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Hywel Dda ‘misled public’ over consultation finding says campaign group



Campaigners say that the Save Withybush campaign will now take a ‘march forward’ as evidence shows that Hywel Dda has misinterpreted the findings of its own consultation in 2018 and has misled the public over its data.

Following a full debate about the Save Withybush A&E petition in the Senedd last week, the petitions committee has requested further evidence from the camapign for their next meeting on monday July 11th.

A new campaign named ‘Our NHS – Born in Wales’ was recently launched by the People’s Assembly Wales and their volunteer researchers are supporting the Save Withybush campaign. The researchers have scrutinised the Health Board’s report on the 2018 consultation regarding proposed new hospital plans and believe that Hywel Dda has misled the public over its findings.

They have produced and submitted a further evidence paper to the Senedd petitions committee which they say shows “Hywel Dda have ignored the concerns of residents, ignored the data which showed an overwhelming rejection of the proposed new hospital plans and have ploughed ahead with changes. This is in spite of clear evidence which showed that the majority of people who would be most affected by the proposed changes were not in support of any of the proposed changes”.

Campaigners added: “Our further evidence paper is a damning indictment of Hywel Dda’s actions to date. Not only have they misled the public over the findings of their 2018 consultation, they have completely ignored the concerns of thousands of residents and have bulldozed ahead with their proposals knowing full-well that they are acting against the wishes of a significant cross section of the public. We believe that it is now only a matter of time until the Health Board will be forced to go back, fully involve residents in addressing the concerns raised and engage properly in co-production as they are duty bound to do under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

They did not ask the right questions in their consultation, and the questions they did ask were heavily weighted in order to steer the data towards their preferred outcomes. This was not co-production and the Health Board now have no other option but to go back and ask different questions in a completely different way, based on the data they have recorded so far.”

“As campaigners we believe that the Health Board is now fully exposed on this issue and we will be pursuing this through every avenue with our latest findings marking a “turning of the tide” for the campaign. Pointing out that the Withybush issue is now under much greater scrutiny at Welsh Government level following the debate.

“The Health Board often cites ‘recruitment issues’ as one of the reasons for their proposed changes and removal of services at Withybush. However our argument, as evidenced in our paper, is that given the level of uncertainty that has surrounded health services within the hospital for so long, the Health Board has actually created the very recruitment issues which they are using to justify changes. This was cited in their own 2018 report ‘our Big NHS changes’ where staff focus groups actually said:

‘people won’t come to work here because there has been so much uncertainty around the hospital over recent years’ (p.10)

They have essentially run down the hospital and are now trying to use that as an excuse to remove the A&E”

“This has become a ‘war of attrition’ over Withybush, in which the Health Board has demoralised the public, wearing them down over time by pressing ahead with changes whilst ignoring our concerns. It’s understandable that some Pembrokeshire residents, including County Councillors have given up hope for Withybush. However, as a campaign and armed with new evidence, we feel that we can finally put the health board on notice. This is far from over or a ‘done deal’ as they repeatedly assert. Notably, in her speech in the Senedd last week Eluned Morgan used the word ‘if’ several times in regards to a new hospital. This shows that the Welsh Government may already be positioning itself to abandon these dangerous plans if we keep up the pressure as a campaign and as a county.

With model motions in support of the Save Withybush campaign going to Town & Community Councils, trade union branches as well as a motion going through County Council, we believe we can reinvigorate people’s hope for the survival of Withybush and inject fresh impetus for action to save our hospital. But we re-issue our call for action to everyone to step up and save the hospital.

With this week marking the 74th birthday of the NHS we encourage all in Pembrokeshire and beyond to demand decent, safe, and localised services, and importantly, to demand services which are provided based on health need, as was intended when the NHS was founded back in 1948.

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Doctors to enter pay negotiations with the Welsh Government



BMA CYMRU Wales has suspended forthcoming industrial action for Consultants and SAS doctors following a constructive meeting with the Welsh government to resolve its pay disputes.

As a result of sustained pressure, including three rounds of industrial action by junior doctors in Wales, the Welsh Government has made a significant proposal to form the basis of talks to end the pay disputes with all secondary care doctors including Consultants, SAS and Junior doctors.

Since the meeting last week, the committees representing doctors from all three branches of practice have voted to enter pay negotiations based on this proposal.

The planned 48-hour strike by Consultants and SAS doctors due to take place from 16 April will now be suspended.

Junior doctors have paused plans to announce more strike dates whilst they enter negotiations with the Welsh Government.

The Welsh junior doctors committee, Welsh SAS committee and Welsh consultants committee will now each engage in pay negotiations, with the aim of reaching deals which can be taken separately to their respective members.

Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh Junior doctors Committee said:

“This is a significant step forward. It is sad that we had to take industrial action to get here, but we are proud of members for demonstrating their resolve in pursuit of a fair deal for the profession.

