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Mixed reaction to cancer treatment times

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Very pleased: Vaughan Gething AM

Very pleased: Vaughan Gething AM

THE LATEST cancer treatment figures for Wales were released last week (Feb17) and have been described as, variously, an improvement and a ‘worrying deterioration.’

The new figures published show that the Welsh NHS met the 98% target for treating cancer patients within 31 days in December 2015, with 98.9% of people starting treatment within the target time – the best performance recorded since October 2013.

Meanwhile, 86.2% of people started treatment within 62 days of being referred with urgent suspected cancer by their GP – this includes all diagnostic tests and consultations with experts. This is an improvement on November’s figure of 84.3% and is the best performance since July 2015.

However, in December 2014, 87.7% of patients referred by the Urgent Suspected Cancer (USC) route were treated within 62 days.

The improvements to cancer waiting times come after Deputy Health Minister Vaughan Gething asked each of Wales’ health boards to produce 100-day plans to improve cancer services in October 2015. In October only 81% of patients were treated within the 62 day period.

Welcoming the improvement, Vaughan Gething said: “Over the last year, more than 16,000 people in Wales have been treated for cancer in the Welsh NHS. More than 14,700 were treated within target time – 9,000 within the 31-day target.

“I’m very pleased the NHS met the 31-day target in December 2015. I expect health boards to ensure this performance continues in the months ahead and improve performance for people on the 62-day pathway.”

However, the performance of the Welsh NHS was criticised by Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar, who claimed that only 83.37% of patients referred through the USC route in the last quarter of 2015 were treated within 62 days.

Mr Millar said: “Today’s figures highlight a worrying deterioration in urgent cancer waiting times in Wales, against a target which hasn’t been met since 2008.

“Ultimately, Welsh communities have every right to question whether performance is ever going to reach an acceptable standard under Labour.

“Delays between diagnosis and treatment create huge added worry for patients and their families and can often result in poorer outcomes.

“Labour’s record-breaking NHS budget cuts have hit frontline services hard and it is patients and their families who feel the consequences first hand.

“Welsh Conservatives would provide the investment our NHS deserves and our £100 million patients’ fund would ensure accountability in frontline cancer services and boosted access to treatment.”

The figure of 83.37% is at odds with the Welsh Government claim of 83.7%. In this case, it appears that the data provided by the Welsh NHS is correct. 1,463 out of 1,747 patients were treated within the 62 day period, which equates to 83.74%.

The target that Mr Millar refers to is 95% of USC referrals being treated within 62 days. While the Welsh NHS has failed to meet this target, it is notable that the comparative target set by the Conservative-controlled NHS in Wales is 85%.

In fact, given some of the rhetoric used by the UK Conservatives to describe the Welsh NHS, including David Cameron’s infamous claim that Offa’s Dyke is ‘the line between life and death’, it is worth comparing the data from the English NHS with its Welsh counterpart.

Over the quarter, 97.5% of Welsh patients diagnosed not through the USC route were treated within 31 days. The figures for the English NHS for October –December 2015 show that 96.8% of patients were treated within the 31 day period.

For GP USC referrals, 83.4% of patients were treated within 62 days. This, compared to the Welsh figure of 83.7% is hardly a ringing endorsement. The English NHS did outperform the Welsh NHS in October, when 81.7% of patients were treated within 62 days compared to 81% in Wales. However in November 89.4% of Welsh patients were treated within 62 days compared to 83.5% in England, and in December, the Welsh figure of 86.2% compares favourably with the English 85.1%.

These figures show two things. Firstly, claims that the NHS is underperforming as a result of Labour leadership are somewhat misleading in this instance. Secondly, delivering performances which are only slightly better than the English NHS is a worthy achievement, but not one on which much political capital can be made for Welsh Labour. The only parties really able to campaign on the basis of NHS improvements are those which have not recently been in a position to disprove this by actually holding a position of power in the UK recently – Plaid Cymru, UKIP and the Greens.

StatsWales has said that due to the relatively small numbers in the monthly statistic ‘care should be taken when interpreting percentages.’ However, this has not stopped every political party, including the Welsh Labour Government, from using the figures as they are released each month to show either a reasonable performance (Labour) or a disaster in the making (everyone else).

However, in the case of cancer treatment waiting times, it appears that the recent OECD findings, which show there is little difference between NHS service in any of the Home Nations, is borne out, with the Welsh figures following similar fluctuations to those in England, but consistently performing at a slightly higher level.

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Return of Walk and Talk group for Dementia Action Week

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Walk and Talk Group will make its return next week, coinciding with Dementia Action Week which runs from May 17-24.

Several events are being held across Pembrokeshire and the UK and PAVS has announced two Walk and Talk sessions.

One will be held in the South of the County in Begelly on Wednesday, May 19, and one in the North of the County in Newport on Thursday, May 20.

Walk and Talk is a dementia supportive group. The group provides the opportunity to socialise, improve your physical and mental wellbeing and at the same time enjoy the wonderful Pembrokeshire scenery. There will be walk and talk groups every week starting from next week.

Places are limited and will be on a first come first served basis,  to book a place on these walks please contact Cherry Evans on 07849 086009 or email cherry.evans@pavs.org.uk

Dementia Action Week aims to promote and make people aware that with the right support, people living with dementia can live a good quality of life doing what matters most to them for as long as possible.

