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‘Fog of confusion’ about Withybush Plans

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fog of confusionUNCERTAINTY CONTINUES to dog the future of maternity, paediatric and specialist baby care at Withybush General Hospital, Haverfordwest.

Speaking to The Pembrokeshire Herald, Stephen Crabb, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said:

“In recent weeks the fog of confusion around the future of vital services at Withybush has got worse, with neither the Hywel Dda Health Board nor the Welsh Health Minister being willing or able to come clean on their true intentions. The Pembrokeshire rumour mill is in overdrive about changes at Withybush and the local community is rightly concerned and angry. This is the biggest issue facing our County and it is time for Welsh Government in Cardiff to hold the Health Board to account and provide certainty and assurance.”

As The Pembrokeshire Herald revealed last week, staff have already been consulted about a planned shift of services from Withybush to West Wales General Hospital, Glangwili. BBC news picked up the story this week and confirmed with Hywel Dda Local Health Board that talks were taking place with hospital staff.

Campaign groups set up

SEVERAL campaigning groups have been set up on Facebook to fight the closures and a public meeting is to be held at The Picton Centre in Haverfordwest this evening (Thursday, November 21) with a view to setting up a fighting fund to resist any closures or relocation of maternity and paediatric services.

The number of people who have joined the on-line campaign groups at the time this article goes to press is just under 20,000.

In January 2013, Pembrokeshire’s Best Magazine revealed that out of 1,567 responses to the ORS consultation on the Health Board’s plans for Withybush, only 9% of respondents in Pembrokeshire (150 people) favoured the Board’s proposal to close SCBU and transfer all care for high dependence neonates, complex ante-natal and perinatal care out of the County to Glangwili. In spite of the level of opposition shown to their plans, the Local Health Board’s decision announced on January 15 was to proceed with its plans, but to retain some paediatric and obstetric services at Withybush “subject to recruiting staff”.

Speaking to The Herald last week with reference to the potential loss of services due to loss of birth numbers at Withybush, the a spokeswoman from the Hywel Dda Health Board said:

“We are at significant risk of losing training posts if we cannot find solutions. Services may become too fragile unless we plan for the future.

“The neonatal element was referred to Welsh Government and the Health Board was requested to provide further details on our models for gynaecology and obstetrics which is being addressed by this ongoing planning work.”

Further criticism of LHB

THE HEALTH BOARD has been separately criticised by Ceredigion AM for delays in recruitment:

“I have been made increasingly aware of recruitment delays across the Hywel Dda region. In some cases such as recently at Ysbyty Bronglais I’m told of instances where six months after the employment process began, nurses have still not been able to take up new posts.

“Delays in appointing key staff members undermine the vital services offered by the Health Board, increase waiting times, erode public confidence and make it even harder to recruit staff in the future.

“The Welsh Government must work closely with the Local Health Boards across Wales to ensure the process is expedited and that residents get the health service they need and deserve.”

AM’s request for scrutiny denied

A REQUEST from local Assembly Member Paul Davies to publicly scrutinise the future of services at Withybush hospital has been denied.

This follows the latest news that overnight paediatric services at the Withybush hospital could be closed. Mr Davies tabled an urgent question to the Welsh Health Minister given the substantial knock-on effect that this closure would have on the hospital’s obstetrics department, A & E department and the Special Care Baby Unit.

Mr Davies said, “This latest news has further escalated concerns in Pembrokeshire that Withybush hospital is signalled for downgrading. Sadly, my request to scrutinise the Health Minister on this has been turned down. Unfortunately, I have repeatedly called for statements from the Welsh Government in relation to Hywel Dda Health Board’s plans, all of which have been denied.”

He added, “This news will once again renew fears over the hospital’s future, and it’s time that the Welsh Government provided certainty and reassurances for west Wales patients. Anything less is unacceptable. Residents will rightly be worried about the potential closure of overnight paediatric services and the effect that it will have on the sustainability of other core services at Withybush. I will of course, keep raising these issues in the Assembly Chamber in the hope that Welsh Labour Ministers will come clean on the future of Withybush hospital as soon as possible.”

