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First Minister encourages people to get the flu vaccine as he gets the jab

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Mark Drakeford receiving his flu vaccine

THIS week, First Minister Mark Drakeford, got his flu vaccination and encouraged others to take up the offer this winter to help keep people safe and well.

This year will be Wales’ largest ever flu vaccination programme, with people aged 50 and over and all those eligible for a free vaccine being invited to have their jab.

The school’s flu vaccine programme has also been extended this year to include all those in secondary school in years 7-11.

The Welsh Government has also extended the free flu vaccine to all primary care workers in Wales.

Those eligible for the free flu vaccine also include pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.

The COVID booster programme will also be co-administered to those who are eligible where appropriate to do so, in an effort to improve efficiency and increase uptake of both vaccines. Both vaccines can be administered in succession without delay so there is no need to postpone either appointment once booked

First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, who received his flu vaccine this week, said:

“Unlike last year, we are expecting a significant amounts of flu to circulate this winter and Covid is still with us. It’s very important people take up their offer of the flu vaccine as well as the Covid booster. Data suggests this winter flu season could be 50% to 100% higher than a typical season.

“As we have seen with COVID, vaccines play a huge role in helping to help protect us.  They are the best way to keep everyone safe and help stop the spread of the virus.

“We want to protect as many people as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community, and reduce the pressure on our NHS.”

Anne McGowan, Nurse Consultant for Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme said:

“Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.”

“Getting it is simple, and for most eligible groups is available from either their General Practice or a Community Pharmacy, with separate arrangements in place for school-age children and NHS staff.

“To help extend protection against infection it is very important to get your COVID-19 booster vaccine when offered. It is available to those eligible groups that completed their primary course of the vaccinations earlier this year.

“COVID-19 booster vaccinations are offered by invitation at existing local mass vaccination centres. Please get yours when you are invited.”

Health

Health Board to make decision about the future of St David’s GP Surgery

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THE FUTURE of Primary Care provision for patients registered with St David’s GP Surgery in Pembrokeshire will be discussed by Hywel Dda University Health Board at a meeting on Thursday, 25 July 2024.

An engagement exercise was undertaken to gather patient and local stakeholder views on the future of GP services following the decision of the one GP who runs the Surgery to resign his General Medical Services Contract, which takes effect from 31 October 2024.

The engagement with patients and stakeholders included a drop-in event St David’s City Hall in June. This event was well-attended and gave people an opportunity to discuss their concerns in person with the Health Board and Llais, the patient’s voice organisation for Wales.

Patients and members of the local community were also able to share their views via a questionnaire which was available at the engagement event, and also from the Surgery, the local Pharmacy, online, or by contacting the Health Board by phone or e-mail.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long-Term Care, at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to feed back their views to us. The Health Board is committed to listening to and engaging with our local populations and we would like to thank patients and stakeholders for their involvement in the process so far.

“We would like to reassure patients that we are working to find a sustainable solution from the limited options available so that services can be delivered as locally as possible for patients from the 1 November.

The main themes picked up during the engagement period include concerns about the impact on the community of St David’s if the Surgery were to close, continuity of care and also travel to another GP surgery, especially with regard to public transport.

“People at the drop-in event were provided with information about the frequency of public transport and other transport support available in the community,” said Ms Paterson.

“There was also much appreciation expressed for Dr Stephen Riley and his team and for the care that they have provided over the years. We very much appreciate the continuing support given by the Community to the team at St David’s Surgery throughout this challenging period.”

On Thursday, 25 July, the Board will consider the feedback received.

Ms Paterson continued: “We understand local people will want to know what the future of their GP services will look like, and we will be writing to all patients to inform them of the outcome once a decision is made by the Board.”

To read the Board papers and watch the meeting on the day, please visit: Board Agenda and Papers 25 July 2024 – Hywel Dda University Health Board (nhs.wales)

An update, following the Board’s formal decision on Thursday, July 25 will be shared with patients and stakeholders.

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Health

Ambitious ‘Hwb’ plans for former Carmarthen Debenhams site

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL, Hywel Dda University Health Board and the University of Wales Trinity Saint Davids is now taking the Carmarthen Health and Wellbeing Hwb to the next stage, the Local Authority says. The work is being undertaken by lead contractor Bouygues UK. The funding to deliver on this prestigious building includes, £7m from Welsh Government Integration and Rebalancing Capital Fund [IRCF], and funding of £18m from the UK Government.

The former Carmarthen Debenhams site is being transformed into a state- of – the- art Hwb, that will deliver on a wide range of health, wellbeing, educational, leisure and customer services all under one roof. At this integrated facility, Carmarthenshire residents can access community health services at the Health and Wellbeing Hwb that are being provided by Hywel Dda. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David is exploring opportunities to develop its offer to the community in relation to Health and Wellbeing.

Alongside health and wellbeing services, the repurposed building will partner with Actif Sport and Leisure to facilitate a new 24-hour gym, which will include top of the range equipment, and flexible fitness suites for group and individual workouts.

Carmarthenshire County Council will also be introducing a unique leisure-time offering for the area, located on the first floor of the Health and Wellbeing Hwb, a high-spec family entertainment centre will include a range of activities that people young and old can enjoy together, including indoor adventure golf, toy town soft play, E-Go Karting and TAG Active. The entertainment centre will also house a café and party rooms, so families can socialise together.

You can also visit the Health and Wellbeing Hwb, for a wide range of help, support, and advice from specialist advisors. For more information about where you can currently find these services, including opening times, please visit their website.

