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Health

Spring Covid booster programme for over 75s and most vulnerable

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has confirmed that a spring Covid-19 booster vaccination programme will begin on 1st April for the most vulnerable, including people over 75.

Following advice from the expert Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the vaccine will be offered to:

  • adults aged 75 and over
  • residents in care homes for older adults, and
  • individuals aged 5 years and over who are immunosuppressed.
  • In addition, the Welsh Government has announced that the universal offer of a Covid-19 booster will end on 31st March. Higher risk groups and people who develop a new health condition that makes them eligible will still be able to receive their booster vaccine, if advised by a doctor or other clinician.

People who have not received their primary course of vaccinations will be able to do so until 30th June. The JCVI has recommended that the high level of population immunity has enabled the changes.

As well as the spring booster programme, there will be an autumn booster programme later this year, following further advice from the JCVI.

Sir Frank Atherton, the Chief Medical Officer, said: “Coronavirus is still circulating in our communities, so we are offering the most vulnerable another booster vaccination this spring. People who are eligible for vaccination will begin to receive their invitations in the coming weeks.

“For anyone who hasn’t yet received your primary course or original booster – it’s not too late. Please make an appointment to get your booster by the end of this month or your primary course by 30th June.

“Vaccination continues to be the best way to protect yourself and the people around you to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and I would urge everyone to get their vaccinations.”

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Health

Senior doctors in Wales vote to strike over pay

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  • A 48 hour strike will take place from Tuesday 16 April

CONSULTANTS and SAS (specialist, associate specialist, and speciality) doctors have voted to strike as part of a dispute with the Welsh Government over their pay, which has been cut by almost a third in real terms since 2008/9.

The results of the ballots, which ended at midday today (Monday 4 March), for doctors working in both branches of practice in Wales saw 86% of consultant voters and 94% SAS doctor voters cast their ballots in favour of industrial action.

A significant 70% of consultants and 58% SAS doctors eligible to vote in Wales had responded to a call to take part in industrial action which will take place from Tuesday 16 April.

Consultant and SAS doctors make up over half (54%) of the hospital-based medical workforce combined, with 3,137 Consultants and 1,088 SAS doctors working in hospitals across Wales. *

The BMA is now calling on all consultants and SAS doctors in Wales to participate in a 48 hour strike, except for those providing ‘Christmas day’ cover.

This level of cover will ensure doctors can provide emergency care, but all elective or non-emergency work will be postponed during this period.

BMA Cymru Wales is working with NHS employers on precise staffing levels that are appropriate and will provide guidance to members in advance of any strike days.   

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of the BMA’s consultants committee in Wales, said: 

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision. No doctor wants to strike, but the conditions now faced in the workplace caused by the extreme pressures on the service and unsafe staffing levels have left doctors with no choice.   

“Fewer doctors now want to develop their careers in Wales with some health boards reporting vacancy rates of over third for senior doctor posts.  

“Colleagues are now choosing to retire early, reduce their hours or move out of Wales where pay is competitive, and wards better staffed. 

“Unless doctors are better valued for the work they do, more and more doctors will leave an NHS already under severe pressure in Wales”. 

Dr Julie Jones, Deputy chair of the BMA’s SAS doctors committee in Wales added: “Doctors are burning out from covering significant gaps in the workforce and patient safety is at risk. With this result our members have chosen to take a stand for the profession and for patients.

“People are waiting for treatment for longer than ever before, resulting in poorer outcomes and more time in the hospital and we all deserve better.

“This result represents a profession that is not ready to give up on the NHS and its patients in Wales”.

The decision to ballot members was taken after the BMA rejected the Welsh Government’s first and final pay offer for the 2023/24 financial year for those working in secondary care.

For consultants and SAS doctors on closed contracts the offer was 5%; SAS doctors on more recent contracts received as little as 2.5%. This final offer left BMA Cymru Wales with no choice but to enter a trade dispute and ballot for strike action.  

