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Health

Doctors to enter pay negotiations with the Welsh Government

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BMA CYMRU Wales has suspended forthcoming industrial action for Consultants and SAS doctors following a constructive meeting with the Welsh government to resolve its pay disputes.

As a result of sustained pressure, including three rounds of industrial action by junior doctors in Wales, the Welsh Government has made a significant proposal to form the basis of talks to end the pay disputes with all secondary care doctors including Consultants, SAS and Junior doctors.

Since the meeting last week, the committees representing doctors from all three branches of practice have voted to enter pay negotiations based on this proposal.

The planned 48-hour strike by Consultants and SAS doctors due to take place from 16 April will now be suspended.

Junior doctors have paused plans to announce more strike dates whilst they enter negotiations with the Welsh Government.

The Welsh junior doctors committee, Welsh SAS committee and Welsh consultants committee will now each engage in pay negotiations, with the aim of reaching deals which can be taken separately to their respective members.

Dr Oba Babs Osibodu and Dr Peter Fahey co-chairs of the BMA’s Welsh Junior doctors Committee said:

“This is a significant step forward. It is sad that we had to take industrial action to get here, but we are proud of members for demonstrating their resolve in pursuit of a fair deal for the profession.

“Whilst we are optimistic and hope to quickly resolve our dispute, we remain steadfast in achieving pay restoration. Until we reach a deal, nothing is off the table.

 “We will continue to work hard to reach an offer that is credible to put to members who will ultimately have the final say.”

Dr Stephen Kelly, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ Consultants committee said:

“The Welsh Government’s recent efforts to reach an end to the pay dispute are encouraging and so we have called off our planned strike for now whilst we allow time and space for negotiations to take place.

“We’re hopeful that we can reach a deal that sufficiently addresses years of erosion to our pay to help retain senior doctors in Wales but remain ready to strike if we’re not able to do so during negotiations.”

Dr Ali Nazir, chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ SAS doctor committee said:

“As a committee, we felt that this latest development goes someway to understanding the strength of feeling of our members. We will work hard to reach a settlement that sufficiently meets the expectation of our colleagues who have faced real terms pay cuts of up to a third since 2008/9.”

In August last year, the BMA’s committees representing secondary care doctors in Wales voted to enter into separate trade disputes with the Welsh Government after being offered another below inflation pay uplift of just 5% for the 23/24 financial year. SAS doctors on some contracts were offered as little as 1.5%. This was the lowest pay offer any government in the UK offered and less than the DDRB, the pay review body for doctors and dentists, recommended last year.

As part of their disputes, SAS doctors, consultants and junior doctors carried out successful ballots for industrial action. Since then, junior doctors have taken part in 10 days of industrial action since January this year.

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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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Community

Further pleas to save Anchorage Day Centre

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A PLEA by a concerned parent to keep Pembroke Dock’s Anchorage Day Centre open was heard at a full meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council.

The Anchorage Day Care Centre in Pembroke Dock has been a “safe and happy place” for adults with learning difficulties and additional needs for decades.

In more recent years it has expanded to support elderly dementia sufferers.

But now the centre is expected to close, with services instead being offered elsewhere in the county, including Haverfordwest and Milford Haven.

A series of engagement events have taken place at The Anchorage recently, outlining the reasons and the options in continued service.

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “One young woman who attends ran out of the first meeting sobbing when she was told it was going to close. Another, at the second meeting, tried to address the meeting but was so choked up at the thought of not seeing her friends anymore she could hardly speak.”

In a submitted question heard at the May 9 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, concerned parent Peter Welsh asked: “Is the council aware of the huge impact the impending closure of the Anchorage Adult Day-care Centre in Pembroke Dock is already having to the health and mental wellbeing of my daughter and 20 other vulnerable adults with special needs and learning difficulties, who are unable to cope with changes to routine, or to process and understand what is happening to them?

“And would the council, therefore, please review its closure decision and retain the centre and the vital and invaluable service it provides not only to the individuals concerned but also to the parents?

“If not, what specific measures does the cabinet member have in place to support my daughter and these other individuals who need extra assistance to enable them to maintain their independence, value and allow their carers to have valuable respite from their caring responsibilities and what are the estimated costs for these substitute measures?”

Responding, Cabinet Member for Social Care & Safeguarding Cllr Tessa Hodgson said an engagement with service users, carers and families was made immediately after staff were informed about the potential closure following the council’s March budget setting.

Members were told two sessions were held with all concerned, with a list of alternative day opportunities in the county outlined, with opportunities to attend short sessions at the other centres being available so they “can fully explore which opportunity is best suited to their needs and wants”.

“All service users of the Anchorage will be offered alternative day centre arrangements in order to preserve their independence and also to support the caring needs of their families, these assessments are still taking place and are likely to continue to do so at least until the end of May.”

Cllr Hodgson said she was unable to provide estimated costs of the new arrangements until all the assessments were in place, hoping to update members at a future date.

An online e-petition, on the council’s own website has been launched calling for the Anchorage to stay open.

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