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Paul Davies calls for urgent action over eye care waiting lists

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SENEDD Member Paul Davies has called for urgent action over alarming statistics which show that less than half of patients waiting for eye care treatment have actually been seen within the target date or within 25% beyond their target date for an outpatient appointment. The latest statistics from the Welsh Government show that only 46.6% of patients in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area have been assessed, despite those patients being at risk of irreversible harm.

Mr Davies said, “It’s very worrying to read that less than half of all patients with an urgent eye problem are being seen in an appropriate time. These patients are often living in discomfort and pain and the longer they wait for treatment, the more they risk irreversible harm or blindness.”

“These statistics should be a wake up call for Hywel Dda University Health Board who must prioritise this as a matter or urgency. It is not acceptable for patients to be waiting this long for treatment and action must be taken immediately before it’s too late. Efforts must be redoubled to recruit ophthalmologists and the Welsh Government need to do more to support the Health Board to improve access to services and ensure the Health Board has the staff and resources required to bring down these waiting lists.”

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Withybush paediatric care gone for good in yet another blow for hospital

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OVER seven years after “temporarily” closing Withybush’s 24-hour Paediatric Ambulatory Care Unit (PACU), Hywel Dda UHB decided to close the department permanently on Thursday, November 30.
In January, the Board will meet to receive the plan for its implementation plan to make the change permanent.

A FOREGONE CONCLUSION

Describing the Board’s decision as a foregone conclusion would be grossly unfair. But, as Thursday’s meeting chugged along, it became clear it was.
Bluntly, the Board has neither the money, resources, nor staff to return paediatric care to Withybush. It didn’t have them before the consultation began. In the interim period, the only thing that changed was the catastrophically worse financial performance that led to the Board being subject to enhanced monitoring by the Welsh Government.
The Board’s ability to deliver its preferred option, which included returning some outpatient services for children to Withybush, is doubtful.
However, it now needs a plan to implement its plan. That plan to have a plan for its implementation plan will be discussed in January when the Board will discuss the planned plan for a plan.
If the planned plan for a plan doesn’t work out, the Board will go back to the drawing board to draw up another plan for its plan.

A “TEMPORARY” PROBLEM

In three years, the Board moved from a 24/7 service to a promise to return to a 12/7 service to a bold attempt to preserve an 8/7 service.
As our columnist Badger noted five years ago, the next step was bound to be a 0/7 service.
And then Covid came along.
PACU was closed, and its services “temporarily” transferred to Glangwili during the pandemic.
At the end of the pandemic, PACU didn’t return.
Instead, the Board justified its continued cessation because of the risk of a spike in respiratory viruses.
When that spike didn’t happen, the Board consulted on a “permanent solution”.
And that permanent solution – as glaringly obvious for years – was permanent closure.

A DECADE OF WORTHLESS REASSURANCE

In 2014, the Board stopped providing 24-hour paediatric care at
Withybush. At the time, it said that a 12-hour provision was deliverable, and it planned to return 24-hour paediatric care to Withybush once it recruited clinical staff.
By then, there was only ONE advert for a single paediatric consultant at Withybush and NONE for nurses specialising in paediatric care.
At one point at the end of 2015, the Board suspended its recruitment campaign for posts at WithyWithybush’s after claiming to have recruited staff to fill vacancies there. It announced an intention to launch a more focused campaign later.
In November 2016, the Board restated its commitment to maintaining the Paediatric Ambulatory Care Unit’s opening hours at Withybush from 10am-10pm, even though it faced “renewed and significant workforce challenges at the consultant level”.
In 2017, CEO Steve Moore said the Board was clear: “The changes to paediatric services are temporary and in response to us needing to ensure a safe and reliable service for our families with the consultant paediatricians available.”
After ending the 12-hour PACU cover, the Board did not launch an effort to recruit for three months after its closure.
By the end of the same year, the Board said: “Unfortunately, we have not been able to recruit a sufficient number of consultants to support the re-establishment of the 12-hour PACU service, although our recruitment efforts continue.
“In the meantime, the Health Board is working with staff and partners to explore a number of ideas to support a sustainable PACU service for the longer term.”
In 2018, the Community Health Council issued a report.
It said: “The health board needs to do all it can to resolve the current temporary reduced hours arrangements in PACU”.