Concern from Haverfordwest Town Council

AT THE Haverfordwest Town Council meeting last night councillors discussed the situation regarding Withybush Hospital.

Town Clerk David Williams said “There are serious concerns about what is happening at Withybush Hospital. We don’t know what the proposals are at the moment and the future of the hospital is in the balance.

“Our intentions are to write to the trust and health minister to clarify what the situation is”.

SWAT has suggested that the situation is the thin end of the wedge in relation to other services. A SWAT leaflet sent to The Pembrokeshire Herald claims, amongst other things:Emergency cover for ALL specialities may reduce to 16 hours each day. Date of implementation unknown at present but maybe January 1, 2014. This would mean patients already in hospital would be safe as on call doctors would be on site but with no A&E facility from perhaps midnight people who became ill overnight or have an accident in the community would be taken directly to Glangwili.

SCBU, Paediatrics and Obstetrics will move to Glangwili in March 2014. This means that there will be NO beds to admit children, babies or pregnant women at Withybush except for very low risk mothers to be.

Anyone needing admission will have to be taken to Glangwili.

A&E will be reduced to 12 hours during the day from April 1, 2014. This means that Withybush will not be able to take any emergency patients overnight and they will all have to be taken to Glangwili for assessment and admission if appropriate.

The leaflet calls on people to demonstrate in support of maintaining services at Withybush outside the hospital every Saturday morning at 11:00 am from January 4, 2014. It also asks for support for a potential legal action to prevent the Health Board’s plans from proceeding.

Joyce Watson AM told us: “I totally support the plan for a Level 2 neo-natal unit in the Hywel Dda area, as we do not currently have one. Withybush maternity unit is the crucial missing piece of the puzzle, however. Until Hywel Dda submits its proposal to the Welsh Government we cannot assess the overall plan.

“What is clear is that Withybush must retain a service that can stabilise mother and baby when complications occur. That is absolutely critical – a red line – and I have consistently urged that point in my discussions with both the Health Board and the Government.”

The Local Health Board responds

In response to the BBC News story, the Health Board released a statement saying:

“The health board can confirm that no instruction has been given to book expectant mothers due in March or April into Glangwili Hospital instead of Withybush Hospital. If any mother has any queries about their booking they are advised to speak to their midwife directly.

“The health board was instructed by the Health Minister in September to clarify the delivery model for obstetric and paediatric services that would be provided to support a Level 2 neonatal unit before a final Ministerial decision is made in relation to new born services.

“The health board is committed to openly discussing the current situation with staff and so meetings are taking place at a hospital, county and health board-wide level.

“The ongoing work with our clinical teams is based on clarifying the service model, taking into account the many service inter-dependencies.

“Proposed models will be submitted to Welsh Government in the next few weeks…the health board’s position [is] that members of staff have not been informed of any final decisions as none have been made.”
Chris Overton of SWAT told The Herald

“Last Tuesday morning the midwifery manager told midwives on the wards that from March there would be a midwifery led service at Withybush. At the same time, the Paediatric Manager told staff that SCBU, paediatric services and Ward 9 admissions would all go to Carmarthen, as that was where paediatric trainee doctors would be based.”

The Pembrokeshire Herald asked for a response from the Welsh Government, shortly before we went to press a spokesperson for Health Minister Mark Drakeford told The Herald:

“This is a matter for the Local Health Board and we have no comment to make on it, at this time.Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales said:

“I am obviously concerned by the recent reports, and am seeking clarity from the Health Board because continued speculation and rumour is unhelpful for both patients and our NHS staff.

“The Health Board is due to submit its detailed proposed models to Welsh Government in the next few weeks, and I would expect that those plans should be clinically robust and developed in close collaboration with clinicians and expert obstetricians. I look forward to scrutinising the plans.

“Patient safety – both for the expectant mother and the baby – has to be the overriding concern.”

Mrs Evans is currently seeking reassurances from the Health Board on a number of matters, including that that there is no truth in the reports that all expectant mothers due to give birth after 1 April are being booked into Glangwili Hospital.

