promise that can be delivered, it is of no consequence at all. And much the same might be said for Ms Burns’s promise to return an MIU to Tenby.

Clinical priorities take second place

Perhaps more seriously, Mr Davies lays himself open to a potential charge of hypocrisy. When asked how he would tackle the clinical priorities expressed by the Wales Deanery – the body responsible for the postgraduate training of doctors and the allocation of junior doctors to hospitals – Mr Davies suggested that clinical expertise would bow to political will. The very sort of coercion alleged by the Conservatives and hospital campaigners against the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.

Paul Davies is reported to say: “The Welsh Deanery are appointed and funded by Welsh Government, so we will tell them this is what we are going to do so you have to get the people in place to make it happen, as recruitment & training are the deanery responsibilities.” Bearing in mind that one of the primary complaints of the Welsh Conservatives is that the current Welsh Government has failed to listen to clinical concerns, it now appears to be countenancing listening to some clinical concerns but ignoring others to suit its own political agenda.

Drakeford hits back

Criticism of Mr Davies was swift, Mark Drakeford the Welsh Health Minister was quick to draw attention to inconsistencies between what Mr Davies has published and what he and the Secretary of State for Wales have said to the Minister elsewhere. A Welsh Government spokesperson told The Herald: “During a recent meeting with the Minister for Health, Stephen Crabb MP and Paul Davies AM acknowledged that a sustained effort now needs to be made by all stakeholders to change the public narrative around the future of Withybush Hospital.” The spokesperson continued: “These plans are simply not backed up by any clinical evidence whatsoever.

“A review by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health concluded there is no clinical sense in reversing the decision to remove maternity and paediatric services from Withybush Hospital. It found the new arrangements are safe, sustainable in the long-term, have led to improved outcomes for mothers and babies, there is better compliance with professional standards and more women are being cared for in the Hywel Dda area than previously. “The hospital plays – and will continue to play – an important role in the provision of services for people in Pembrokeshire. It will be important for us all to highlight the many steps being taken to strengthen services at Withybush Hospital, and to help the local community understand Withybush’s future is secure.”

Moving the debate on

That viewpoint is as one with the views of The Health Board itself. Chief Executive of the Health Board Steve Moore has made it abundantly clear in a number of public statements that the Board is not considering returning services transferred to Glangwili elsewhere. In an interview with this newspaper last November, Interim Clinical Lead Iain Robertson-Steel said: “For six months clinicians here have been working towards formulating a viable strategy for Withybush’s service delivery … the decision-making process has been clinically-led.”

Following Mr Davies press release, Health Board Chief Executive Steve Moore said: “As a Health Board we are committed to the future of Withybush Hospital and are working hard to improve and develop services in partnership with the people of Pembrokeshire.” On the particular services referred to by Mr Davies, Mr Moore told The Herald: “I know there has been public concern about changes to some women and children’s services, which is why we asked for an independent review by the Royal Colleges. They were clear in their advice to us that there was no clinical sense in reversing the changes and found evidence of improved outcomes for patients.

“We are however continuing our conversation with patients, staff and the general public to make further improvements to the patient experience of care, such as the transport schemes we have put in place and looking closely at family accommodation as we progress with the Phase Two capital project to improve the environment at Glangwili Hospital.” Even though the Conservatives are most unlikely to put public money where Paul Davies’s mouth is, the AM does not appear to have factored in the capital costs already incurred by the Board and what will be done to replace money spent by the Board in pursuit of clinical policies if they are to be displaced by political ones.

Davies pilloried

Plaid Cymru’s Preseli Pembrokeshire candidate for the Senedd elections was withering in his condemnation of Mr Davies. Herald columnist John Osmond, himself a highly visible and long-term campaigner in support of the Hospital, attacked the loss of services from Withybush as ‘deplorable’ and ‘unacceptable’.

Turning his fire on the Conservative AM, said: “Paul Davies is safe in making all the pledges he likes about returning services to Withybush, blithely confident in the knowledge that the Conservatives will be unable to form a government in Cardiff Bay following the next election. They are miles away from forming a majority administration on their own, and the fact is that no-one with any clout would consider working with them in a coalition. As far as forming a government is concerned the Welsh Tory Party is a busted flush.

“On the NHS Paul Davies and the Tories are complete hypocrites. They claim to be standing up to defend public services, and in particular Withybush hospital, when it is their Westminster Government’s ideologically driven public expenditure cuts that are the prime cause of the predicament the NHS finds itself in. They claim to be ring-fencing the NHS but their spending increases are running behind inflation. “Meanwhile, their swingeing cuts to local government budgets means that social services are in crisis and older people are bed blocking the acute hospital sector. Paul Davies should be ashamed of himself for shouting from the side-lines in west Wales while it is his own Home Counties Tory Party that is hitting the people he claims to represent.”

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Buckingham palace announces Prince Philip’s funeral arrangements

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PRINCE PHILIP’S royal ceremonial funeral will take place April 17 at Windsor Castle — a slimmed-down service amid the COVID-19 pandemic that will be entirely closed to the public.

Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, took part in planning his funeral and its focus on family was in accordance with his wishes. The 99-year-old duke, who died Friday, also took part in designing the modified Land Rover that will carry his coffin.

