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Covid field hospital at Bluestone was health board’s decision not council



THE DECISION to site an emergency Covid field hospital at Pembrokeshire’s Bluestone holiday park was made by the health board not the council, members of Pembrokeshire County Council heard yesterday.

Milford Haven County councillor Alan Dennison – in a written question to senior councillors at the March 2 meeting of the council –questioned whether the use of the facility, said to have cost £10m, was the right choice.

Hywel Dda University Health Board worked with Pembrokeshire County Council in setting up a 126-bed Covid-19 field hospital in April 2020, with Bluestone National Park Resort identified as the most suitable location by the health board.

It was previously reported by the Local Democracy Service that the emergency hospital – known as Ysbyty Carreg Las –  resulted in around £6million paid to the local holiday resort.

At the March 2 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr Dennison asked: “Given that Bluestone was the Pembrokeshire County Council recommended facility for the field hospital during the pandemic, does the cabinet member now consider this was the right choice, given the overall costs of over £10m to the Hywel Dda health board and the loss of income (and centre refurbishment) to the council by not utilising Pembrokeshire leisure centres as Carmarthenshire county council did?”

Responding to the written question, Council Leader David Simpson said that back in 2020 the council had offered to explore a range of sites with Hywel Dda, including the potential use of schools and leisure centres.

He said the council was not part of the decision by Hywel Dda to site the field hospital at Bluestone, adding: “At no point did Pembrokeshire County Council recommend Bluestone to Hywel Dda, the decision was made by senior managers at Hywel Dda.”

He said costs incurred at Bluestone were met by Hywel Dda.

Cllr Simpson praised all involved in the work done in creating the field hospital in such a short time during the uncertain early days of the pandemic.

“The majority of works were completed in a staggering three weeks,” said Cllr Simpson, adding: “It was one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever been involved in.”

Cllr Dennison also submitted a Notice of Motion “That any decision taken by PCC in similar circumstances to that of the pandemic response to supply of field hospitals must primarily take into account the financial benefits to the council and ratepayers and not to recommend or endorse any private commercial venture”.

Members at the March 2 meeting agreed the Notice of Motion be sent to the council’s Cabinet for consideration.


Hywel Dda to engage on Tregaron Community Hospital beds



HYWEL DDA University Health Board is inviting members of the public to share their views about the potential of decommissioning the nine beds currently at Tregaron Community Hospital.

The proposal for a new model of care, which is part of the broader Cylch Caron project, will see the move of care from the hospital to people’s own homes enabled through a different model of support. This can only be achieved by staff working in different ways, focused on keeping people well at home, and with more available to help people in the community.

Peter Skitt, County Director Ceredigion at Hywel Dda University Health Board explains: “Members of our local community will be familiar with our vision, which includes the development of the Cylch Caron model of care that includes an integrated resource centre.”

Dr Sion James, Deputy Medical Director Primary Care and local GP for Tregaron, adds: “Tregaron Hospital has been a part of our local community for a number of years, and we need to provide our community with a range of services that meets their current and future needs.

“The Centre is an exciting and unique project that aims to offer many opportunities and benefits for people in the area. This will bring together a range of services in a central hub for the Tregaron and surrounding rural areas. The project will create an innovative rural model of community-based care to meet care, health and housing need in the area, which is fit for today and sustainable for tomorrow.”

The Cylch Caron scheme is being developed in partnership between Ceredigion County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board and the Welsh Government. It will consist of a GP surgery, community pharmacy, outpatient clinics and community nursing and social care facilities, as well as extra care flats and integrated health and social care units.

Ceredigion County Council recently announced that they are inviting companies to tender for the design and build of the new fully-integrated health, social care and housing centre.

Peter adds: “While we develop our Cylch Caron scheme, we also need to consider our current model of care for patients at Tregaron Hospital. Despite efforts to recruit to positions, our current level of staffing is insufficient, and our staffing rotas are fragile. Our staff have voiced how challenging it is to support our patients through our current model of care at Tregaron Hospital. Our proposal is to move our staff from being hospital based and looking after the nine beds, to being community based. This will enable us to support more patients in their homes.

The Cylch Caron model of care is focused on providing more community nursing and enhanced care in people’s own homes. This would be achieved through outreach nursing and increased provision of same day urgent care. Outpatient appointments will continue to be provided from Tregaron Hospital and the building will serve as a hub for our staff until the new Cylch Caron Integrated Resource Centre is built.

Peter continues: “We know that being close to home, or in their home, is important for our patients. We want to increase the opportunity for people in Ceredigion to be able to stay well for longer, with the support of enhanced staffing in their own homes.

“At the moment, the patients in our care at Tregaron hospital live more than ten miles away from the hospital, and most are medically fit. And this has been common for a long time. Our proposal to move our staff to focus on advanced care in people’s homes provides a different way of supporting our patients. It will enable us to deliver our community care model quicker and support more people in our communities.