Over the last 15 years, consultants and SAS doctors in Wales have experienced a pay cut of almost a third since 2008/9. They received another sub-inflationary pay offer from the Welsh Government for 2023/24 which is below the recommendation made by the DDRB and is the worst offer in the UK. 

The BMA is calling on the Welsh Government to provide sufficient funding to enable discussions around an uplift in senior doctor pay that will retain existing doctors and ensure that we are able to recruit more.

Consultant and SAS doctor strike action will take place from 7am, Tuesday 16 April to 7am, Thursday 18 April.

Junior doctors in Wales will begin their third round of strike action a 96-hour full walkout from 7am Monday 25 March in pursuit of a fairer deal for their service**

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Health

NHS charity offers opportunities to leave a thank you in your will

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HYWEL DDA Health Charities has teamed up with solicitors across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire this Make Your Will Month (1st-31st May 2024) to offer supporters the opportunity to write or update a will at a greatly reduced rate.  The solicitors are waiving their usual fee in exchange for a donation to the charity.

The will-writing month provides a perfect opportunity for people who don’t have a will to write one, and for those with a current will to update it. The charity is asking for a minimum donation of £90 for a single will and £175 for a mirror will. Those who take part can ensure the people they love are remembered in their will, and, if they choose, their local NHS charity.

The participating solicitors are Avery Naylor Family Law, Gomer Williams Solicitors, Jennings Solicitors and Powell Davies Solicitors.

Sian Stevens, Associate Solicitor at Avery Naylor Family Lawyers, said: “Make Your Will Month is a great opportunity to plan for the future. By making a will you can ensure your family and friends are provided for, as well as the causes you really care about.

“If you already have a will, Make Your Will Month is the perfect chance to update it and make sure it reflects any change in your circumstances through birth, bereavement, a change in marital status, moving house, etc.”

Katie Hancock, Fundraising Officer at Hywel Dda Health Charities, said: “This is a great opportunity to ensure your family’s future is secure and that your wishes will be followed through – and also to support your local NHS.

“A donation made to the charity will help us to provide services and activities above and beyond what the NHS can normally provide. And those who choose to leave a gift to Hywel Dda Health Charities, however large or small, will be safe in the knowledge that their community will feel the benefits of their kindness for years to come.

“We’d like to thank all the participating solicitors for their fantastic support and for giving us their valuable time.”

There are a limited number of will-writing spaces available, and they are awarded on a first come, first served basis. For more information or to sign up, please visit: https://hywelddahealthcharities.nhs.wales/campaigns/make-your-will-month/

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Health

Health board celebrates success of Welsh language programme

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THE SUCCESS of a new role introduced by Hywel Dda University Health Board (UHB) to increase staff’s Welsh language skills and confidence is being celebrated this St David’s Day.

The Confidence Building Officer role, funded by the National Centre for Learning Welsh, was introduced in 2023 as part of the Work Welsh scheme to provide a series of short confidence building courses for staff.

The series of courses have been very successful with 121 members of staff attending during the past year from a broad spectrum of fields including nurses, telephone handlers, apprentices, consultants, mental health professionals, administrative staff and many more.

Enfys Williams, Welsh Language Services Manager for Hywel Dda UHB said: “As a health board we recognise the importance of the Welsh language in the workplace for our staff and service users. Our workforce language skills data shows that there is a significant percentage of Welsh speakers working for the health board, however, following previous feedback it is clear that many feel that a lack of confidence is holding them back.

“Through this new role, we have been able to provide staff with confidence building courses, the purpose of which is to change linguistic habits and improve confidence, so our staff are more likely to use their Welsh to communicate with others and complete their tasks in the workplace through the medium of Welsh.”

Following positive feedback and success over 2023, the health board is pleased to confirm the full-time confidence building officer role (employed by Learn Welsh provider, Aberystwyth University) will be continuing their work with the health board for a further 12 months.

The aim is to offer short confidence building courses and work with individuals to change their use of the Welsh with patients. The series of confidence building courses will be open to all health board staff with particular emphasis on staff who have direct contact with patients, such as school nurses, apprentices, porters and staff working in the Dementia field.

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