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Health

WG and BMA clash on GP standards

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AS THE growing crisis in West Wales’ GP services continues, the Welsh Government last week announced a new set of standards, which it claims will raise and improve the level of service for patients.

Recent National Survey results showed a decline in satisfaction with GP services from 90% being satisfied in 2016-17 to 86% in 2017-18 and 42% of participants found it difficult to make an appointment at their practice an increase from 38% in the previous year.

The Welsh Government says that ‘people in Wales should know what to expect when they need advice on their health and wellbeing, when they need to consult a GP or other healthcare professional and what other options are available to them’.

To support the above, the new standards are as follows:
• People receive a prompt response to their contact with a GP practice via telephone.
• Practices have the appropriate telephony systems in place to support the needs of people avoiding the need to call back multiple times and will check that they are handling calls in this way.
• People receive bilingual information on local and emergency services when contacting a practice.
• People are able to access information on how to get help and advice.
• People receive the right care at the right time in a joined-up way which is based on their needs.
• People can use a range of options to contact their GP practice.
• People are able to email a practice to request a non-urgent consultation or a callback.

The Welsh Government expects all GP practices in Wales, supported by their Local Health Boards, to meet these standards by March 2021. Financial support, which will be announced in due course, will be made available to GP practices to strive towards meeting these standards and ensuring patients across Wales know what to expect from their practice.

Vaughan Gething said: “I know GPs and their practice teams are under pressure to meet demand but I also know people’s expectations on GP access are not currently being met.

“Today’s announcement is not about putting additional pressure on our GP services, it is about them delivering a level of service patients in Wales should expect as a minimum. For many practices across Wales, the standards I’ve announced today will already be in place, but for others, this will be a journey of improvement. Over time I would like to see these standards developed further so that services are continually improving for the citizens of Wales.”

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the BMA’s Welsh GPs’ committee said: “GPs in Wales work extremely hard – often to the detriment of their own health – to ensure that patients are seen in a timely manner and this is reflected in the still very high satisfaction ratings.

“Whilst we accept, welcome and strive for better access for patients recognising the challenges patients face, the way to address this is to support GP practices to release capacity for patients who need their care. This can be achieved through improving recruitment of GPs, practice nurses and ensuring the wider multi-disciplinary primary and community care workforce are in place. It can be achieved through ensuring patients are empowered to self-care when appropriate. It can be achieved through resourcing supporting infrastructure for practices to take forward different ways of providing access; through properly supporting practices and enhancing the partnership model so that we have sustainable services available to patients.

“Imposing standards on an already overstretched workforce is not the best way to achieve the shared aim of improving access.

“We will continue to work with the Welsh Government to ensure that patients are seen in a way that is most suitable and appropriate for their need. This work needs to also include robust support for practices so that they have the resources they need to address the challenges they face on a day to day basis, where they are fire-fighting to meet ever increasing demand and thus enable them to have the capacity to develop their access arrangements for patients.”

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Health

A round up of Covid changes to measures and information

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FROM Today (Oct 12) Pembrokeshire County Council is urging the public to be vigilant following the important changes to the Covid-19 measures and information about the vaccination and testing programme.

To ensure our communities are aware, here’s a summary of what you need to know:

NHS COVID Pass:

From 11 October, you must use the NHS COVID Pass to show that you are fully vaccinated or have tested negative (through taking a lateral flow test 48 hours before event or attending venue) to attend large events, nightclubs and other similar venues.

You can get your NHS COVID Pass at: https://covid-status.service.nhsx.nhs.uk/.

You will need to register with the NHS before accessing your pass, please bear this in mind before any big event you’re planning to attend.

More information for businesses on the requirements for the NHS COVID Pass can be found on the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/reasonable-measures-action-cards-businesses-and-organisations-coronavirus

COVID-19 Testing for children and young people and for staff working in special schools and colleges:

From Monday 11 October, staff in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges and learners who are under 18 in secondary school and college who have a household member that has tested positive for COVID-19 should undertake daily lateral flow every day for seven days, in addition to PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8.

This should start on the day a household contact is confirmed positive from a lateral flow or PCR test result.

Testing children under 5 years of age:

It is no longer recommended that children under 5 years of age take COVID-19 tests without symptoms.

Where children under 5 do have symptoms Welsh Government do not routinely recommend tests unless directed to do so by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of the child.

Booster vaccines:

Those eligible for a booster vaccination will be invited to attend a Mass Vaccination Centre by Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB) when it is their turn i.e. those who received their second vaccine dose more than six months ago.

You may have received an appointment at one of the HDUHB mass vaccination centres further away but you can attend your nearest centre at a time that suits you.

You won’t need to contact HDUHB beforehand. Please bring your appointment letter with you when you attend.

Vaccines for 12-15 year-olds:

12 -15 year-olds in Pembrokeshire are beginning to receive invites to attend a Mass Vaccination Centre by HDUHB when it is their turn.