“Patients have consistently shared that they would prefer to be at home, or closer to home, and this tends to enable their recovery. We will work with our patients and their families, and our broader community, to understand their views during the planned period of engagement.”

The proposal to decommission the nine beds and the engagement period will be discussed at the Board meeting held on 25 July. The four-week period of engagement will launch on 1 August and run until 29 August 2024. Individuals will be able to attend online and in-person events and be able to share their views through the Health Board’s Have Your Say portal. Feedback from the engagement will be presented to the September meeting of the Health Board.

Further information on the events and how individuals can share their views will be shared at the end of July.

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Equipment and games for Glangwili children’s ward thanks to donations



THANKS to donations, Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official charity of Hywel Dda University Health Board, has been able to provide equipment and games worth over £300 to Cilgerran Ward at Glangwili Hospital.

The NHS charity funded TV brackets, universal remotes, Nintendo Switch cases and Nintendo games including FIFA, Chocobo and Minecraft Dungeons.

Karen Thomas, Head of Therapeutic Play, said: “We are so grateful that charitable funds have allowed us to purchase more items for Cilgerran Ward.

“The new items will help the therapeutic play team work more effectively and focus their time on the children and young people in our care.

“Being able to play while in hospital means the children and young people can continue an aspect of their normal life. Arts and crafts help as they go through treatments and procedures in hospital, minimising the effects of isolation, stress and anxiety.

“The items will help make the ward and all the areas the children attend more friendly and promote wellbeing for all.”

Nicola Llewelyn, Head of Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official charity of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “The support of our local communities enables us to provide services over and above what the NHS can provide in the three counties of Hywel Dda and we are extremely grateful for every donation we receive.”

For more details about the charity and how you can help support local NHS patients and staff, go to

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NHS Wales launches Welsh language online therapy programme for anxiety



WELSH speakers dealing with anxiety can now access free online help in their preferred language through the NHS.

NHS Wales offers a range of guided cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programmes for managing mental health and wellbeing.

Space from Anxiety is the third CBT programme to be translated into Welsh, giving Welsh speakers the choice and freedom to express their feelings, thoughts and emotions in their chosen language.

Fionnuala Clayton, NHS Wales online CBT service project manager, said: “We’re incredibly proud to launch this programme in Welsh.

“Providing bilingual therapy is a key priority for us and is very much forefront in our minds as the service continues to grow.

“It can be difficult to open up and share your thoughts and feelings, and it’s even harder if you have to do it in your second language.

“It’s vital that we break down that barrier and provide people with the space and opportunity to use Welsh when they access our therapeutic content.”

Research suggests almost a quarter of adults in Wales feel anxious all or most of the time, while 45% of adults with feelings of anxiety keep them secret.

Although some level of anxiety plays a useful and healthy role in helping us deal with problems and rise to challenges, it can become overwhelming and ultimately debilitating if left unaddressed.

Lingering stigma around mental health issues can make it tough to reach out for help, but NHS Wales’ online therapy programmes – delivered by SilverCloud® – help break down barriers to care.

The interactive programmes teach practical coping skills for mild to moderate mental health issues and can be accessed anonymously online – without seeing a GP or joining waiting lists – via any mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop device.

They take 12 weeks to complete and service users need commit as little as 15 minutes a day, 3-4 times weekly. Progress is monitored by qualified practitioners, who provide fortnightly feedback and can escalate more serious cases to access further support.

30,000 people have accessed the service – funded by the Welsh government – since it piloted in Powys in 2018.

It was extended across Wales in September 2020 and Space from Anxiety has become the second-most requested programme, with almost 6000 people signing up in the last six years.

The new Welsh provision meets one of the themes of Cymraeg 2050  – a Welsh government strategy aiming to deliver a million Welsh speakers by 2050 – and is in line with More Than Just Words, its Strategic Framework for Promoting the Welsh Language in health, social services and social care.

NHS Wales Online CBT Co-ordinator Leah Williams is one of 12 trained online supporters monitoring and providing feedback to SilverCloud® Wales users. She grew up in a family of Welsh speakers, speaking Welsh as her first language.

Says Leah: “I think I always took it for granted when visiting a GP that I had the privilege of seeing a Welsh speaking doctor, but when it came to accessing mental health support, this was not always the case.

“My mental health practitioners and counsellors were non-Welsh speakers. I found it difficult to open up and discuss personal issues.

“Not being able to converse in your first language can be distressing, especially when speaking about an already emotive subject.

“I found that when I did get to speak to a Welsh-speaking counsellor, there was an instant therapeutic connection due to a shared identity and a deeper understanding of my issues and needs.

“It’s incredibly rewarding that I now get to bring that to SilverCloud Wales as a Welsh-speaking member of the online support team.

“People are quick to say that the Welsh language is fading away, but the reality is it’s very much alive.”

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