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New guidance to keep Wales safe this Christmas – Restrictions from December 27

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THIS Friday (Dec 16) the First Minister will set out a two-phase plan to respond to the current delta variant and the new, fast-moving, easily transmissible omicron variant, which is expected to be the dominant form of the virus in the UK by the end of the month.
The Welsh Government is issuing strong guidance to support people across Wales through the Christmas period.
Wales will then introduce new restrictions, including for businesses and services – from 27 December. These will include a 2m rule on social distancing in offices and putting extra measures in place to protect customers and staff, such as one-way systems and physical barriers.
Nightclubs will also close. These tougher restrictions are needed to help control the spread of omicron.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Delta will continue to be the main cause of coronavirus infections in Wales up to Christmas. But we are seeing cases of omicron increasing rapidly every day in Wales – and across the UK.
“We need a plan to keep us safe this Christmas and we need stronger measures to protect us afterwards, as we prepare for a large wave of omicron infections.
“Omicron poses a new threat to our health and safety. It is the most serious development in the pandemic to date.
“It is one we must take seriously. We will continue to put in place proportionate measures to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.
“This is a virus which thrives on human contact. Every contact we have is an opportunity for us to spread or catch the virus.”  

Booster vaccinations are so important, Mark Drakeford said


The First Minister will urge everyone to follow five simple steps for a safer Christmas, as he says the more people we see in the run-up to Christmas, the more opportunities the virus has to spread.
Reducing our contact with others, especially if we are seeing older people or more vulnerable people over Christmas, will help to protect them from the virus.
To stay safe in the run up to Christmas, the Welsh Government is strongly advising everyone to follow these five measures to stay safe:

• Get vaccinated – and if you’ve had your booster appointment, please make attending your priority.
• If you’re going out, going Christmas shopping, or visiting people – flow before you go. Take a lateral flow test. If it’s positive – don’t go out.
• Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
• Space out your socialising – if you’ve got events arranged, please leave at least a day between them.
• And don’t forget about social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands.

The regulations will also be changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.
After Christmas, on 27 December new legal restrictions will come into force, to help protect against the spread of the omicron variant.
The Welsh Government has announced up to £60m will be available to support businesses affected by the new restrictions.
The First Minister added: “This year a smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas. The fewer people we see, the less chance we have of catching or passing on the virus.
“Please enjoy Christmas with your nearest and dearest – and think about meeting up with wider circles of friends when the threat posed by the omicron variant has passed over.
“I also want to thank the many thousands of people who will be working this Christmas to keep us safe – especially all those who have cancelled their plans to work in the vaccination centres across Wales to increase our protection against this awful virus.”

BUSINESSES MUST BE PROTECTED SAYS ANDREW RT DAVIES


Commenting ahead of tomorrow’s latest COVID announcement, Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The Omicron variant is spreading extremely fast in the UK – and the doubling rate in some areas is now down to less than two days. In Wales, we are still predominantly dealing with Delta, but it’s widely accepted the new variant will become the dominant strain, particularly in the New Year.
“Personal responsibility has always been crucial during the pandemic and that remains the case. “Serious consideration must be given to public health messaging as I’m sure I speak on behalf of the nation when we say we want to see as normal a Christmas as possible.

Concerned about firms in Wales: Andrew RT Davies


“However, there are significant concerns over the potential impact on workforce availability across key sectors including the NHS and social care. It’s imperative the Welsh Government works with the UK Government to ensure we can best protect public services and the supply chain moving forward.
“Some Welsh businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, are already seeing a significant impact on trade in wake of Omicron, and Labour ministers must use the £500 million of unallocated COVID support sitting in government coffers to help firms and protect jobs.
“It’s clear ministers of all colours across the UK are facing a challenging public health picture in an uncertain period. However, any consideration and implementation of restrictions must be evidence-based and have an impact on tackling the virus, unlike vaccine passports.”

Health

‘Serious concerns’ as Hywel Dda Health Board confirms closure Johnston Surgery

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  • Pharmacist slams “a dereliction of duty” putting patients at risk
  • Board ignores GPs who say they’re already overburdened
  • Managed practice in Neyland could still be short of GPs

EXCLUSIVE

GP SERVICES in Johnston will stop at the end of October, The Pembrokeshire Herald can reveal.

Current patients registered with the practice will be forced to other GP practices over their and those practices’ strenuous objections.

4,000 patients will remain registered with a GP practice managed by the Health Board and based in Neyland.

Based on their geographical location and list availability, the remaining patients will be forced to go to GPs in Haverfordwest or Milford Haven.

In reaching its decision, the Board ignored objections from patients based in Johnston, the lack of suitable public transport, rejection of the proposals by Johnston Community Council, concerns expressed by Johnston Pharmacy, IT issues, and other GP practices’ unwillingness and lack of capacity to deliver services.

