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Ambulances at breaking point

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ambulancesWHILE controversy continues about the tragic death of Wayne Young (see page x) on New Year’s Day, The Herald has spoken to several sources who have told the same story again and again: that the Ambulance Service has been pushed to the breaking point and beyond over recent weeks. One concerned member of staff told us that ambulances based in Pembrokeshire have been forced to cover incidents in Ceredigion and as far afi eld as Llandeilo, as Carmarthenshire-based ambulances have been overwhelmed by calls to Swansea and beyond.

AMBULANCES FILL THE GAPS’ 

Five ambulances are rotated to cover Pembrokeshire. However, demands from outside the County and long waits at Glangwili for ‘emergency admissions’, mean Pembrokeshire has been left hopelessly exposed with fewer available than are required to be on duty. Pictures have appeared in the Welsh media of a dozen ambulances queued up outside Morriston, each with a patient waiting for admission to Accident & Emergency. A similar, but less dramatic situation has recently occurred at Glangwili, with a Pembrokeshire ambulance waiting for more than two hours to unload an ill patient. The Herald has also uncovered that in Christmas week only one third of the most urgent ‘Red’ cases were reached within the eight minutes target set by the Welsh Government. The problems with the Ambulance Service have called into question the viability of the Board’s ‘Designated Ambulance Vehicle’ (DAV). The Herald understands that although twelve vacancies were advertised to crew the DAV, there has been difficulty in acquiring long term staff for the service and that at least two replacement posts have recently gone out to advertisement.

LOCAL GP VOICES CONCERNS

Dr Dan Weaver, a GP at the Robert Street practice in Milford Haven, posted his family’s experience on the Save Withybush Hospital Team’s (SWAT) Facebook page: “One of my children has been really poorly recently. “At the weekend they had been really wheezy with a croupy upper respiratory tract infection, but abruptly got a lot worse and they went into a degree of respiratory distress, really struggling to breath to the point where they were vomiting with the effort and lips had bluish tinge. “We live approximately 12 minutes from Withybush and last year in a similar situation I would have run her to the car and driven to A&E in case she needed nebulising/oxygen support etc. This was not an option as it was after 10pm. “West Wales General is more like a 45-50 minute drive. “I am medically trained but would not have fancied risking her worsening further in a cold car while I drove to Carmarthen as I could still be potentially over half an hour from help – additionally I realised that I would need to fi ll up with petrol to get to Carmarthen as my tank was virtually empty. I gave her oral steroids and salbutamol, we tried to keep her calm and called an ambulance. “The ambulance took over 30 minutes to come because it had to come from Carmarthen. Apparently all the Pembrokeshire ambulances were in Carmarthenshire and stuck in Llanelli (this was according to the crew who attended who were fantastic). “She was already starting to improve a little when the ambulance crew arrived thankfully as the steroids were beginning to kick in. She’s still pretty poorly but breathing better than a couple of days ago. “I felt it important to share this as I think there are two key points about the current situation that I think are worth underlining: Firstly it does not seem that ambulance provision is anything like appropriate considering the increased demands on the ambulance service from reduced local jobs & gynae/paediatric services. Ambulances from the county seem routinely being used to cover other regions which leaves Pembrokeshire very exposed. “Secondly I think it may be worth anyone who looks after a child (or is pregnant or knows someone who is pregnant) in Pembrokeshire making sure they always have enough fuel to get to Carmarthen quickly in the event of an unforeseen emergency. This is not something which I had really clearly thought about before Saturday night; but I think is increasingly relevant and could make the difference between recovery and tragedy.”

CONCERNS FOR EXPECTANT MUMS 

An expectant mum contacted The Herald this week and told us that mums to- be are being told to consider opting to give birth in Withybush to ease pressures on the DAV and ensure that maternity services remain in Pembrokeshire. She told us that she feels midwives have been trying to plant the seed for mums to stay in Pembrokeshire, despite accepting that birth at Withybush might be no safer than having a home birth attended by a midwife. She also said that midwives have been telling expectant mothers that staff shortages at Glangwili mean that aftercare is poorer than at Withybush and that there is pressure on staff to turnaround beds too quickly. Rebecca (name changed) said: “I made the to decision to go to Carmarthen early on in my pregnancy, but when I went to a recent appointment, I felt very confused afterwards after feeling pressured to agree that I would be better off going to Withybush due to the poor aftercare, even though if I needed an emergency caesarean or even an epidural, I wouldn’t be able to have one due to there being nobody qualifi ed to perform the procedure.” Rebecca also reported that she had been led to understand that if people do not use the midwife led unit, it will close all together and there will be nowhere at all to have a baby in Pembrokeshire. The Pembrokeshire Herald reported staff fears on that very point last summer, when the Board closed Withybush’s Special Care Baby Unit and ended consultant-led care at the hospital. Rebecca continued: “I’ve also been told to call the midwife when I go into labour so I can be checked to see when I should go to the hospital, but whenever I call them, whether it be at the doctors surgery or the midwife led unit, nobody has ever answered the phone to me when I call, and I have to leave a message to be picked up later. “The Midwife Led Unit never goes to answerphone and never stops ringing. “What worries me most is that problems can’t always be detected until they’re happening in labour. Expectant mothers in labour are expected to wait until contractions are fi ve to six minutes apart, despite having to travel for up to an hour or even more, with the risk of waters breaking in the car on the way.”