You may have received an appointment at one of the HDUHB mass vaccination centres further away but you can attend your nearest centre at a time that suits you.

You won’t need to contact HDUHB beforehand. Please bring your appointment letter with you when you attend.

Not vaccinated yet?

You may have previously declined the vaccination but have since change your mind – there’s still time to get vaccinated. Walk-in clinics remain open at all Mass Vaccination Centres for those aged 16 and over who require a first or second dose.

Find your nearest centre here: https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccination-programme/mass-vaccination-centres/

COVID-19 has not gone away and we all need to continue to play our part to keep Pembrokeshire and each other safe.

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Health

Hywel Dda Health Board: Visiting restrictions for Withybush Hospital

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DUE to increased cases of Covid-19 in hospital and the community, the decision has been made to close Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest to visitors with immediate effect.

Visiting will only be permitted in extenuating circumstances, such as end of life and critical visits. All visitors must carry out lateral flow device (LFD) test at home prior to travelling to the hospital.

Lateral flow self-test kits can be obtained by:

When visiting our hospitals please remember to wear a face mask, this will be replaced by a surgical face mask at reception or ward.

Please remember to maintain social distancing and to wash your hands as often as possible using soap and water and hand sanitiser.

The situation is being monitored at regular intervals and a further update will be made when visitor restrictions are lifted.

We thank everyone for your understanding at this time while we work to stop the spread of this virus.

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Health

New plan to keep Wales open and safe during “challenging” winter ahead

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The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, will today (Friday October 8) publish new plans to help keep Wales open and safe during the difficult autumn and winter months ahead.

The Welsh Government is publishing an updated Coronavirus Control Plan, which outlines the key actions, which could be put in place to control the spread of the virus.

Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks, following the latest review of the coronavirus regulations. This means all businesses are open and Wales has the lowest level of restrictions.

Speaking ahead of his press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“We are facing a challenging winter ahead – coronavirus hasn’t gone away and flu is forecast to return this winter.

“Vaccination is the best defence we have against coronavirus – the more people who are fully vaccinated, the better our chances of controlling the spread of this awful virus.

“We will continue to focus our efforts on increasing take up of the Covid-19 vaccine across the age and priority groups and rolling out the booster vaccine too. We also encourage everyone who is eligible, to have their flu jab this year.

“There is also a range of other measures we can all take to help protect ourselves and our loved ones, such as washing our hands, reducing the number of people we meet and wearing a face covering in indoor public places.

“These measures have helped keep us safe throughout the pandemic and they will also help to protect us from other winter viruses, such as flu and other respiratory infections.”

The latest version of the Coronavirus Control Plan sets out two planning scenarios for the pandemic over the winter – in the first, called Covid Stable, Wales remains at alert level zero through the autumn and winter, with all businesses able to open.

This is thought to be the most likely scenario for the future, as we become used to living with coronavirus and we gradually move out of the pandemic to a position where the virus becomes a seasonal illness.

Under this scenario, if case rates fall, measures could be relaxed further in response, and if they rise, some existing measures could be strengthened to protect people’s health.

The second planning scenario, called Covid Urgent, is designed to deal with any sudden changes to the situation, caused by the emergence of a new, fast-spreading variant or if vaccine immunity levels fall, causing a rise in pandemic pressures, which risk overwhelming the NHS.

In such a scenario, the alert level system and restrictions would be used proportionately, but as a last-resort means, to protect people’s health, control the spread of infections and to protect the NHS.

Help keep Wales safe:

• Get your Covid-19 vaccines, including your booster when invited

• Get tested and self-isolate if you have symptoms

• Outdoors is safer than indoors

• Keep your distance when you can

• Wash your hands regularly

• Wear a face covering in indoor public places

• Keep indoor places well-ventilated

• Work from home whenever possible

• Use a Covid Pass in nightclubs and large events.

Commenting on the First Minister’s announcement Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“Like the First Minister acknowledged, vaccinations have proven to be the key that unlocked society and the economy after severely weakening the link between infection and hospitalisation. To those who have yet to be vaccinated, we urge them to do so and those eligible to get a booster jab.

“However, while we remain at Level 0, new restrictions are coming in as the coercive, ineffective, and anti-business Covid passports will limit our freedoms, fail to limit the spread of coronavirus according to the Welsh Government’s own scientists, and add additional burdens on already stretched businesses.

“There has been a poor communication campaign from the Welsh Government on their introduction, little justification of their effectiveness, a failure to address confusion and fix bugs, and no explanation on how they will police the alternative Covid test system so open to abuse.

“We have passed the peak of infections without further restrictions and passports will do little to stem the problems that has led to the worst-ever A&E waiting times, longest ever NHS treatment backlog, and second slowest ambulance response times built up under Labour mismanagement.

“So instead of further restrictions, we need Labour ministers to bring forward a proper winter pressures plan that introduces the Covid treatment hubs for which Welsh Conservatives have long called for and reverse their damaging decision to bring in Covid passports.”

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