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Safe zones in Ceredigion town centres

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Plans are being put into place to create safe zones for pedestrians in Ceredigion town centres.
Most of the county’s towns have a historic street layout with narrow footways and traffic running through them so as businesses re-open and visitors return to these areas there is insufficient space for people to keep a safe distance from one another.

Our towns will look different to how they did a few months ago but changes will mean businesses can re-open safely whilst also ensuring residents’ and visitors’ health and safety can be maintained.

The plans being developed by council officers include closing off roads to traffic during the day to create more space for shoppers to walk safely, particularly as large numbers of tourists and students return to the county. It’s also aimed at helping businesses too by creating more outdoor space for retailers and the hospitality sector to trade. It is important that the Council acts quickly to put arrangements in place as quickly as possible and these initial arrangements will be continually reviewed.

To do this, spaces for traders will be re-defined, some roads will be closed to traffic, pavements will be de-cluttered by removing street furniture (and other items), visitors will be asked to park away from the town centres for free and signage will be introduced to help visitors maintain safe distances.

These changes will protect the community and people’s health whilst ensuring businesses can still trade.

Further information on the safe zones will follow.

Keep Ceredigion safe.

Information related to the Coronavirus can be found on the Council’s website, www.ceredigion.gov.uk/Coronavirus

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Wales’ hospitality sector will prepare to re-open outdoors from 13 July

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The Minister signalled the first phase of a planned reopening for bars, restaurants and cafes with outdoor spaces following a rapid review of the sector. 

A final decision about outdoor re-opening will be made at the next review of the coronavirus regulations on 9 July and will depend on whether rates of coronavirus are continuing to fall.

Future decisions about indoor re-opening will be made later and will depend on the success of the first phase of outdoor opening.

The Minister will today also confirm the timetable for re-opening outdoor visitor attractions and the partial opening of the tourism industry in Wales for the remainder of the summer season.

If the requirement to stay local is lifted in Wales on 6 July, outdoor visitor attractions will be able to reopen from Monday.

And, subject to the forthcoming review of coronavirus regulations on 9 July, the tourism sector is preparing to re-open self-contained accommodation.

The Minister will today confirm the date that owners of self-contained accommodation can accept bookings is being brought forward to 11 July from 13 July, to help with the pattern of Saturday-to-Saturday bookings.

Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said:

“Tourism is a vital part of the Welsh economy at a national, regional and local level. I’d like to thank all our industry partners for working with us to carefully reopen the visitor economy.

“A successful, safe and phased return will give businesses, communities and visitors confidence to continue with the recovery of the visitor economy.

“We ask everyone who travels to and around Wales to enjoy their time here, but always to respect local communities. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Wales – but we want everyone to Visit Wales Safely.”

Guidance to help businesses in Wales’ visitor economy has been published this week. Further guidance for cafes, bars and pubs will follow.

Visit Wales has also worked with the other national tourism organisations on a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide reassurance as the sector works towards reopening.

The Good To Go industry standard and supporting mark means businesses can demonstrate they are adhering to the respective government and public health guidance; have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and checked they have the required processes in place. The scheme is free to join and open to all businesses across the industry.

Folly Farm are ready to welcome back its loyal annual pass holders from 8 July and will open to all on 13 July.

Zoe Wright, head of marketing at Folly Farm, said:

“We’ve been preparing for our re-opening for several weeks and are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Folly Farm, safely.

“We’ve been hugely encouraged by the support we’ve received from our visitors and our local community. Lots of local accommodation providers have been sharing our staying safe re-opening guide ahead of their guests returning.

“We’ve got lots of measures in place to keep our visitors, staff, animals and our wider community safe, including the essential pre-booking of visits so we can limit visitor numbers and provide even more space across our 120-acre site. As an animal attraction, we’re naturally geared up to offer and encourage regular handwashing but we’ve added hand-sanitising stations across the park too.

“Our animals provide a fun way to encourage visitors, especially the younger ones, to follow our social distancing signage with paw prints marking out a safe distance in queuing areas and penguin and pig themed arrows for our one way systems.”