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Royals set to visit Ceredigion during summer visit

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AS PART of their annual summer visit to Wales, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be visiting Ceredigion next month.

From July 2-6, Charles and Camilla will tour the country, undertaking over 20 engagements across the country.

On July 3, The Prince of Wales will visit Dà Mhìle Distillery, Llandysul, the first organic distillery in the UK approved by the Soil Association, where he was previously gifted the thousandth bottle to be produced by Dà Mhìle.

The Prince of Wales will also visit St. Gwenog’s Church, Llanwenog, and view their unique carvings created by Joseph Reubens, a Belgian World War One refugee. His Royal Highness will also meet members of their local community.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall’s fourteenth annual Summer visit to Wales will feature celebrations to mark the 70th Anniversary of The National Health Service and the marking the 150th anniversary of the Heart of Wales railway line amongst other events.

A Clarence House spokesperson said: “The Prince and The Duchess are really looking forward to their annual summer visit to Wales where they will be celebrating key anniversaries for the National Health Service, the Heart of Wales railway line and the 90th anniversary of Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisation. Their Royal Highnesses relish the opportunity to meet members of the community who are making a difference to Welsh life.”

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Social media used to groom children young as six

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CHILDREN as young as six in Wales have been targeted across an array of online platforms in the first year following the introduction of anti-grooming laws.

A law of Sexual Communication with a Child came into effect in England and Wales on April 3, 2017, after an NSPCC campaign, and in the first year a total of 3,171 crimes were recorded by police forces – amounting to nine grooming offences per day.

A total of 274 offences were recorded across the four Welsh police forces in the same period.

More than half of the offences in Wales were logged by South Wales Police (158) with 53 in North Wales and 44 in the Gwent force area.

Dyfed-Powys Police supplied data for the period between October 2017 and April 2018 when 19 offences were recorded.

In Wales, grooming offences were recorded on 23 different platforms, with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat comprising the top three most-commonly used with more than 120 taking place using those platforms alone.

Ninety-one crimes were reported in Wales against boys and girls aged between 12 and 15, while 56 offences were recorded against children aged 11 and under. The youngest victim recorded was just six years old.

Following the NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign, the UK Government’s digital secretary Matt Hancock announced that laws will be brought in to regulate social networks, to keep children safe and prevent harms such as grooming.

The charity is now campaigning to ensure those laws are sufficiently robust to prevent grooming and to truly keep children safe.

It is calling on Government Create mandatory safety rules that social networks are legally required to follow; Establish an independent regulator to enforce safety laws and fine non-compliant sites; Require social media sites to publish annual safety reports; Force platforms to develop technology to detect grooming using algorithms.

It comes ahead of the charity’s annual flagship conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins on Wednesday June 20 in London and has the theme Growing Up Online.

Contact offences such as rape and sexual assault were among those recorded in connection with grooming offences.

Mared Parry, from North Wales, was sent sexual messages from men 10 years older than her on Facebook when she was aged just 14.

Mared, who has waived her right to anonymity, was groomed to send semi-naked pictures to them.

She said: “At the beginning it was messages like ‘Hey, how are you?’ But as the weeks went on, they started sending messages that were more and more sexual. It was so subtle; that’s why it is so easy for an online chat to slip into being so wrong.

“If I didn’t reply or speak the way they wanted me to, then they would say: ‘You’re just too immature for me’. They were so manipulative, but you don’t even notice it.

“Looking back at it now, it’s scary to think that I sent semi-naked pictures to older guys. It could have gone a lot further.”

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “These numbers are far higher than we had predicted, and every single sexual message from an adult to a child can have a huge impact for years to come.

“Social networks have been self-regulated for a decade and it’s absolutely clear that children have been harmed as a result.

“I urge digital secretary Matt Hancock to follow through on his promise and introduce safety rules backed up in law and enforced by an independent regulator with fining powers.

“Social networks must be forced to design extra protections for children into their platforms, including algorithms to detect grooming to prevent abuse from escalating.”

In Wales, NSPCC Cymru has called for the Welsh Government to co-ordinate and progress efforts to keep children as safe in their online worlds as they are offline.

Last year, Welsh Government announced plans to produce a children and young persons’ online safety action plan.

The NSPCC hopes it will deliver practical help and support for schools, parents and others in Wales involved in child protection online when it is published.

How Safe Are Our Children? takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, in Westminster, London on June 20-21.

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Grant money available to improve play areas in Ceredigion

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL has been awarded £100,800 from the Welsh Government’s Rural Communities Development Fund to finance capital works in four play areas across Ceredigion.

On June 19, the Council’s Cabinet authorised the project’s commencement.

The four play areas are Ponterwyd Play Area, Llanon Tennis Courts, Llanddewi Brefi Play Area and Cardigan Skate Park. The money will improve playing and leisure opportunities in these areas.

The full cost of the work is estimated to be £126,000, with the grant contributing 80% of the cost and the town and community councils will provide the remaining 20%.

The Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services and Lifelong Learning, Councillor Catrin Miles, said, “Quality and safe playing opportunities are important to the county’s children as well as for their parents. I’m delighted that the Cabinet could authorise such a project and I’m sure the play areas will be well used after being improved.”

The project may start from July 18, 2018 and must end by April 30, 2019.

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