Work commences at the Health and Wellbeing Hwb this week and will be open to the public in early 2026.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Cllr Hazel Evans commented: “The Health and Wellbeing Hwb development will significantly boost the local economy and increase footfall within Carmarthen town centre. The financial support of the Welsh Government and UK Government has been essential in us being in a position to deliver this project for our town centre. It will be a place that local people can easily access frontline healthcare services as well as services provided by our Council’s dedicated Customer Service advisors.

The Family Entertainment Centre is an all-weather, indoor activity for families to engage in no matter their age. The facilities within the Entertainment Centre are tailored to promoting healthy and active lives for all. The intergenerational nature of the Entertainment Centre means both children and adults can get involved.

I am looking forward to keeping a close eye on how the Health and Wellbeing Hwb progresses in its development”.

Vaughan Gething said: “It’s great to be supporting this initiative to put the former Debenhams store back into good use by the community.

“The Hwb will enable people in Carmarthenshire to access a wide range of services, including health suites, employment support and access to further education.

“I look forward to seeing the fantastic new facility, which will be the first of its kind in the area.”

Lee Davies, Executive Director of Strategy and Planning at Hywel Dda University Health Board said:

“This is an exciting development. This proposal will bring together a wide range of health and well-being services in a central location. Alongside other services, it will benefit our local community in Carmarthen and its surrounding area, now and in the future.

We look forward to working with our partners and seeing the development progress over the coming months.”

Professor Elwen Evans, KC, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, added:

“The development of the Health and Wellbeing Hwb offers a unique opportunity to collaborate with partners to explore ways of revitalising the town centre through a mix of leisure, cultural and education opportunities. The University looks forward to continuing its close working relationship with Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board on this initiative which aims to benefit residents and businesses”.

John Boughton, Managing Director of Wales and the Southwest at Bouygues UK commented:

“It’s fantastic to be working alongside Carmarthenshire County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board, and the University of Wales Trinity Saint Davids on the Hwb, bringing nearly 8,000 square metres of commercial space in the town centre back to life”.

“By refurbishing rather than rebuilding the old department store, we will align Bouygues UK’s commitment to climate and environmental sustainability, and we will continue to do so as we work on the Hwb with our local supply chain. It will prove to be a vital and accessible base in the community for education, health, and leisure”.

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Health

Global IT outage affects Hywel Dda Health Board

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A SIGNIFICANT global IT outage caused by a recent software update from cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has severely disrupted services across various sectors, including healthcare, air travel, and retail. The incident, which began on Friday, 19 July, has affected computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system that use CrowdStrike’s Falcon security product.

Hywel Dda Health Board was affected and acknowledged the technical fault in a message to staff on Friday morning.

The Health Board said that the tech issue was impacting their sites, leading to some staff being unable to log onto the network.

However, they reassured that Office 365 applications such as Teams and Outlook remain unaffected, thus allowing remote work to continue uninterrupted.

Dr Junade Ali, a cybersecurity expert and Fellow at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), commented on the scale of the disruption: “The recent software update from CrowdStrike has resulted in a significant global outage. This issue has led to widespread disruptions, including air travel delays, interruptions in television broadcasting, and halted supermarket transactions. The NHS, which relies heavily on Windows computers, is also experiencing outages in critical systems used by GP practices. The root of the problem seems to be a defective system file included in the update.”

Beth Clarke, a digital expert and Committee Member for the BCS Special Interest Group in Software Testing, emphasized the complexity of the issue and the importance of rigorous software testing: “It’s too early to know what factors led to this defect making it into the update, but the cause is probably more complex than just one single point of failure. Incidents like this highlight the importance of thorough software testing and the critical role that software testers still play in the technology sector.”

The global impact of this outage underscores the increasing dependence on digital services and the critical need for their security and resilience. Professor Ian Corden, Fellow at the IET, reflected on the broader implications: “The major IT outages that are occurring around the world today highlight the ever-increasing dependence of national and regional economies, defence and national security, and private individuals on digital services. The importance of reliably-engineered software and IT systems is now paramount, especially where critical national infrastructure (CNI) is impacted.”

The problematic update to CrowdStrike’s Falcon, an endpoint detection and response (EDR) platform, has led to widespread service interruptions, particularly affecting systems running Microsoft software. Falcon is designed to protect computers and other devices from cyber threats by monitoring systems for intrusions and blocking malicious activities. The software’s high level of privilege allows it to significantly influence computer behaviour, preventing security breaches, but also means that any faults can have far-reaching consequences.

Ian Golding, another digital expert at the IET, highlighted the complexity of maintaining interoperability among various IT providers and systems: “Despite organisations using well-known and carefully chosen global IT providers, they all must work seamlessly together. This interoperability is usually extremely well managed and tested with great skill and diligence, but it is complex, and as we see, this can fail occasionally.”

David Smith, Head of Technology Strategy at the IET, pointed out the inherent risks in cloud services and the necessity for robust business continuity plans: “When cloud services go wrong, a large number of customers are affected. These types of services are updated constantly – a feature of the modern world and how we use technology at a global scale. Organisations should learn from every incident like this to become more resilient to events that affect so many customers around the world.”

As CrowdStrike continues to investigate the incident with the highest level of urgency, the long-term implications of this outage remain to be seen. This incident serves as a critical reminder of the need for meticulous software engineering and comprehensive disaster recovery strategies to mitigate the risks of such widespread disruptions in the future.

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