“Although the ceremonial arrangements are reduced, the occasion will still celebrate and recognize the duke’s life and his more than 70 years of service to the Queen, the UK and the Commonwealth,” a palace spokesman said Saturday while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Prince Harry, Philip’s grandson who stepped away from royal duties last year and now lives in California, will attend the service along with other members of the royal family. His wife, the Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant, has been advised by her doctor not to attend.

Palace officials said the ceremony would be conducted strictly in line with the British government’s COVID-19 guidelines, which restrict the number of people attending funerals to 30. They declined to say whether the royal family would be required to wear masks.

The palace appealed to the public not to gather in Windsor, and for those who wished to pay their respects to Philips to stay at home instead.

“While there is sadness that the public will not be able to physically be part of events to commemorate the life of the duke, the royal family asks that anyone wishing to express their condolences do so in the safest way possible and not by visiting Windsor or any other royal palaces to pay their respects,″ the palace spokesman said. “The family’s wish is very much that people continue to follow the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.”

The announcement comes after military teams across the U.K. and on ships at sea fired 41-gun salutes Saturday to mark the death of Philip, honouring the former naval officer and husband of Queen Elizabeth II whom they considered one of their own.

Batteries in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast — the capitals of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom — as well as other cities around the U.K. and the Mediterranean outpost of Gibraltar fired the volleys at one-minute intervals beginning at midday. Ships including the HMS Montrose, a frigate patrolling the Persian Gulf, offered their own salutes.

“The Duke of Edinburgh served among us during the Second World War, and he remained devoted to the Royal Navy and the Armed Forces as a whole,” Gen. Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said in a statement. “A life well-lived. His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness and an unshakeable sense of duty.”

Members of the Commonwealth, a group of 54 countries headed by the monarch, were also invited to honour Philip. The Australian Defence Force began its salute at 5 p.m. local time outside Parliament House in Canberra, and New Zealand planned to offer its own tribute on Sunday.

Philip joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1939 and once had a promising military career. In 1941, he was honoured for his service during the battle of Cape Mattapan off the coast of Greece, when his control of searchlights aboard the HMS Valiant allowed the battleship to pinpoint enemy vessels in the dark. Philip rose to the rank of commander before he retired from active duty.

Two years after the war ended, Philip married Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey when she was 21 and he was 26. Philip’s naval career came to an abrupt end when King George VI died in 1952 and his wife became queen.

At the queen’s coronation in 1953, Philip swore to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb” and settled into a life supporting the monarch. The couple had four children — Charles, the heir to the throne, Anne, Andrew and Edward.

Before he retired from official duties in 2017, the prince carried out more than 22,000 solo public engagements and supported over 780 organizations, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for young people.

Members of the public continued to honour Philip’s life of service on Saturday, leaving flowers outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle despite appeals from authorities and the royal family to refrain from gathering.

“I think everyone would like to pay their respects,” Maureen Field, 67, said outside Windsor Castle. “Because of the virus, a lot of people have to stay away. He didn’t want a big funeral. He wanted a very private time with his family to say their goodbyes. So, we’ve all got to respect that.”

Mike Williams, 50, travelled from his home in Surrey, southwest of London, to Buckingham Palace to honour the prince.

“He’s a massive loss to the country and to the world, I think, so we wanted to come and pay respects,” Williams said. “I don’t know what it achieves, but it just felt like the right thing to do.”

(Associated Press, London – by James Brooks and Tom Rayner)

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Police: RNLI ‘most likely saved man’s life’ following tombstoning incident

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POLICE have issued an urgent warning following a tombstoning incident Tenby on Saturday evening (Apr 10).

A multi-agency operation was launched just after 6pm following reports of a man in difficulty after jumping from cliffs into the sea.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys police told The Herald: “We were called to the beach opposite St Catherine’s Island at around 6.15pm today, where a man had got into difficulty after jumping off the cliff into the water.

“On the arrival of officers, RNLI were at the scene and were administering CPR to the 23-year-old who was unconscious and not breathing.

“Fortunately, he regained consciousness shortly after and was taken to hospital for assessment.

Inspector Gavin Howells added: “This incident highlights the serious danger posed by tombstoning or cliff jumping, and the potentially life-threatening consequences.

“We urge people not to take part in this sort of activity anywhere along our coastline, and not to put themselves or the emergency services at risk for a thrill.

“We would like to thank our colleagues at the RNLI for their swift response to this incident, and for their actions which most likely saved this man’s life.”

RNLI Tenby posted on Facebook the following: “The Georgina Taylor was launched after person seen in difficulty in water

“Tenby’s RNLI inshore lifeboat was launched at around 6.25pm on Saturday, following a report of somebody in difficulty in the sea off Castle Beach.

“The volunteer crew were quickly on scene and immediately saw the casualty, who had been pulled from the water and was on the rocks.

“The casualty was taken from the rocks and into the lifeboat, where Casualty Care was administered whilst the helmsman made best speed to the harbour.

“As the lifeboat was entering the harbour, an ambulance was arriving at the slipway.

“The crew then assisted the ambulance personnel in getting the casualty onto the stretcher and into the ambulance, before re-housing the lifeboat.

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Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin

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POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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