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Health

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.”

Health

Disabled people facing ‘David and Goliath’ battle for support

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DISABLED people too often face a David and Goliath-style battle for support under Wales’ health and social care system, a committee heard.

The Senedd health committee took evidence about the Welsh Government’s plans to reform direct payments which allow disabled people to arrange their own care and support.

Nathan Lee Davies, an author, artist, and activist from Wrexham, told the committee he has had a largely negative experience of direct payments with his local council.

“The local authority has recently clawed back £33,000 of my direct payments,” he said, adding that he finds it difficult to spend his money in the way he would like.

Mr Davies, who has Friedrich’s ataxia, which affects his co-ordination, balance and speech, was saving up for a rainy day as well as a holiday to Florida – his first break in 14 years.

But Wrexham Council demanded the return of “surplus” funds, leading him to launch a successful gofundme campaign to raise money for his dream trip.

Chris Hall, a volunteer who supports Nathan, said the campaigner gets no opportunity to co-produce his “defective, appallingly written” care and support plan.

He said Nathan faces a continual David-and-Goliath battle with a “dysfunctional” direct payments department, warning: “They’re not interested in what Nathan wants.”

He drew a parallel with the victims of scandals around the post office, infected blood, and the Hillsborough disaster – who found themselves isolated and up against big organisations.

Mr Hall told the committee disabled people are too often walking a financial tightrope unable to save money for a potentially catastrophic rainy day.

He stressed that disabled people deserve the opportunity to live a fulfilled life, not just get by.

If passed, the health and social care bill will introduce a right to direct payments via the Continuing NHS Healthcare support service.

Mr Hall warned that disabled people who opt for direct payments for Continuing NHS Healthcare may not be able to go back to receiving support from the council.

“I think Nathan and many people who are disabled say ‘it’s better the devil I know’,” he said.

“Rather than jumping into a swimming pool and saying ‘I’ll see if I can swim’ they’re saying ‘I’ll stay on the edge of the pool – at least I’m not drowning’.”

Shahd Zorob, a fellow campaigner, from Carmarthenshire, warned about more pressure being piled on an already under-strain health service.

Ms Zorob, who has cerebral palsy, also raised concerns about a shortage of personal assistants, saying the pay is simply not good enough.

Mr Hall agreed that there is too often a “revolving door” in terms of support workers, with Mr Davies finding it difficult to recruit and retain staff.

“He’s effectively self-employed and managing ten staff,” he told the meeting on June 12.

Cecilia Kenny, a disability rights campaigner, who is also from Wrexham, called for clearer information and communication around the plans for direct payments via the NHS.

Samantha Williams, policy manager at Learning Disability Wales, supported the reform’s aims but raised concerns about implementation and the administrative burden on families.

Jake Smith, policy officer at Carers Wales, said the bill would potentially increase choice and control for unpaid carers and their loved ones.

Kat Watkins, project development officer at Disability Wales, who recently moved to Continuing NHS Healthcare herself, also welcomed the proposed changes.

She said: “We’ve got a two-tier war between disabled people and people with long-term health conditions who either can have the control over their care or can’t.

“And that is not something that we want in Wales at all.”

Ms Watkins added: “It’s so important for human rights …they may have complex health needs but they still have rights as human beings to have an independent life.”

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Health

Surgery disruption ‘will be minimal’ during telephone system overhaul

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IN response to ongoing issues that have caused significant distress and upset among both patients and staff, Robert Street Surgery has announced a complete overhaul of its telephone system. The decision to adopt a new provider comes after careful consideration of the persistent problems associated with the current phone system.

The transition to the new telephone system is scheduled to take place over two days: Tuesday, July 2, and Wednesday, July 3. According to the practice, the disruption will be minimal, with any loss of service expected to last only a few minutes in total.

Patients are advised to be aware of the potential for unexpected issues during these dates and are requested to bear with the surgery as it navigates the transition. The surgery will remain open as usual on both days. In the event of any difficulties in reaching the practice by phone, patients are encouraged to call into the surgery directly or to email if their concerns are non-urgent.

A spokesperson for the practice expressed confidence that the new system will significantly enhance the patient experience when contacting the surgery in the future. They also extended apologies for any negative experiences patients may have encountered up to now.

On behalf of The Robert Street Practice, the spokesperson thanked patients for their patience and support during this transition period.

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Health

St Davids residents rally to save doctors’ surgery from closure

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HUNDREDS of St Davids residents gathered together on Sunday to launch their SOS Save Our Surgery campaign.

Hywel Dda University Health Board is currently in discussions with St David’s Surgery over how the service will function beyond October 2024, following the resignation of the surgery’s General Medical Services Contract.

Local residents, who have formed their own ‘Against the Proposed Closure of St. Davids’ group to front the campaign, made their feelings know ahead of an important public consultation this Friday, June 14.

From 2pm to 7pm at the City Hall in St Davids, representatives of the health board will be on hand to listen to the concerns of residents. As many people as possible are being encouraged to attend and e-mail their views to [email protected].

The group have also been distributing questionnaires, which can be filled in and dropped off at the pharmacy in St Davids.

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