Instead, the Board decided that a Health Board Managed Practice be established to operate from St Clement’s Surgery in Neyland to serve those patients living in Neyland and the surrounding area.
(approximately 4,000 patients).

Those patients living closer by travel time to another GP Practice than St Clement’s will be re-registered with the closest practice (approximately 2,000 patients).

The Board claims that decision is in line with the Health Board’s strategic aim of delivering care closer to home by delivering it in less convenient locations further from people’s homes.

No existing GP practices were prepared to run the General Medical Services contract for Neyland and Johnston.

One respondent said: “I have serious concerns about the systematic and insidious degradation of health services in Pembrokeshire by Hywel Dda Health Board.

“The inability to recruit and retain medical professionals in Pembrokeshire to run local GP surgeries and hospital facilities is a direct result of either deliberate or consequential actions by this health board and is deeply concerning.

“The fact that HDUHB sent out a six-page document requesting feedback on a serious situation of potential loss of the sole medical practice in the town, and less than half a page is given space to express those concerns, the remaining pages that are dedicated to requests for data on my ethnic, sexual and gender specifics would indicate to me that your attention is perhaps not focused on the right priorities of issues requiring being urgently addressed.”

Robert Street Practice in Milford Haven said: “We are very concerned that changing the practice boundary, deregistering patients, and allocating them to neighbouring practices will destabilize these practices.

“As you know, we have ongoing sustainability issues and feel that any change to our list size could exacerbate this.

“We continue to operate an open but closed list, in line with BMA guidance due to workload issues. However, our list size continues to grow due to ongoing patient allocations.

“We are concerned that the LHB have not considered our position and how the proposed sudden influx of patients could impact on our ability to provide services for our patients.”

St Thomas Surgery, Haverfordwest said: “We currently have sustainability issues ourselves. We have struggled to recruit suitable clinicians (doctors/nurses) over the last 2 to 3 years. We have not successfully replaced a retiring partner.

“Our practice will have 3 doctors over the age of 60 in the next 12 months. Retirement may occur at short notice, especially if clinical practice becomes unsustainable.”

St Thomas’s also points out the list reallocation comes at a particularly busy time, as GPs prepare to deliver flu vaccines and covid boosters during October and November.

Winch Lane Surgery made much the same points, adding: “Further increase in the practice population cannot be matched by an increased number of clinicians as there are no rooms for them to work in.

Responses from GP practices and the public also pointed out that new housing developments were already increasing the number of patients each practice registered before adding in extra patients from the closed GP base in Johnston.

And that’s before new patients’ details are screened and considered by the GP practices to which they are shunted.

Simon Noott of Johnston Pharmacy said moving GP services away from Johnston could undermine his business’s viability.

He added: “It would be a massive blow to the population of Johnston if they were to lose their surgery. Johnston village has a significant population; many needing medical services have limited mobility and would have to make the choice of postponing/not receiving treatment if moved to a different town.

“There is also a large population on low incomes who would find the cost of transport to another town prohibitive and an impediment to accessing GP services.”

Mr Noott concluded: “It would be a dereliction of duty for the Health Board to leave this population under provisioned and the result will lead to significant patient harm.”

Not only were Simon Noott’s concerns given a load of soft soap by the Board, but it also ignored every concern expressed by the GP practices.

The Board even acknowledges that position when defending its “challenging decision”.

It concedes regardless of the feeling of patients and stakeholders, the need to balance the risk of future service delivery outweighed public feedback and the concerns of health professionals.

On Monday (Sept 26) the Health Board issued a statement claiming no decision had been made.

However, if the Board contradicts its own expert panel, it will have to find enough GPs to staff both surgeries when its vacant practice panel says that can’t be done due to a lack of GPs. Contradicting a finding made twice by its own advisors would be unheard of.

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Veteran opens Slimming World in Milford Haven

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ARMY Veteran, Rachel, has launched her own Slimming World group in Milford Haven after her own positive experiences. 

“I changed lives in the army and hope to continue changing lives for people in Milford Haven.”

Rachel was born and raised in Milford Haven. As a small child, she was “active and busy” and a real tomboy alongside her brothers. 

In 1998, she joined the Army at 16-years-old as a Combat Medical Technician. Following training, Rachel served in Germany, all over the UK, overseas in Cyprus, and was deployed to Oman, Kosovo, Bosnia and Poland before retiring from service in May 2021.

Her role as a combat medical technician meant she often had to deal with soldiers who had been injured in war zones. Rachel described dealing with the range of injuries as “life-changing”.

Rachel’s job not only consisted of helping soldiers physically recover; she also helped them with their mental well-being. 

She said she: “always pointed out the positives ahead of them for their lives and their families.

“The fulfilment I would get from seeing them recover and their family made whole again is so rewarding, I cannot put it into words.”

