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Hospital visiting arrangements updated by Hywel Dda University Health Board

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FAMILY and friends can now attend hospitals to visit patients under Hywel Dda University Health Board’s revised visiting arrangements.

The new arrangements, set out below, reflect feedback received from patients, their families, and staff about their experiences during the pandemic. They apply to all inpatient areas across health board sites, including adult, paediatric and infants, mental health and community areas.

Revised visiting arrangements:

  • Standard or core visiting hours for general wards are agreed as 2pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm.
  • Open/flexible visiting is in place in critical and specialist care units such as intensive care, special care baby unit, maternity and paediatrics).
  • Only two visitors allowed at the bedside at any one time.
  • Visiting ‘by appointment’ is encouraged to prevent overcrowding in a bay/ward at any one time and will be adopted when there is an increased incidence of certain communicable diseases in the general population, for example, COVID-19 or influenza.
  • If visiting ‘by appointment’ is in place, this will be communicated to patients and visitors.
  • Ward sisters/charge nurses/midwives in charge can use their discretion to facilitate visiting outside of core hours and in exceptional circumstances.
  • Mealtimes remain protected as quiet times, with the option for visitors/carers to make arrangements with the ward sister/charge nurse to assist with feeding as appropriate.
  • Where appropriate ‘virtual visiting’ can be supported.
  • Specific visiting arrangements may be introduced to prevent the transmission of infection, for example, during an outbreak of infection on the ward.
  • All visitors are advised not to visit if unwell with a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection.
  • Please help us to prevent the spread of infection at all times and clean your hands before and after you leave the ward.
  • The health board supports anyone who chooses to wear face coverings on our sites. In line with infection prevention and control guidance, staff, patients and visitors may on occasion be required to wear face masks in certain circumstances, such as in areas dealing with respiratory infections, or to protect our most clinically vulnerable people.

Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience said: “On behalf of the health board I would firstly like to extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to our communities, our patients and their families for your understanding and adherence to the hospital visiting rules that we previously had to impose throughout the pandemic. Your diligence and awareness of the need to keep loved ones safe in hospital has been key in our efforts to fight the virus.

“We recognise the therapeutic benefits of patients receiving visitors and the contribution they can bring to overall patient well-being. I am therefore delighted to confirm that these updated visiting arrangements are now in place, enabling our patients to have visitors while protecting their privacy and dignity, and ensuring they are cared for within a safe, secure and efficient environment.”

Hywel Dda University Health Board requests people not to visit any of its hospital sites if you:

feel unwell;
have flu-like symptoms or a respiratory infection;
currently have, or had, diarrhoea and/or vomiting in the past 48 hours;
have been in contact with anyone with the above symptoms in the past 48 hours;
have an existing medical condition or are on medication that puts them at risk of infection.

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Health

Highest waiting lists on record in: NHS performance under scrutiny

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THE latest NHS performance figures for Wales reveal the highest waiting lists on record, sparking a wave of criticism and concern from various stakeholders. The data, which covers March and April 2024, underscores the immense pressure faced by the Welsh health service, particularly in comparison to other parts of the UK.

Conservative Criticism of Labour Government

Sam Rowlands, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, has sharply criticised the Labour-run Welsh Government, attributing the record-high waiting lists to their management. “These atrocious statistics stand as a stark warning as to what a Labour Government looks like and why Labour cannot be trusted to run the health service,” Rowlands remarked. He highlighted the contrast with England, where he claims progress is being made to cut waiting lists. Rowlands also accused the Welsh Government of misallocating funds received from the UK Conservative Government, spending them on initiatives like 20mph speed limits and expanding the Senedd, instead of bolstering NHS resources.

The statistics are indeed sobering: the number of patient pathways increased from over 762,500 to just under 768,900 in March, the highest figure on record, equating to 1-in-4 of the Welsh population. Additionally, 599,100 individual patients were waiting for treatment in March, marking an increase of nearly 8,000 compared to February. Despite promises from the Labour Health Minister to eliminate two-year waits by March 2023, over 20,000 patients are still waiting this long.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Concerns

Macmillan Cancer Support has also weighed in on the troubling figures, particularly focusing on cancer treatment delays. Glenn Page, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, acknowledged some improvements in cancer waiting times but stressed that many people are still being let down. “Healthcare professionals are working around the clock, but these treatment delays are having a devastating impact on people living with cancer and throwing lives into chaos,” Page said.

In March 2024, more than 600 cancer patients in Wales waited over 62 days to start treatment from first being suspected of having cancer. This figure, representing 40% of those who started treatment that month, highlights the ongoing struggles within the NHS. While there was an improvement from the previous month, the national cancer waiting times target was still missed. Particularly concerning are the delays faced by patients with gynaecological cancers, with only 31.8% starting treatment on time.

NHS Confederation’s Response

The Welsh NHS Confederation has provided a more nuanced perspective, acknowledging the high demand but also highlighting areas of progress. Darren Hughes, Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, noted that emergency departments experienced their busiest April on record. Despite this, there were improvements in performance against four and twelve-hour targets, and the average time spent in emergency departments decreased.

Hughes pointed out that the number of pathways waiting over two years has fallen for the twenty-fourth consecutive month, showing a 71% drop since its peak post-pandemic. However, he emphasised the need for greater investment in prevention, primary, community, and social care to manage demand sustainably. “If governments do not act now, the situation will only deteriorate as demand continues to rise,” he warned.

