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Doctor: ‘Glangwili will not cope’

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crash THE PEMBROKESHIRE Herald has received the explosive full text of a letter sent by a senior clinician at Withybush Hospital, which condemns the Health Board’s proposals for future paediatric care in Haverfordwest as “untested” and “untried”.  

The open letter, from Paediatrician Martin Simmonds, was sent to the Board a week after it announced plans to transfer key neonatal services away from Withybush as of August 1. Dr Simmonds letter, exposes the fact that clinicians DO NOT endorse the Health Board’s policy and have grave reservations about the Board’s decision to press ahead regardless of clinician’s concerns.

The Herald’s article (Big Holes in Board’s “safety net”) in our May 9 edition revealed startling deficiencies in the Health Board’s rationale underpinning ending service provision at Withybush. It now appears that the concerns of campaigners and families who contacted us before that article (“Big Holes in Health Board’s Safety Net”) are shared by those clinicians which the Health Board has claimed support the changes being made.

Peter Milewski, a retired consultant surgeon who worked at Withybush for many years, told the Herald: “It feels like a train crash is about to happen.”

Open letter to Hywel Dda University Health Board 

Please reconsider the proposed Paediatric service model for Withybush Hospital. It must be postponed. This may be our last opportunity to be heard and have our concerns communicated to the Health Board Executive. At a meeting earlier this year (of the dozens I have attended), I said that although not our preferred model a PAU model could be considered if the middle grade rota couldn’t be sustained. It was an untested, untried suggestion without research or risk assessment. A few months later it emerged as the Health Board’s preferred service model. I note that historically the public have received reassurances that these decisions were “clinician led”. I understand the importance of this statement to give credibility to the plans. However, a Health Board statement says that the majority of clinicians support this plan. I am not one of them. I do not know of any Paediatricians in Hywel Dda who have given their support to this service model. Work undertaken by two senior nurses at Withybush, both of whom I regret to say are now absent through illness, have produced research indicating that the risk assessment for a PAU here indicates that it is neither safe or resilient enough to serve the needs of the local population this remote from the hub Paediatric inpatient base. We keep being told to provide answers and not to continually raise concerns and objections to the proposals. The impression is that until we provide the “desired” answer we are hindering the Health Board’s attempt to move forward. We are not “yes” men, we are professionals working in a vocation we are passionate about, with a fear that irreversible harm will occur if the current proposals go through. It has become increasingly difficult to have confidence that our concerns reach the Health Board. Tensions and divisions amongst staff are emerging as the “who knew what and when” charade continues. Don’t tell us NOT to mention potential clinical scenarios in the future that are of “low frequency”. Don’t insult our intelligence or compassion. We are not shroud waving; we just feel it isn’t as safe a service as it should be. Glangwili will not cope with the additional work coming its way this winter, either physically or with respect to workforce issues. Families will end up travelling out of hours from here to Glangwili and then instructed to go to Bronglais to be admitted. We will have babies with bronchiolitis that have to be transferred in an ambulance despite potential deterioration en route because if we insisted on keeping them here to administer supportive treatment, I would be guilty of professional misconduct. A&E staff have only one Consultant with Paediatric experience: that is not sufficient to say they can manage out of hours. I don’t expect the current reliance on locum middle grades to be sustainable once they learn of the absence of local Paediatric support at night. Our concerns: 1. I am not a conspiracy theorist but when the Chairman and Chief Executive elect to move on this summer and the two most senior Paediatricians in Glangwili opt for unexpected early retirement before August 1 it is concerning. 2. Midwifery led services and A&E appear to have been given reassurances about the level of Paediatric support they can expect that we do not recognise in the proposed Paediatric model. 3. Our nurses have spent a considerable amount of time involved in Estates planning at Glangwili. Estates, up until last week I believe, didn’t even know about a planned PAU located within ward 14. This does not give the impression of any concern about how Withybush will manage a seismic change in service in August. You can imagine how valued that makes our staff feel. Please tell them that Dr Simmonds got it wrong about the PAU model, go public and punish him as you see fit. I would rather be a “fall guy” to save the Health Board’s blushes than have the whispered comments in the years to come that I was the architect of this proposal. Tell them we can staff a 24- hour Paediatric unit at Withybush with recently secured middle grade staffing. No, tell them we demand a 24-hour service here such that we can admit a child overnight and discharge the next morning or administer phototherapy for the jaundiced baby from St Davids who must otherwise travel to Glangwili for admission. Tell them we can develop a specialist Paediatric nurse role in A&E but that it will take time. Tell them that unless we stop this process now, this winter will see greater challenges and upset than there needs to be, adversely affecting the health of families and staff both here and at Glangwili. Martin Simmonds Paediatrician Withybush Hospital.

The Pembrokeshire Herald asked the Health Board for a response to Martin Simmonds’ letter. A Health Board spokesperson said: “We welcome the fact that Dr. Simmonds has recognised that change is needed and we want to reassure our patients and we are continuously working with our clinical teams and Welsh Government to find the right solutions and ensure ‘safety nets’ are in place as instructed by the Minister following an independent review of these services by an expert panel. The safety of these services is paramount and we are being very clear that only when we are confident our solutions are safe and sustainable will we implement them.”

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Education

Exciting visit to France for Pembrokeshire school pupils

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LAST week, 60 children and 16 teaching staff visited the Bassin d’Arcachon in France as part of a Taith funded project. 

The children, representing Pennar Community School, Neyland Community School, Prendergast Community School, Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi and Haverfordwest High School, engaged in a week of activities with French school children. 

