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Health

Patients to benefit from ward’s new outdoor space

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PATIENTS in Withybush Hospital’s Ward 10 can now benefit from a new outdoor space, designed to enhance their health and well-being while staying in hospital.

The new terrace area has been made possible thanks to Elly’s Ward 10 Flag Appeal, everyone who has generously made charitable donations to the Appeal, and Hywel Dda University Health Board’s Pembrokeshire Cancer Services Fund.

It has been created and designed with well-being in mind. It offers a welcome space particularly for patients to get some fresh air and experience the outdoor environment just a step away from the ward. Ward staff will also benefit from being able to take breaks outside. The new terrace features a modern outdoor seating area and a selection of installed photographic images by Drew Buckley, an award-winning professional landscape and wildlifephotographer based in Pembrokeshire. The nature themed images have been selected by the Ward 10 team to create a calm and tranquil space to enhance the patient experience.

Dr Andrew Burns, Hospital Director at Withybush said: “I’m thrilled to see this facility open to patients and staff. It is a wonderful addition to the ward, which patients and staff will benefit from.

“Thank you to everyone involved in this wonderful project, particularly to Elly’s Ward 10 Flag Appeal, all the incredible fundraising efforts and our Pembrokeshire community for their contribution, support and generosity.” 

Lyn Neville, Elly’s father, added: “All of us involved with Elly’s Flag are very pleased that the Ward 10 roof terrace is now open. So happy that Elly’s fundraising has made a real difference to the welfare of patients and staff. The terrace will allow patients on Ward 10, including those who are bed bound, to enjoy some fresh air and outside space, which is so good for a patient’s mental health while in hospital. As the Ward 10 project comes to its conclusion, we would like to thank everyone who supported Elly’s Appeal and campaign for the best cancer services for Pembrokeshire people”.

The outdoor terrace project completes the improvements and refurbishment of Ward 10, which reopened in April 2020 to provide modern facilities and an enhanced environment in which to care for patients. The health board has addressed the immediate health, safety and risk issues posed by numerous defective Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) planks and it is expected to re-open Ward 10 for patients in early April 2024.

The overall ward development scheme, mainly funded by Welsh Government, also benefited from more than £500,000 of charitable donations from the health board’s Pembrokeshire Cancer Services Fund, Elly’s Ward 10 Flag Appeal, together with significant donations also received from the late Luke Harding and his family.

A post on the Ward 10 Flag Facebook page on Thursday (Mar 21) read: “This sign on the new Ward 10 Roof Terrace at Withybush Hospital made me feel very Proud of all that Elly has achieved. I took a photo of the welsh side of the door!! It reads, “Made possible thanks to Elly’s Ward 10 Flag Appeal”. I know it’s just a sign on a door but it means so much too us after 9 years and £230,000 of campaigning and fundraising”

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Health

Highest waiting lists on record in: NHS performance under scrutiny

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THE latest NHS performance figures for Wales reveal the highest waiting lists on record, sparking a wave of criticism and concern from various stakeholders. The data, which covers March and April 2024, underscores the immense pressure faced by the Welsh health service, particularly in comparison to other parts of the UK.

Conservative Criticism of Labour Government

Sam Rowlands, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, has sharply criticised the Labour-run Welsh Government, attributing the record-high waiting lists to their management. “These atrocious statistics stand as a stark warning as to what a Labour Government looks like and why Labour cannot be trusted to run the health service,” Rowlands remarked. He highlighted the contrast with England, where he claims progress is being made to cut waiting lists. Rowlands also accused the Welsh Government of misallocating funds received from the UK Conservative Government, spending them on initiatives like 20mph speed limits and expanding the Senedd, instead of bolstering NHS resources.

The statistics are indeed sobering: the number of patient pathways increased from over 762,500 to just under 768,900 in March, the highest figure on record, equating to 1-in-4 of the Welsh population. Additionally, 599,100 individual patients were waiting for treatment in March, marking an increase of nearly 8,000 compared to February. Despite promises from the Labour Health Minister to eliminate two-year waits by March 2023, over 20,000 patients are still waiting this long.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Concerns

Macmillan Cancer Support has also weighed in on the troubling figures, particularly focusing on cancer treatment delays. Glenn Page, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, acknowledged some improvements in cancer waiting times but stressed that many people are still being let down. “Healthcare professionals are working around the clock, but these treatment delays are having a devastating impact on people living with cancer and throwing lives into chaos,” Page said.

In March 2024, more than 600 cancer patients in Wales waited over 62 days to start treatment from first being suspected of having cancer. This figure, representing 40% of those who started treatment that month, highlights the ongoing struggles within the NHS. While there was an improvement from the previous month, the national cancer waiting times target was still missed. Particularly concerning are the delays faced by patients with gynaecological cancers, with only 31.8% starting treatment on time.

NHS Confederation’s Response

The Welsh NHS Confederation has provided a more nuanced perspective, acknowledging the high demand but also highlighting areas of progress. Darren Hughes, Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, noted that emergency departments experienced their busiest April on record. Despite this, there were improvements in performance against four and twelve-hour targets, and the average time spent in emergency departments decreased.

Hughes pointed out that the number of pathways waiting over two years has fallen for the twenty-fourth consecutive month, showing a 71% drop since its peak post-pandemic. However, he emphasised the need for greater investment in prevention, primary, community, and social care to manage demand sustainably. “If governments do not act now, the situation will only deteriorate as demand continues to rise,” he warned.

