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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.

Education

Care is Apprenticeship Ambassador Elen’s true vocation

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ELEN LEWIS is developing a career in health and social care thanks to a bilingual Foundation Apprenticeship opportunity provided by Blaenmarlais Care Home in Narberth.

Elen, 19, who lives in Narberth, believes care is her true vocation and may consider training to become a hospital nurse in the future.

Due to her passion for the Welsh language and apprenticeships, she has been appointed an Apprenticeship Ambassador by Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (CCC) and the National Training Federation of Wales (NTfW).

Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol leads the development of Welsh medium and bilingual education and training in the post-compulsory sector in Wales and the NTfW represents work-based learning providers across Wales.

She began working at Blaenmarlais Care Home 18 months ago, having previously taken a Health and Social Care Level 3 course at Pembrokeshire College. She is now completing her Foundation Apprenticeship in Health and Social Care through City & Guilds, delivered by the same college and hopes to progress to a Level 3 Apprenticeship.

Happy speaking in both Welsh and English to improve her language skills, Elen said: “I love my job because it’s so rewarding to care for our residents and develop a relationship with them. A couple of them enjoy having a conversation in Welsh.

She is proud to be an Apprenticeship Ambassador because, she says, it gives her a chance to promote the Welsh language: “I like apprenticeships because they allow people to earn while they learn, which is one of the main reasons I was not interested in going to university.

“Welsh medium and bilingual apprenticeships provide an opportunity to learn in the language of your choice and encourages the use of the Welsh language, which is important.

“We have spoken Welsh in my family for generations and it’s a unique language to our country and should be preserved. It’s a real bonus when you go into a job and you have an opportunity to speak both Welsh and English.”

Helen Hill is deputy manager of Blaenmarlais Care Home, which has 22 residents and 30 staff, including four apprentices. Despite only two residents speaking Welsh, she thinks it’s important that they are able to converse in the language of their choice.

“We support the opportunity for our staff to do bilingual apprentices if they wish,” she said. “I am one of five members of staff who speak Welsh and am proud of the language and my heritage.”

Janice Morgan, Pembrokeshire College’s Welsh language development officer, has taken on an extra role as bilingual support tutor, funded by Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.

“Elen is an excellent Apprenticeship Ambassador and fully realises the importance of using her Welsh language skills in her work setting when speaking to residents and staff in their first language,” she said.

Lisa Mytton, the NTfW’s strategic director, said: “Many workplaces are becoming more bilingual, so completing an apprenticeship bilingually or in Welsh can increase an individual’s confidence to work in both languages and their employability.

“Our Apprenticeship Ambassadors are excellent role models for apprenticeships, highlighting the benefits of learning and working bilingually in the workplace.”

Elin Williams, from the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, said: “This is the third year running that we have appointed ambassadors for the apprenticeship sector, and we think this is a vital tool in showing people that it is possible to continue with your bilingual learning through the apprenticeship route.

“With the Welsh Government’s target to reach one million Welsh speakers by 2050, it has never been more important to develop your bilingual skills and increase your employability prospects.”

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

To find out more about apprenticeship opportunities go to Careers Wales https://careerswales.gov.wales/apprenticeships or telephone 0800 028 4844.

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Health

How to keep your children smiling with regular dental visits

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WE KNOW that seeing a child’s happy, healthy smile can brighten up a parent’s day. We also know that juggling work, school commitments, kids’ activities and behaviour can make it difficult to help your children to establish an oral health routine – especially if they’re reluctant to brush (which they often are!).
Regular dental visits help children get into a good oral health routine, as well as ensuring that any problems or signs of tooth decay are detected at an early stage. As dental professionals, we at Elegant Dental Care are aware of the worrying state of the oral health of young people in the UK, and are ready and able to help reinforce the importance of good diet and oral hygiene habits.
Almost a third of children in the UK have had between one and five fillings, and one in ten children have missed a full day of school due to tooth decay. Extractions remain high in children who have had tooth decay. Almost 1 in 4 children have cavities and of these nearly half nearly end up with an extraction, the majority of which have to be done in hospital.*
Did you know damage to children’s baby teeth can cause problems for adult teeth in the future? Here are some top tips to help establish a good oral health routine and equip your child with healthy habits for life when it comes to their mouth, teeth and gums.
As part of an oral health routine, we recommend that children brush for two minutes, twice a day with fluoride toothpaste suitable for their age group.
Children often hurry when brushing their teeth. Tiredness, general reluctance and lack of time are among the most common problems parents experience when helping their children to establish an effective oral health routine. Many parents find brushing their child’s teeth for them is the most effective way to help them learn how to brush.
A toothbrush timer is a great investment as younger children don’t always have a concept of what two minutes feels like. There are lots of timers available from cheap sand timers to fun electric ones. There are also some great brushing apps available that you can download for free.
For begrudging brushers try a brushing reward chart so they can plot their progress and see the results of their good work.
And if you’ve not already done so, here’s your reminder to book your child’s next dental appointment. At Elegant Dental Care we offer dental plans for children, from £5.80 a month. Our plans include check-ups, restorative treatment, advice and preventive care. Call 01646 681114 email chris.elegantdentalcare@gmail.com today.

*Denplan Consumer Oral Health Survey 2021

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Health

Call for more funding for NHS pay in Wales

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THE UK GOVERNMENT has been urged to increase the amount of funding available for NHS pay.

Ahead of the Autumn statement, Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan have written to UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay to ask for additional funding to help avert strike action this winter in the NHS.

The letter reads: “We wanted to write to you in advance of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 17th November to once again make the case for additional funding for our hardworking NHS staff.

“In recent weeks the Deputy First Minister of Scotland and the Welsh Government Minister for Finance and Local Government have written to His Majesty’s Treasury to make clear the need for additional funding for public services.

“The Royal College of Nursing have announced a sweeping legal mandate for industrial action across the UK. In Scotland, they have joined several other unions representing NHS staff in gaining a legal mandate for industrial action with ballots expected to confirm a mandate in the rest of the UK.

“The risk to the NHS of industrial action this winter is profound, and we all need to do all we can to avert industrial action in any form. The NHS across the UK continues to feel the effects of the pandemic as it recovers and remobilises, and any action is likely to have catastrophic effects in all parts of the UK.

“We are experiencing a cost of living crisis and the anger of NHS staff is entirely understandable. Sky rocketing inflation combined with high interest rates, a direct result of the havoc caused by the UK Government’s mini-budget, means that we are simply unable to come close to matching the expectations of NHS staff across the country. While the support provided by the UK Government on areas such as support for energy bills is welcome, it has not gone nearly far enough.

“Media reports suggest that the Chancellor is considering reimposing austerity on the people of the UK again, for which there is no mandate, through extensive spending cuts. That would be a disaster for our public services, including the NHS, at a time when they need more investment, not less.

“We would therefore implore you to work with us to make the case to the Chancellor in advance of his Autumn Statement for increased funding for the NHS and the devolved governments as a whole, primarily to pay our hard working NHS staff a fair pay rise in the face of the cost of living crisis this winter, and avoid what could be catastrophic industrial action in the NHS.”

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