CONSULT THE PUBLIC, THEN IGNORE THEM

Thursday’s meeting continued to offer mealy-mouthed platitudes instead of health services.

Board members suggested that parents of children in need of paediatric care would be reassured by the clarity the permanent removal of a key service from Pembrokeshire would provide.
Discussing the lack of transport options, Board members said they would publicise the availability of the Designated Ambulance Vehicle and the use of a taxi service to ferry children and parents from Glangwili.
The disconnection between the Pembrokeshire public and the Board over the issues could not be more complete.
Board members said that the main problem with the attitude of Pembrokeshire’s concerned parents was communication.
Pembrokeshire’s respondents to the Board’s conscientious rubber-stamping process were clear the issue was not communication but concern about timely treatment close to home.
70% said PACU should return to Withybush. The Board’s alternative, closing PACU for good, was overwhelmingly rejected.
If communication were the issue, not the provision of treatment at Withybush, the Board could have resolved it by being straightforward and transparent.
It wasn’t.
All the communication in the world, delivered by the best communicators money can buy, cannot circumvent that epic failure of honesty.
Describing the Board’s decision as a foregone conclusion would be grossly unfair. But, as the meeting ground on, it became clear it was.
Bluntly, the Board has neither the money, resources, nor staff to return paediatric care to Withybush. It didn’t have them before the consultation began. In the interim period, the only thing that changed was the catastrophically worse financial performance that led to the Board being subject to enhanced monitoring by the Welsh Government.

TOTAL DISCONNECTION

Board members suggested that parents of children in need of paediatric care would be reassured by the clarity the permanent removal of a key service from Pembrokeshire would provide.
Discussing the lack of transport options, Board members said they would publicise the availability of the Designated Ambulance Vehicle and the use of a taxi service to ferry children and parents from Glangwili.
The disconnection between the Pembrokeshire public and the Board over the issues could not be more complete.
Board members said that the main problem with the attitude of Pembrokeshire’s concerned parents was communication.
Pembrokeshire’s respondents to the Board’s conscientious rubber-stamping process were clear the issue was not communication but concern about timely treatment close to home.
If communication was the issue, not the provision of treatment at Withybush, the Board could have resolved issues by being honest and transparent from the outset. It wasn’t. All the communication in the world, delivered by the best communicators money can buy, cannot circumvent that epic failure.

PERMANENT CLOSURE “BETTER”

Six years ago, “temporary” became the status quo.
Then “temporary” became a further “temporary reduction”. During Covid, the whole service was “temporarily” withdrawn.
So intense was Board members’ collective delusion at Thursday’s meeting that the permanent removal of the PACU service and its replacement with a vague promise of some outpatient clinics for children returning to Withybush sometime over the rainbow was represented as an improvement on the current position.
Even this Thursday morning, the current position was “temporary”, not permanent.
The Health Board’s thesaurus must look very peculiar.
Its word games demonstrate the extent to which the Board had long dispensed with the pretence of PACU’s closure temporary nature.
In the meantime, the Board plans to tell more people about its Dedicated Ambulance Vehicle and plans to fund taxis for distressed parents and sick and injured children.
You can bet that’ll make everything better.

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Health

Hywel Dda hosts distinguished clinical examination

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HYWEL DDA University Health Board said this week that it was proud to have successfully hosted the distinguished Member of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (MRCPCH) clinical examination on behalf of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

The RCPCH is responsible for setting the standards of paediatric training in the UK including producing the paediatric curriculum and assessment pathway.