Welsh Government’s Stand

In response, a Welsh Government spokesperson acknowledged the challenges but also highlighted the strides being made in reducing waiting times and improving access to care. “Long waiting times are continuing to come down – these figures show they have fallen every month for two years and there has been a 71% reduction in long waits since their peak post-pandemic,” the spokesperson said. They also pointed to improvements in diagnostic waiting times and cancer treatment performance.

However, they admitted that ambulance performance remains suboptimal, despite improvements in response times for the most critical calls. The Welsh Government reiterated their commitment to supporting NHS staff and focusing on further reducing waiting times.

Conclusion

The latest NHS Wales performance figures have sparked a heated debate about the effectiveness of the current management under the Labour-run Welsh Government. While some progress has been acknowledged, the record-high waiting lists and persistent treatment delays underscore the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and increased investment in healthcare resources. The coming months will be critical in determining whether these issues can be effectively addressed to meet the growing demands on the Welsh NHS.

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Health

Decades of failure and denial over tainted blood scandal revealed

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ON MONDAY evening (May 20), Rishi Sunak apologised on behalf of the British government to the victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

After a five-year public inquiry, the Prime Minister offered an “unequivocal” apology for the findings published in Sir Brian Langstaff’s report earlier on May 20.

The findings were damning.

They included the revelation that ministers, doctors and civil servants knew the risks of the blood products given to haemophiliacs and people needing blood transfusions.

Victims were “gaslit” by claims that the mass infection of those patients with HIV and hepatitis C was inadvertent, that screening started as soon as it could, and that no one could have stopped it sooner.

None of those things were true.

Under successive Labour and Conservative Governments, the Department of Health and HM Treasury fought against a public inquiry and the idea of paying compensation to those affected by being given tainted blood products.

Officials fobbed off ministers who tried to look into what had happened, complaining that they had too much sympathy for the victims.

When briefing documents for ministers got close to revealing the truth, civil servants doctored their content to misrepresent their authors’ findings.

While Mr Sunak apologised for the failures of the British state and Sir Kier Starmer for a “failure of politics”, the blame doesn’t rest only at Westminster’s door.

Welsh Government ministers are specifically mentioned for refusing to hold a public inquiry and not seeking advice specific to Wales. Instead, despite having responsibility for the NHS in Wales, they slavishly followed Westminster’s line.

Welsh Government ministers failed to examine the strength of the evidence UK ministers and officials relied upon or assess the evidence available in Wales.

Had they done so, they would have found key claims – that all infections were inadvertent and patients received the best possible treatments – were untrue and unfounded.

Only in 2017 did the Welsh Government change tack, when then-Health Minister Vaughan Gething wrote to his UK counterpart, Jeremy Hunt, to request a UK-wide public inquiry.

Ironically, only Theresa May’s political weakness following the 2017 General Election led the Westminster Government to order a public inquiry. Mrs May feared losing a Commons vote on the demand for one.

The worst elements of the scandal are clinical and institutional.

Clinicians, Department of Health officials, and others concealed the truth to avoid blame and liability.
The inquiry pointed to medical advice on the dangers of blood and plasma dating back 40 years and court rulings that showed other countries had started screening sooner.

Doctors claimed they hadn’t seen evidence of infection through those products even while treating people who had contracted AIDS from their treatment with them.

Documents disappeared, were “lost”, and patient records were deleted.

Leading clinicians withheld critical information from patients and their families.
Children with haemophilia were treated as guinea pigs.

The list of severe historic and continuing failings is almost unending.

The government’s easiest task is paying compensation. Addressing the culture of secrecy and institutional arrogance will be much harder.

For more on this story, see this week’s edition of The Pembrokeshire Herald.

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Health

Bathing water samplers set for a busy season of water quality checks

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WHILE families across Wales start making plans for the summer, samplers from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are embarking on their annual programme of bathing water quality tests.

This year, there are 110 designated bathing waters which will be sampled multiple times between 15th May-30th September, in line with the UK Bathing Water Regulations. 109 of these are coastal waters, and one inland lake (Llyn Padarn).

Last month the Welsh Government announced that Nefyn Beach in Gwynedd had been added to the list of designations, following a successful application.

Bathing water samples are sent to NRW’s laboratory in Swansea, where they are tested for levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and intestinal enterococci (IE).

Results from a four-year rolling period then determine the classification for the next bathing water season; excellent, good, satisfactory or poor.

Last year, 98% of Wales’s designated bathing waters met stringent environmental standards, with 80 out of 109 meeting the ‘excellent’ criteria.

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of NRW said:

“More and more people are enjoying the benefits of open water swimming, and where better to take a dip than at one of the many fantastic bathing waters Wales has to offer.

“Our blue waters offer a wealth of recreation opportunities, providing a vital boost to Wales’ tourism sector and the health and well-being of our communities.

“Our teams continue to work hard to tackle the many sources of pollution which threaten our water quality, including from agriculture and storm overflows. Much progress is being made, and we are pressing for record levels of water company investment for the environment in the coming years to safeguard the future health of our waters.”

Prior to the start of the traditional bathing water season, NRW officers undertake a number of pre-season checks and samples. This includes checking to ensure permit conditions for nearby discharges are being complied with.

Issues or deteriorations flagged in last year’s results are investigated by local teams to identify any sources of pollution which may be contributing to high bacteria levels found in samples.

Information about where to find designated bathing waters, and the standard of bathing water is available on NRW’s website.

Visit the Adventure Smart website for information about swimming safely in open waters.

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