They visited lessons, took part in dancing, art, maths and playground games, all with the aim of developing modern foreign language skills, exploring cultural similarities and differences as well as having an overarching theme of sustainability in schools and caring for the environment. 

The children explored the Dune de Pilat, the largest natural sand dune in Europe, and Biscarosse beach where they undertook beach and environmental studies.

The town of Neyland has had a twinning connection with the town of Sanguinet for more than ten years and this trip allowed these friendships to develop further and pave the way for a return visit by up to 20 French children next year.

The group was hosted by the twinning committee and the mayor at a reception in the town hall where the children had the opportunity to sample local dishes.

The children and staff were excellent ambassadors for their schools and for Pembrokeshire, laying the foundations for future collaborations.

Taith is Wales’ international learning exchange programme, with taith being Welsh for journey.

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Business

UK inflation falls to 2.3%, raising questions over interest rate cuts

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UK inflation has dropped to 2.3% in April, marking its lowest level in nearly three years. However, the decline fell short of analysts’ expectations, dampening hopes for an imminent interest rate cut by the Bank of England.

City analysts had anticipated a reduction to 2.1%, closer to the Bank’s 2% target. This discrepancy led markets to adjust their forecasts, now predicting that the Bank’s current rate of 5.25% may not be reduced until August, rather than next month as previously speculated.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the decrease from March’s 3.2% was primarily due to lower energy and food costs. The last time inflation was this low was in July 2021. Significant contributions to the drop included a record 27% fall in electricity and gas prices over the past year and a modest 2.9% annual rise in food and soft drink prices, the smallest increase since November 2021.

Illustrating the ongoing strain on household budgets, furniture retailers reduced prices by 0.9% between March and April, while overall goods prices dropped by 0.8% month-on-month. However, annual services inflation, reflecting inter-company charges, remained stubbornly high at 5.9%, only slightly down from March’s 6%.

Despite the overall fall in the consumer prices index (CPI), the ONS noted that higher property rents and mortgage costs kept the alternative CPIH measure, which includes housing costs, elevated at 3% year-on-year. Petrol and diesel prices rose last month, although the price of Brent crude has recently stabilised around $83 (£65) per barrel.

KPMG UK’s chief economist, Yael Selfin, suggested that the chance of an interest rate cut next month had diminished. “Falling inflation nears the Bank of England’s target but may not suffice for an early rate cut,” she stated. Echoing this sentiment, Paula Bejarano Carbo of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research noted that core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, remains high at 3.9%. Combined with robust wage growth, this persistence could compel the Bank’s monetary policy committee to maintain rates.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak heralded April’s CPI figure as a “major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal,” asserting that it validated the government’s economic strategy. Conversely, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves argued that it was premature for the Conservatives to celebrate, highlighting the ongoing pressures of soaring prices, mortgage bills, and taxes.

In the eurozone, inflation held steady at 2.4% in April.

Separate ONS data indicated a larger-than-expected rise in public borrowing for April, with the monthly deficit reaching £20.5bn. Despite a decrease in debt payments, the high cost of servicing government debt exceeded expectations, potentially ruling out pre-election tax cuts.

Economic adviser Martin Beck from the EY Item Club described the public finance figures as disappointing, suggesting that continued higher borrowing costs would likely prevent any significant fiscal easing before the next general election.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Economy and Energy, Samuel Kurtz MS, praised the inflation drop, attributing it to the UK Conservative Government’s effective economic policies. He called on the Welsh Labour Government to support the economy by fully implementing business rates relief and reforming growth taxes.

Paul Butterworth, CEO of Chambers Wales South East, South West, and Mid, noted that while the reduction in inflation was significant, it remained above the Bank of England’s target. He expressed hope that the continued downward trend might prompt an interest rate cut soon.

Meanwhile, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) warned that despite the fall in inflation, the cost of living crisis continues to severely impact mental health. Their recent survey revealed that 74% of respondents felt their mental health was worsened by the crisis, with particularly high impacts on those with pre-existing conditions, women, ethnic minorities, and lower-income households.

BACP’s Director, Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, emphasised the need for government action to address these mental health challenges. The BACP has proposed a 13-point action plan to improve access to mental health services, stressing the importance of funding and support for vulnerable populations.

As the nation grapples with economic and mental health pressures, the government’s response to these intertwined issues will be crucial in the coming months.

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Community

Fleet Air Arm veteran donates ‘a lifetime’s research’ to heritage centre

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A CENTENARIAN Fleet Air Arm Veteran has made a nostalgic return to Pembrokeshire to donate documents, photographs and books – a lifetime of research – to Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre.

Hugh Langrishe, who recently celebrated his 101st birthday, lived in Pembrokeshire for 25 years – initially at Llanfallteg and then at Saundersfoot – with his late wife, Pam, who died last year. Since 1994 he has lived at Bromyard, Herefordshire.

He was joined by his son Jack and partner Julie Cavanagh, and friend Cliff Morris.

Hugh served as an engineering officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II and was attached to Royal Navy squadrons at air stations in Australia which supported the British Pacific Fleet. This prompted his research into many aspects of aviation history. When living locally he was a very active member of the Pembrokeshire Aviation Group.

This was his first visit to the Centre and he commented: “I did not expect to find such a professional museum. Everyone involved has done a job which is absolutely outstanding. The result is better than many a professional museum or collection I have seen. It deserves any award it might fetch.”

John Evans, of the Heritage Trust, added: “We were honoured to welcome Hugh back to the county and to be entrusted with his archive which includes a remarkable photographic collection.”

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