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Health Board Charity Grabs £3.9 million

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charity123AN INVESTIGATION by The Pembrokeshire Herald has revealed that the Local Health Board has reclassified millions of pounds of charity funds – which were pledged by donors for various specific projects – and reclassified that money so it can be spent how it sees fit. 

In 2009/2010 the Board undertook a secretive accounting exercise that moved £3.427m from restricted funds to unrestricted funds, meaning that its own charity could use the cash as it wished. The Herald can also confirm that by moving the cash into unrestricted funds, the Health Board’s charity is able hold on to the money which was raised for a Cancer Day Unit (CDU), even if it did not build one in the county. The Herald can also confirm that if the Board Charity held on to the money raised for the CDU in Restricted fund and then did not build a CDU in Pembrokeshire, then it would have to return the money to those who made donations to that project. If the money is Unrestricted, it would not. The Board claims that its own health charities given “vital support beyond what the NHS currently provides”. But in one example of charitable funds expenditure uncovered by the Herald, £4.5K of charity funds were used to refurbish storage cupboards. In addition, a recent decision means that the income from investment funds enabling the purchase of equipment for cardiac care can be deployed to meet other financial needs. The move was welcomed at the time by the only elected representative on the Health Board’s Executive Committee, Labour turncoat and IPPG Cabinet member Simon Hancock. So shy is the Health Board Charity of providing information about its activities that minutes of its meetings are virtually absent from the Board’s website. A look at the Board’s website on Tuesday, July 15 revealed that no public record of minutes exist for the Charity Committee’s meetings before March 3, 2014. With the last recorded meeting taking place on June 17, 2014. One explanation for the absence of minutes could be the reconstitution of the charity. A move that also means that past records of fundraising and charitable accounts have been removed from the public record. That change means that the unilateral reclassification of restricted funds to unrestricted ones would not be contained within information publicly available via the charities’ regulator’s – the Charity Commission – website. The Board claims: “All our funds are reported in our accounts and Annual Report to the Charity Commission and are subject to external audit by Wales Audit Office.“ The reality is that the reclassification of £3.9m in 2009/2010 cannot be found by reference to the public record at the Charity Commission, as that health board charity no longer exists. The Herald has, however, obtained copies of minutes of Charity Committee meetings, accounts and correspondence that sheds a startling light on the Board’s handling of charity funds. While the Health Board charity’s publicity strategy emphasizes its independence from the Local Health Board, that position is difficult to square with repeated assurances given by former Board Chair Chris Martin and former CEO Trevor Purt that charitable funds would be used to underpin the services would be revamped. If the Health Board’s charity was truly independent, unfettered discretion as to the deployment of its funds would be subject to a decision of its Trustees in line with Charity Commission rules and its own constitution (or Trust Deed). An examination of past Charity Committee meetings minutes obtained by the Pembrokeshire Herald shows that the names of those attending the meetings and taking part in decisions to spend charitable funds have been obliterated to prevent their identification. The Health Board charity says it will work with other charities and fundraisers. It offers its services to Leagues of Friends. The Charity Committee and the Board were not so forthcoming when it decided to secretively reclassify donations given to it away from one type of fund to another. As an example, the Herald has noted that the Board delegated two members of the Committee to visit undertakers in Pembrokeshire to ensure that legacies that would otherwise have been donated to Ward 10 at Withybush Hospital were instead directed to Pembrokeshire Cancer Services. The Health Board charity’s use of undertakers to help it meet its fundraising target of £2m a year means that families of bereaved could be misled into making donations to a cause not of their own or their deceased loved one’s choosing. The important difference between the two is that a donation made expressly for the benefit of Ward 10 would be a restricted fund that could only be used to benefit Ward 10. A donation to Pembrokeshire Cancer Services would be to an unrestricted fund operated by the Board’s own Charity that it could deploy as and when it saw fit. The Board has claimed in public on a number of occasions that funds are “ring-fenced” to develop a CDU at Withybush and to refurbish Ward 10. That assertion was made in a letter to new Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb in a letter from Trevor Purt, the Health Board’s former CEO. That sounds like the money is set aside and cannot be used for other things. But it does not. Mr Purt’s claim that the funds were “ringfenced” does not mean that charity funds will be used to develop such services in the same way that they would if the funds the Board reclassified were still restricted for that sole use. The distinction can be summarised as the difference between the Board having to use donations for the purpose for which they were intended or saying it will use them for that purpose but without any commitment to do so. An analogy of that type of meaningless promise is that the Board told Pembrokeshire it would maintain paediatric care in Pembrokeshire and then ran the service in such a way as to force inpatient paediatrics to move to West Wales General Hospital. When we asked the Board to comment on the activities of its charitable fund, it told us: “In relation to the above Cancer Services Fund a total of £550,000 has been committed voluntarily by the Charitable Funds Committee to two projects. The refurbishment of Ward 10 (the main cancer ward in Withybush Hospital – amount committed £250,000) and the re-provision of a Cancer Day Unit (in conjunction with Bucket Full of Hope).” Campaigners suspect the Board re-designated the funds because of the preponderance of donations given to provide cancer services in Pembrokeshire that were restricted for use at Withybush or within our county. That sentiment appears to be justified by unfortunate minutes seen by the Herald that suggests that, after the funds grab took place, an investment of £550,000 for cancer services at Withybush should be announced to “appease” people in Pembrokeshire. One charity the Board thought would be appeased is the Bucketful of Hope Appeal was set up in memory of Adams Evans-Thomas, who while suffering from the leukaemia that ended his life, campaigned for leukaemia and cancer sufferers. After Adam’s death, his baton was picked up by his mother Chris Evans- Thomas, who was subsequently awarded the MBE for services to charity. Chris continues to be involved in the Appeal and recently made a public request for the return of money handed over to the Board so that the charity could make good on the numerous promises made by the Board to build a Cancer Day Unit it has never fulfilled. Interestingly, and as the Herald was able to reveal last week, in 2010 former Board Chairman Chris Martin did offer to return the money raised toward the CDU to the Bucketful of Hope Appeal. He accompanied that offer with a statement that the Board intended to press ahead with building a CDU. In the circumstances, the charity declined as the Board seemed about to make good on its promises. The Herald has spoken to others at the meeting where that offer was made. Judging from the stance since adopted by the Board, Mr Martin’s approach was either unauthorised and unlawful or a cynical ploy, as the Board recently claimed: “The Health Board did not receive donations and legacies from the public to the Cancer Services Pembrokeshire Fund with any specific wish that it is for the Bucket Full of Hope’ or any expressed restriction (most likely in the form of a legacy) that it be used in this way. “Instead it was received with the wish that it be used in Cancer Services in Pembrokeshire (in the form of unrestricted donations). “Further, the Charity Commission have confirmed that under charity legislation the Trustees have a duty to expend the funds under the objects of the charity to which they were donated and these are specifically NHS. It was further confirmed by them that the University Health Board’s Charity has no power to hand these monies wholesale to a non NHS charity. Therefore it is the hospital charity that is responsible for the public discharge of those funds under Charity Commission rules and charity legislation.” While the Board Charity now says it cannot disentangle the money given to fund the CDU from its combined funds, as the redesignation of those funds took place before Chris Martin’s offer to hand back fundraisers’ money, its assertion appears to be – at best – slightly disingenuous and potentially selfserving.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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