“Whilst we are optimistic and hope to quickly resolve our dispute, we remain steadfast in achieving pay restoration. Until we reach a deal, nothing is off the table.

 “We will continue to work hard to reach an offer that is credible to put to members who will ultimately have the final say.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ Consultants committee said:

“The Welsh Government’s recent efforts to reach an end to the pay dispute are encouraging and so we have called off our planned strike for now whilst we allow time and space for negotiations to take place.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach a deal that sufficiently addresses years of erosion to our pay to help retain senior doctors in Wales but remain ready to strike if we’re not able to do so during negotiations.”

Dr Ali Nazir, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ SAS doctor committee said:

“As a committee, we felt that this latest development goes someway to understanding the strength of feeling of our members. We will work hard to reach a settlement that sufficiently meets the expectation of our colleagues who have faced real terms pay cuts of up to a third since 2008/9.”

In August last year, the BMA’s committees representing secondary care doctors in Wales voted to enter into separate trade disputes with the Welsh Government after being offered another below inflation pay uplift of just 5% for the 23/24 financial year. SAS doctors on some contracts were offered as little as 1.5%. This was the lowest pay offer any government in the UK offered and less than the DDRB, the pay review body for doctors and dentists, recommended last year.

As part of their disputes, SAS doctors, consultants and junior doctors carried out successful ballots for industrial action. Since then, junior doctors have taken part in 10 days of industrial action since January this year.

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BMA pay disputes – Junior Doctors, Consultants and Specialist Doctors



THE WELSH Government and BMA Wales’ three national committees representing consultants, SAS doctors and junior doctors have today agreed to formal negotiations about pay.

Planned industrial action will be suspended during the negotiations.

A mandate is being developed for the talks with all three BMA branches of practice with the aim of resolving the disputes over pay for 2023-24.

In the context of the most challenging financial position the Welsh Government has faced since devolution, a significant amount of work has been undertaken to identify funding to support the negotiations.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We recognise the strength of feeling among BMA members and that industrial action is never taken lightly.

“This is a government that listens and engages to find solutions. I prioritised a meeting with the BMA directly alongside the Cabinet Secretary for Health to reinforce our commitment to that partnership approach.

“We currently face the most severe financial situation in the devolution era which makes our task far harder. Despite this backdrop, we have worked to identify a way forward that I hope will lead to the successful resolution of this dispute and ensure that doctors can return to work in NHS Wales.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health Eluned Morgan added: “Even in these very challenging circumstances, we have worked in social partnership with the BMA and NHS to maintain patent safety during industrial action.

“But the strikes have been very disruptive to the delivery of NHS services – none of us want to see doctors on strike. I am pleased the three BMA committees have agreed to pause further industrial action and begin formal talks with Welsh Government and hope we can bring an end to this dispute.”

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NHS dental charges in Wales to increase from April



THE COST of NHS dental treatment in Wales will increase from 1 April 2024.

The increase in dental charges is the first since April 2020 and are overall still lower than in England. Any revenue generated from the increased charges will be re-invested back into NHS dentistry services.

From April 2024, the three standard charges will increase to between £20.00 and £260.00 depending on the treatment required, and urgent treatment will increase to £30.00.

Around 50% of people receive NHS dental treatment for free in Wales. Those eligible for free treatment include children under 18 or those aged 18 and in full time education, pregnant women or those who have had a baby within the 12 months of treatment starting, anyone who has dentistry treatment carried out in a hospital or people on certain benefits.

Additionally, the low-income scheme provides full or partial help with health costs, depending on individual circumstances.

Despite pressure on budgets the Welsh Government has increased investment for dentistry, with funding £27 million higher than it was in 2018 to 2019. Included within this increase is an additional £2 million a year to address local access issues.

Changes to the dentistry contract in Wales include a requirement for NHS practices to see new patients. Since this was introduce in April 2022, 312,000 people who couldn’t get an appointment before have now received NHS dental treatment.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Eluned Morgan, said: “Because of the extreme pressure on our budget we have had to consider if additional funding should be raised by increasing dentistry charges.

“This is the first increase we have made to dentistry charges since 2020. Around half of patients don’t pay for their NHS dental treatment and we will continue to protect those that are least able to afford to pay.

“It is vital we all keep our teeth and gums healthy. This is why we are working to make it easier for people to see an NHS dentist by increasing the number of new NHS places and helping dentists to focus on those who need help by changing how often we see a dentist for routine appointments.”

Commenting on the announcement Russell George MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister said: “Vaughan Gething’s arrogant choice to hike up dental charges for the people Wales, rather than cut his Labour Government’s wasteful spending is wrong.

“All standard charges are being increased for dental services by the Labour Welsh Government, including for urgent treatment, which will add to cost-of-living pressures.

“While Welsh Conservatives agree that dental services require greater investment after years of Labour underfunding them, ministers should look at cutting vanity projects like their plans to create more politicians before passing on the cost to patients.”

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