Paediatric trainees were welcomed to Glangwili Hospital, the only Welsh test centre for 2023, to complete their final MRCPCH examination. This practical examination involves a series of ten scenarios some using real patients, whilst being assessed by trainers with extensive experience of working in paediatrics.

Dr Prem Kumar Pitchaikani, Consultant Paediatrician and Clinical Director said “The education and training of medical professionals is an on-going and continuous process and is of greatest value, when taking place in the real world dealing with genuine concerns, conditions and challenges.  The MRCPCH clinical examination strives to do this. 

“This process showcases our health board’s commitment towards the education and training of future paediatricians, and I would like to convey my thanks to all the members of the paediatric department and the senior management for supporting this event.”

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Health

Miss Wales calls on communities across Wales to give blood this Christmas

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A 22-YEAR-OLD is encouraging people across Wales to consider donating blood, platelets and bone marrow this festive season. Miss Wales winner Darcey Corria received multiple blood transfusions after a serious car accident left her fighting for her life.

Darcey was crowned Miss Wales in May 2022, but her success almost came to a tragic end when she sustained a broken pelvis, back, jaw and neck following a near-fatal car accident in January 2023 on the M4 near Bridgend.

Emergency services teams worked at the scene of the crash for more than three hours until Darcey was taken to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW), Cardiff. Her injuries were further complicated upon arrival when doctors identified she had internal bleeding. Darcey urgently needed two blood transfusions. Darcey then remained at UHW for the next 20 days, where she underwent treatment and began her rehabilitation and recovery.

Darcey, who is recovering well from her injuries and is currently preparing for her entry to Miss World in February next year, said: “Without the selflessness of blood donors, I would not be able to continue doing the things I love, and I may not be here at all today. I now have the chance to fulfil my lifelong dream and compete for the title of Miss World, and it’s thanks to blood donors. The blood donations were truly the best gift I have ever received.

“I am so grateful to those who give up their time to help others in need. Sadly, I cannot donate blood now following my transfusions, but I hope that by sharing the difference it made to me personally, it may encourage more people to consider donating. It really can change someone’s life.”

Darcey, who has Jamaican heritage through her father, is a black rights activist and is championing diversity here in Wales alongside her pageant work. With Christmas celebrations fast approaching, Miss Wales is supporting the Welsh Blood Service’s campaign, #thebestgift. The campaign encourages communities across Wales to support blood stocks over the Winter period by raising awareness of the importance of a blood, platelet or bone marrow donation and the difference those precious gifts make to patients in need like Darcey.

The Service provides lifesaving blood and blood products to 19 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies. It also manages the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry which recruits and supports bone marrow volunteers matched with cancer patients across the globe to make a potentially lifesaving bone marrow donation.

Currently, three in every ten patients requiring a bone marrow transplant do not find the match they need, and the risk of not finding a donor increases to seven in ten for patients of minority ethnic heritage due to the lack of representation on global donor registers.

Alan Prosser, Welsh Blood Service Director, said: “For patients who find themselves in need, a donation will be ‘the best gift’ they receive this Christmas.”

Blood and blood products, which are needed to support patients and save lives across Wales, have a short shelf life and are in constant need by hospitals every day, including bank holidays like Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Alan continued: “The Service must be prepared, so we’re reaching out to our communities across Wales  encourage them to make a lifesaving donation over the Winter period, and for those aged 17 to 30 years old, to also sign up to our bone marrow registry.”

Darcey added: “I would urge everybody eligible to support the Welsh Blood Service, particularly those from a Black, Asian, Mixed or Minority Ethnic background. By coming forward, you are really helping patients in need and providing diversity to the donor panel, which will help a larger number of patients.”

Do something amazing this Christmas and New Year. Give someone the best gift, give blood and, if you are aged between 17 and 30, join the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry either when you donate blood or by requesting a swab kit online.

Book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/xmas23 or call 0800 252 266 today.

If you’re aged 17 to 30, find out how you can join the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry at www.wbs.wales/bmvxmas23

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