One in fourteen people over the age of 65 are living with Dementia and approximately 42,000 people in Wales have Dementia. 65% of people living with dementia are women and 35% men

The covid-19 pandemic meant that many groups and clubs had to shut down and that has made things difficult for those people living with dementia.

People were left isolated and feeling lonely but thanks to modern technology they have been able to keep many in contact with those groups and their loved ones.

Throughout Dementia Action Week there will be daily interviews on the radio station Pure West Radio with lots of information about the activities and points of reference for support across Pembrokeshire.

These daily interviews will cover everything from diagnosing dementia, support, carers perspectives and even the power of music. You can listen to these each day at 11.15am Monday to Friday and at 2.15pm on Saturday and Sunday

If you fancy trying out a ‘tea and natter’ session on Zoom on Tuesday, May 18, at 2.30pm please contact Cherry Evans on 07849 086009 or email cherry.evans@pavs.org.uk

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Cllr Mike James is new Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has a new Chairman.

Cllr Mike James became Chairman at the virtual Annual Meeting of Council today (Friday, May 14) following an extended period as Vice Chairman due to the Covid-19 situation.

Cllr James, who represents St Dogmaels, moves into the Chairman’s seat vacated by Cllr Simon Hancock.

Cllr Pat Davies was appointed Vice-Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council.

At the same meeting Cllr Hancock was appointed Presiding Member for the coming year.

Cllr James joined Pembrokeshire County Council in 2010 and has previously served as Chairman of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Chairman of National Park Wales.

Cllr James said: “I feel very privileged to be appointed Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council.

“I always try to achieve the best in my life and this is right up there at the top.

“I hope I can achieve the high standard set by Councillors who have been Chairman before me. Councillor Simon Hancock most certainly accomplished that standard.”

Cllr James is married to Sian and they have two daughters, Fern James and Rhiannon Lloyd.

Born and bred in St Dogmaels, Cllr James attended Ysgol Llandudoch and Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi.

He worked for 32 years at Slimma/Dewhirst Cardigan and for four years as an LSA in Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn.

Cllr James has also served as Clerk to St Dogmaels Community Council, as the Carers Champion for Pembrokeshire County Council and as a representative on numerous other committees and sub-committees.

A member of Cardigan Rugby Club Male Voice Choir, Cllr James also sits on the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel.

Cllr James added: “The last 14 months have not been easy for many people. I hope there is a light at the end of a long tunnel where we can meet and speak to loved ones again.

“I am a people’s person and I hope, if I am allowed, to have the opportunity to meet and talk to as many residents in Pembrokeshire as possible.”

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New international travel rules for Wales confirmed by First Minister

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International travel will restart for people in Wales from Monday 17 May, the Welsh Government has confirmed today.

As part of changes to Wales’ coronavirus regulations, people living in Wales will be able to travel to some overseas destinations without the need to quarantine on their return.

But additional safeguards will be put in place to help prevent new cases of coronavirus being imported into Wales.

A traffic lights system, aligned with England and Scotland, will be introduced. Countries will be classified as green, amber and red, depending on their rates of coronavirus.

Mandatory quarantine is in place for all people returning to the UK from countries on the amber and red lists. All people returning from overseas travel must have a PCR test.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

 “Wales, like other parts of the UK, will be restarting international travel. But protecting people’s health continues to be our top priority and we want to do everything we can to prevent coronavirus from being re-imported into Wales.

 “This will not be like travel in the past. Everyone travelling abroad will have to have a test when they come home and for many people, they will need to quarantine when they get home. There are significant fines in place for those who do not follow the legal requirements.

“Some countries are not yet opening up travel to people from the UK. It’s my strong advice that this is the year to stay at home and enjoy all that Wales has to offer.”

Under the international travel rules:

• People arriving from green-list countries are not required to quarantine on their return to Wales, but they must book and pay for a mandatory PCR test on or before day two of their return. All travellers and members of their household will also be reminded about the availability of additional lateral flow tests to continue to monitor their health.

• People arriving from amber-list countries are required to quarantine for 10 days at home on their return. This is a legal requirement. They are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and on day eight. Unlike in England, Wales does not operate a test-to-release scheme where an additional test can be taken on day five to reduce the period of quarantine. This is because some 30% of people who develop Covid-19 do so after day five.

• People arriving from countries on the red list are required to quarantine for a full 10 days on arrival in the UK at a designated UK port in a government-managed facility – a ‘covid hotel’ – at their own cost, starting from £1,750 per person. All UK entry points for arrivals from red-list countries are in England and Scotland, which means Welsh residents returning from those countries will need to quarantine outside Wales. Travellers are also required to book and pay for mandatory PCR tests on day two and day eight.

All those who do not follow the rules for red-list countries face fixed notice penalties of £10,000.

Welsh residents must also consult the requirements for visitors for any country they plan to travel to. Restrictions may be in place, including proof of vaccination, tests, quarantine and reasons for entry.

Vaccination status certificates will be available for people in Wales who have had two doses of their vaccination and need to urgently travel to a country that requires covid vaccination proof from Monday 24 May.

The First Minister added:

“We call on people to think about whether they need to travel overseas at this time. We should be cautious about going abroad in light of the ongoing risk of coronavirus and the presence of variants of concern in many countries.

“My clear message to everyone is make Wales your destination of choice this year.”

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