She has always been a strong, physically fit person. She enjoyed an active lifestyle and felt as though she “could always eat what she wanted.”

In 2017, she was posted to Harrogate. Rachel was 36 years old and had recently given birth to her third child, a daughter, after already having two sons aged 13 and 5. 

She says she was almost two stone overweight even before her pregnancy. 

Rachel said: “So here I was with four stone to lose. I had lost all confidence and was at a loss.

“I was at a GP surgery when I saw a poster for Slimming World. I was there for my daughter’s first vaccinations and that’s when I decided to join my local Harrogate Slimming World group.”

Rachel said she was welcomed to the group with open arms. She described the members as being lovely, offering to make her a hot drink after being weighed or hold her baby while she got settled into the group. 

It was at this group that Rachel found her love for Food Optimising, which is Slimming World’s unique plan to lose weight and get healthy. 

She swapped takeaway meals for ‘fakeaways’ using recipes she learned from her group. 

After only a week, Rachel had lost 4 lbs and knew this new plan was one she could follow. 

Over the next 10 months, she enjoyed curries, chillis, chips loaded with a variety of toppings and cheese within her daily allowance, and she could still enjoy treats every now and then. 

By June 2018, she had hit her target and lost the whole four stone. She said she “felt amazing!”

Unfortunately, during lockdown, she became a single mum and was at an “all-time low”. She moved back to Pembrokeshire in December 2021 and quickly swapped healthy meals for quick and easy, high-fat processed meals.

Rachel said: “Being stuck in the house with three children during lockdown was hard. 

“As I was working from home with nowhere to go, I found myself mindlessly eating as I was only eating out of boredom. 

“I put almost two stone back on and I was devastated.”

In January 2022, she decided to get into shape again. She joined the local Slimming World group in Johnston. 

Rachel said she had two stone to lose and was determined to return to her target weight. 

She claims she was blown away by the consultant Kelly’s knowledge of the plan and her motivation. 

“She guided me back through the new member talk, reintroduced me to my love of Slimming World and allowed me to fall in love with the plan all over again!” Rachel added. 

“The warm atmosphere and the gentle reminder that the plan can be used for all the family reignited my passion.

“Since January 10, 2022, I have lost one stone and five pounds. I am only two-pounds away from my personal target.”

After talking about Slimming World and the freedom it allows Rachel to have, she joined Slimming World and trained to be a consultant. 

Thanks to her time in the Army, helping those with their physical and mental health, Rachel feels that she would be well suited to helping those achieve their goals. 

She commented: “The training is thorough and covers not only the plan but the psychology of wanting to lose weight. 

“It has totally changed my views on how I shop, cook and eat food, and I hope my drive and motivation will help others to do the same.”

To join Rachel’s Slimming World group, call Rachel on 07391 634033 or visit Milford United Football Club, Marble Hall Road, every Thursday at 5.30pm. 

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Health

Hywel Dda Health Board confirms Bank holiday arrangements

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FOLLOWING confirmation that Monday, 19 September, will be a Bank Holiday to mark the Queen’s State Funeral, the Health Board is contacting all patients to confirm or re-arrange their appointments, depending on service availability. Whilst all emergency services will be operating as normal, we need to adjust some elements of our planned care services and prioritise patients with urgent care needs wherever possible.

Our Chemotherapy Units will be operating as normal on Monday and some surgery for urgent cases will take place at our hospitals.

Where appointments need to be re-scheduled, patients are being contacted over the coming days by the relevant team to re-arrange their appointment as quickly as possible. In some cases, this may mean bringing appointments forward to this week. Some face-to-face outpatient appointments will still go ahead, and some may be held as an online/virtual appointment on Monday.

If you have an appointment on Monday, and have not been contacted by 1pm on Friday, please contact the health board’s communication hub on 0300 3038322 or email ask.hdd@wales.nhs.uk for further information and guidance. Staff at the communication hub are available to answer calls between 10am-4pm on Saturday, and 10am-3pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. We are contacting all patients by telephone or text message, please check your telephone for any messages.

As GP surgeries and most Community Pharmacies and Dental services will be closed on Monday, a Bank Holiday out of hours service will be provided. Individuals requiring repeat prescriptions are encouraged to arrange them in advance.

All urgent and emergency care services will continue as normal. If you are unwell and unsure what to do, you can visit the online symptom checker or call NHS 111. The Minor Injury Units at acute hospital sites will be open as usual. Opening hours for community walk-in services can be found on the health board’s website. Please attend an Emergency Department, or call 999, if you have a life-threatening illness or serious injury, such as: 

Severe breathing difficulties 

  • Severe pain or bleeding 
  • Chest pain or a suspected stroke 
  • Serious trauma injuries (e.g., from a car crash). 

We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your support and patience.

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