THE JOINT COMMITTEE on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the independent advisory committee, has just issued their recommendations for the upcoming autumn Covid-19 booster vaccination programme. This timely advice comes in light of the current health challenges and the recent emergence of a concerning new variant known as BA.2.86.
Eluned Morgan MS, the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, released a statement yesterday that the central objective of this autumn’s booster programme is to amplify immunity among the most vulnerable segments of the population and to strengthen protection against the severe impacts of Covid-19.
Highlighted in the JCVI’s recent report, the recommended vaccines for the autumn of 2023 include the bivalent Omicron BA4-5 mRNA and the monovalent XBB vaccines, contingent upon their licensure by the MHRA. The committee has emphasised the urgency in utilising the most recent Covid-19 variant vaccines, particularly for those with a heightened clinical risk of severe Covid-19.
Patients will be administered the most suitable vaccine based on age and clinical risk factors. The JCVI also suggests:
- A minimum interval of three months between the booster and the last received vaccine dose. However, logistical considerations might necessitate some flexibility.
- Should there be significant delays in rolling out the most recent UK-approved Covid-19 vaccine by December, administering the vaccine promptly should be favoured over vaccine selection.
- In circumstances that permit, Covid-19 and flu shots may be simultaneously given.
In the wake of the BA.2.86 variant’s discovery, Wales is set to kick off its winter respiratory vaccination programme on 11 September, prioritising the high-risk groups. This campaign will initiate with the vaccination of care home residents with the current stock of vaccines. The NHS in Wales has reportedly made significant headway in preparing for the forthcoming autumn initiative, with appointment notifications expected imminently.
The strategy for the winter vaccination drive will not only address the threat of Covid-19 but will also shield eligible individuals from the seasonal flu. Ms. Morgan ardently advocates for individuals to avail themselves of both vaccines when available, citing it as the most effective means to guard oneself and loved ones. It’s deemed an imperative step to ensure Wales’ safety during the challenging winter months.
In her statement, Ms. Morgan conveyed her profound gratitude to the NHS and all stakeholders in the vaccination programme for their relentless dedication. Given that the statement was released during recess, Ms. Morgan has expressed her readiness to provide further details or address any queries upon the Senedd’s resumption.
Baby loss remembrance service resumes at Withybush Hospital
THE ANNUAL baby loss remembrance service will return on Thursday 12 October 2023 at St Luke’s Chapel in Withybush hospital in Haverfordwest at 7pm.
The ‘Forget Me Not’ service coincides with Baby Loss Awareness week (9-15 October) and is arranged by Midwifery and Bereavement teams and led by the Spiritual Care Department (Chaplaincy).
The service has long been a source of comfort for parents and families and provides an opportunity for people to reflect and to come together to pay respects and write a message in a safe space.
Euryl Howells, Senior Chaplain at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “This service of remembrance is an important moment for parents and families who have been affected by the very sad experience of babies who have passed away.
“Infant and pregnancy loss is a very lonely grief. This space is a time to gather and remember precious little ones whether the loss was recent or in the more distant past.”
In recognition of Baby Loss Awareness week, Prince Philip Hospital, Llanelli, Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen and Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth will have pink and blue lights in the Chapel/Quiet Room. The week culminates in a ‘Wave of Light’ on 15 October, which is recognised across the world.
A candle (battery operated) will be lit at 7pm by the Senior Chaplain in memory of all the babies who lit up our lives for such a short time.
If you are unable to attend the service and wish to commemorate your loved one, please send a message to [email protected] by Tuesday 10 October 2023
Should you require further information please contact Euryl Howells by telephone or email 01267 227563 or [email protected]
Plans for new hospital in west Wales reduced to two sites
The building of a new hospital in west Wales, which could result in around £1.3billion of investment into health and care will now be a choice of two sites, Whitland or St Clears, following a health board meeting today.
An initial 11 sites were nominated, which was reduced to five, and then three last year.
Members of Hywel Dda University Health Board, at an extraordinary board meeting, were asked to whittle down the three proposed sites of Whitland’s Spring Gardens – formerly site 12 – and Ty Newydd – formerly site C – sites and St Clears -formerly site 17 – to two.
A 12-week public consultation was held from February to May of this year, with 17 public drop-in events; more respondents rate all sites as poor, but of the sites, overall views are more evenly balanced in relation to St Clears.
A report for board members said there were widespread concerns raised about plans for a new hospital, primarily around geography/access, citing poor road infrastructure and traffic congestion, and a concern about ambulance response times, supporting refurbishing the existing Glangwili and Withybush sites and retaining services there but also recognising that a modern, fit-for-purpose hospital of sufficient size not possible on the existing sites.
Alternative sites were suggested – later rejected – included the showground in Nantyci, Canaston Bridge, and Penblewin, near Narberth.
The report also highlighted positive comments, saying those in favour felt it would be beneficial for the area economically/in improving health and wellbeing outcomes, help overcome the board’s staffing challenges, offer specialisms/up-to-date technology, and provide modern environments for patients and staff.
It said the St Clears site had drawn the most positive responses, but added: “However, it is important to note that views differ markedly by respondents’ geography/nearest current hospital.”