Welsh Government’s Stand

In response, a Welsh Government spokesperson acknowledged the challenges but also highlighted the strides being made in reducing waiting times and improving access to care. “Long waiting times are continuing to come down – these figures show they have fallen every month for two years and there has been a 71% reduction in long waits since their peak post-pandemic,” the spokesperson said. They also pointed to improvements in diagnostic waiting times and cancer treatment performance.

However, they admitted that ambulance performance remains suboptimal, despite improvements in response times for the most critical calls. The Welsh Government reiterated their commitment to supporting NHS staff and focusing on further reducing waiting times.

Conclusion

The latest NHS Wales performance figures have sparked a heated debate about the effectiveness of the current management under the Labour-run Welsh Government. While some progress has been acknowledged, the record-high waiting lists and persistent treatment delays underscore the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and increased investment in healthcare resources. The coming months will be critical in determining whether these issues can be effectively addressed to meet the growing demands on the Welsh NHS.

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Health

Decades of failure and denial over tainted blood scandal revealed

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ON MONDAY evening (May 20), Rishi Sunak apologised on behalf of the British government to the victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

After a five-year public inquiry, the Prime Minister offered an “unequivocal” apology for the findings published in Sir Brian Langstaff’s report earlier on May 20.

The findings were damning.

They included the revelation that ministers, doctors and civil servants knew the risks of the blood products given to haemophiliacs and people needing blood transfusions.

Victims were “gaslit” by claims that the mass infection of those patients with HIV and hepatitis C was inadvertent, that screening started as soon as it could, and that no one could have stopped it sooner.

None of those things were true.

Under successive Labour and Conservative Governments, the Department of Health and HM Treasury fought against a public inquiry and the idea of paying compensation to those affected by being given tainted blood products.

Officials fobbed off ministers who tried to look into what had happened, complaining that they had too much sympathy for the victims.

When briefing documents for ministers got close to revealing the truth, civil servants doctored their content to misrepresent their authors’ findings.

While Mr Sunak apologised for the failures of the British state and Sir Kier Starmer for a “failure of politics”, the blame doesn’t rest only at Westminster’s door.

Welsh Government ministers are specifically mentioned for refusing to hold a public inquiry and not seeking advice specific to Wales. Instead, despite having responsibility for the NHS in Wales, they slavishly followed Westminster’s line.

Welsh Government ministers failed to examine the strength of the evidence UK ministers and officials relied upon or assess the evidence available in Wales.

Had they done so, they would have found key claims – that all infections were inadvertent and patients received the best possible treatments – were untrue and unfounded.

Only in 2017 did the Welsh Government change tack, when then-Health Minister Vaughan Gething wrote to his UK counterpart, Jeremy Hunt, to request a UK-wide public inquiry.

Ironically, only Theresa May’s political weakness following the 2017 General Election led the Westminster Government to order a public inquiry. Mrs May feared losing a Commons vote on the demand for one.

The worst elements of the scandal are clinical and institutional.

Clinicians, Department of Health officials, and others concealed the truth to avoid blame and liability.
The inquiry pointed to medical advice on the dangers of blood and plasma dating back 40 years and court rulings that showed other countries had started screening sooner.

Doctors claimed they hadn’t seen evidence of infection through those products even while treating people who had contracted AIDS from their treatment with them.

Documents disappeared, were “lost”, and patient records were deleted.

Leading clinicians withheld critical information from patients and their families.
Children with haemophilia were treated as guinea pigs.

The list of severe historic and continuing failings is almost unending.

The government’s easiest task is paying compensation. Addressing the culture of secrecy and institutional arrogance will be much harder.

For more on this story, see this week’s edition of The Pembrokeshire Herald.

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Health

Bathing water samplers set for a busy season of water quality checks

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WHILE families across Wales start making plans for the summer, samplers from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are embarking on their annual programme of bathing water quality tests.

This year, there are 110 designated bathing waters which will be sampled multiple times between 15th May-30th September, in line with the UK Bathing Water Regulations. 109 of these are coastal waters, and one inland lake (Llyn Padarn).

Last month the Welsh Government announced that Nefyn Beach in Gwynedd had been added to the list of designations, following a successful application.

Bathing water samples are sent to NRW’s laboratory in Swansea, where they are tested for levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and intestinal enterococci (IE).

Results from a four-year rolling period then determine the classification for the next bathing water season; excellent, good, satisfactory or poor.

Last year, 98% of Wales’s designated bathing waters met stringent environmental standards, with 80 out of 109 meeting the ‘excellent’ criteria.

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of NRW said:

“More and more people are enjoying the benefits of open water swimming, and where better to take a dip than at one of the many fantastic bathing waters Wales has to offer.

“Our blue waters offer a wealth of recreation opportunities, providing a vital boost to Wales’ tourism sector and the health and well-being of our communities.

“Our teams continue to work hard to tackle the many sources of pollution which threaten our water quality, including from agriculture and storm overflows. Much progress is being made, and we are pressing for record levels of water company investment for the environment in the coming years to safeguard the future health of our waters.”

Prior to the start of the traditional bathing water season, NRW officers undertake a number of pre-season checks and samples. This includes checking to ensure permit conditions for nearby discharges are being complied with.

Issues or deteriorations flagged in last year’s results are investigated by local teams to identify any sources of pollution which may be contributing to high bacteria levels found in samples.

Information about where to find designated bathing waters, and the standard of bathing water is available on NRW’s website.

Visit the Adventure Smart website for information about swimming safely in open waters.

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