Sean Taylor, Founder & President of Zip World is making preparations to open on 6th of July and said: “As one of North Wales’s biggest outdoor tourist attractions, there is a huge responsibility in the way we restart our operations.  We have a strong sense of community and have an important role to play in rebuilding the region’s visitor economy all of which has to be managed responsibly and firmly in line with the current government guidelines.

“We have spent the last few months rethinking the logistics of our operations to keep staff, customers and the community safe.  To begin with, the reopening will be a staggered approach by only opening two of our three sites initially and 6 of our adventures. This means a reduction in capacity and we have also introduced robust hygiene regimes, clear wayfinding & signage, PPE and the use of tech where possible to reduce consumer touch points. There is now a simple 6 steps guide for all customers to follow before and during their visit – this includes signing the waiver online pre visit, contactless payments etc.”

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South West Wales Virtual Open Day 8 July

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Welsh local authorities, schools, colleges and work-based learning providers will be hosting
a series of Virtual Open Days for Year 11 pupils for the first time this month.

An event specifically for pupils from Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath
Port Talbot, Llanelli, Swansea and Powys will be held on Wednesday 8 July and will cover a
series of sessions on post-16 options including A Levels at sixth form or college as well as
work-based qualifications.

Jonathan Davies OBE will host the sessions on apprenticeships and traineeships and will be
on hand to field questions about how to apply and get the most from industry-led training
opportunities.

Other sessions will be led by Pembrokeshire College, NPTC Group of Colleges, Coleg Sir
Gar and Coleg Ceredigion as well as Careers Wales and local authorities.

The spread of COVID-19 has not only meant a break in students’ learning, but also the
cancellation of many planned events like open days which were scheduled to take place
throughout the summer.

Open days are vital ways of helping Year 11 pupils to understand all their options for
continuing their education and deciding on the right path for them. It’s also the way pupils
make connections with new people and different environments to support them in making
their decision.

With no indication yet of when face-to-face events might be able to go ahead again, over
220 schools, colleges and work-based learning providers across Wales are partnering with
the Welsh Government to hold virtual sessions for all Year 11 pupils in Wales to make sure
nobody misses out.

Organised by Welsh Government and hosted by Working Wales, the Virtual Open Days will
enable young people across Wales to discover the options for furthering their education in
their area, including what school and college courses are available, as well as training
opportunities like apprenticeships and traineeships, and access to careers advice from
Careers Wales.

Live sessions will be held for each region across Wales from 7 – 10 July, with lots of
additional content available throughout the second week of July and beyond. There will also
be the opportunity to put questions to local careers advisors and learning providers who
know about the provision in your area.

Virtual Open Days will be hosted online, but those without internet access at home will have
the option to phone and speak directly with schools, colleges and work-based learning
providers.

Welsh Government will be providing information about the full range of Virtual Open Days,
as well as links to partner websites and content, on Working Wales where there will also be
advice for those students who are unsure of what they want to do next.

Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said: “Now more than ever, it’s vital that young
people are equipped with the skills, information and training they need to find fulfilling work.
“If you’re a young person, you may be unsure of what you want to do after school, or
whether you want to continue in education at all. Open days can play a vital role in helping
access the right education or training, providing a vital insight into the different courses and
ways of learning that are available to young people considering their next options.

“Virtual Open Days are a really innovative way to explore options digitally and will help
young people in deciding what to do next. Whether you are shielding at home, returning to
school to say goodbye for the summer, or are not sure what to do next, our national virtual
open days will ensure learners in every region of Wales have the opportunity to engage and
ask questions at this important time.”

Nikki Lawrence, chief executive of Careers Wales, said: “Deciding what the next step is with
your education is an important time for young people across Wales and we want to make
sure that they are still able to explore the different options that are available.

“During the four days we will be offering additional support from our expert careers advisers
who will be available via our live web chat. This will enable young people who are not sure
what the next step is to get the advice and guidance they need.”

To find out more about Wales’ Virtual Open Days, call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or
go to www.workingwales.gov.wales/start-your-story.

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