Of the three sites, Spring Gardens, the cheapest option, drew positives for being equidistant between Glangwili and Withybush, being closer to Pembrokeshire, and close to the A40 trunk road, but negatives were raised about poor road infrastructure, and the site being a complicated and costly sale due to multiple landowners, with limited room for expansion, and clinical/recruitment risks of siting a hospital further west.
Tŷ Newydd, the largest site, gained positives for its nearness to Pembrokeshire, the only site with potential for on-site renewable energy, the nearest to a railway station, and being owned by the county council.
Withybush Hospital Medical Committee stated: “To consider the other two sites when you have a perfect site in public ownership which can be expanded considerably is a no-brainer.”
However, negatives were raised about the lack of an access road, flooding potential, recruitment risks, and fears a large hospital in Whitland would destroy the character of the town.
Positives for the St Clears site – which has a single private landowner – included being geographically central and near large centres of population, no flood risk, easier to recruit/retain staff, less disruptive to local residents, but concerns were raised about the time taken to travel there from the west.
Summarising the lengthy meeting after a short break before a decision was made, Chair Maria Battle said: “Today is another important step to delivering our strategy of independent health and care centres, with investment in repurposing Glangwili and Withybush hospitals, bringing care closer to home.
“A vital part, now more than ever, is a new urgent and planned hospital fit for future generations. Based on the evidence we have been asked to consider reducing the shortlist from three to two sites.”
She said St Clears had the largest public support, other than residents to the west, but had commercial risks associated with it, while Spring Gardens had the highest commercial risk; Ty Newydd – the majority of the site proposed being owned by Carmarthenshire County Council -having the lowest commercial risk, but was the least liked by the public.
“I propose, taking all the evidence into account, that we take forward, as a board, the Ty Newydd site in Whitland and the St Clears site.”
Members backed this, and other recommendations, with the three suggested alternative sites of Canaston Bridge, Penblewin and Nantyci rejected.
The chair finished: “Never has it been more urgent that we in west Wales have a new hospital that is fit for purpose and fit for the future; let’s keep pushing forward to realise the vision that everyone in west Wales wants.”
Health Board progresses with site selection for new hospital
AT an extraordinary meeting of the Board on Thursday (Sept 14), Hywel Dda University Health Board members discussed the findings of the recent public consultation, together with the latest technical and commercial information, on the three potential sites for a new urgent and planned care hospital in the south of the Hywel Dda region.
The Board meeting follows the public consultation held between the 23 February and 19 May 2023 that invited the public, health board staff, partner organisations, and the broader community to share their views on three potential site options for a proposed new urgent and emergency care hospital; two located near Whitland and one near St Clears.
Following thorough consideration of the consultation findings that were independently collated and analysed by Opinion Research Services (ORS), together with further technical information on the potential three sites, and commercial information, Board members decided to reduce the shortlist of sites for the new urgent and planned care hospital from three sites to two sites. The Board decided to progress with Tŷ Newydd, Whitland, and the site at St Clears. These sites were chosen following consideration of the consultation report, Equalities Health Impact Assessment, Technical, Biophilic, Clinical and Workforce appraisals. It was decided that site at Whitland Spring Gardens would not be taken forward for further consideration.
Opinion Research Services (ORS) was commissioned to independently advise, collate, and manage the consultation responses. Their comprehensive report on the consultation findings is now available for review on the health board’s website: https://hduhb.nhs.wales/about-us/healthier-mid-and-west-wales/. The consultation process for the selection of a site for the new hospital has achieved a Best Practice Quality Assurance from the Consultation institute.
Steve Moore, Chief Executive Officer for Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Today’s decision marks a step closer to identifying the site for the planned urgent and planned care hospital that is an important part of our Healthier Mid and West Wales Strategy.
“Our strategy also includes plans for a series of integrated health and care centres across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire, and investment in Glangwili and Withybush hospitals to ensure they continue to provide important care for our communities. Our new hospital will be a pivotal piece in enhancing specialist care services in Hywel Dda and will enable us to provide a sustainable hospital model fit for future generations.”
The health board submitted ambitious plans to the Welsh Government, in early 2022, which if successful, could result in the region of £1.3billion investment into health and care in west Wales. The foundation of the plan is to bring as much care as possible closer to people’s homes, with plans for multiple integrated health and care centres, designed with local communities, across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.
The extraordinary board meeting was open to members of the public and available to view online. The Board papers that were discussed at the meeting, which included further technical information relating to the three sites, can be accessed on the health board’s website: https://hduhb.nhs.wales/about-us/your-health-board/board-meetings-2023/extraordinary-board-agenda-and-papers-14-september-2023/
Lee Davies, Executive Director of Strategy and Planning a Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are very grateful to members of the public, staff, partner organisations, and the wider community for their active participation in the public consultation process regarding the new hospital site. Their valuable insights and thoughtful feedback have provided a solid foundation for the Board’s discussions and decision-making process.”
“The Health Board looks forward to continued collaboration with all stakeholders and communities as we work together towards the creation of a sustainable and comprehensive healthcare model for the region.”
Following today’s decision, the health board will continue its planning and development process. On the basis that the Programme Business Case receives endorsement from Welsh Government, the Strategic Outline Case will be presented to Board, and is the next step in attaining funding and support. We anticipate this is likely towards the end of the year.
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