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GP shortage ‘caused by Withybush downgrades’

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docsPEMBROKE residents have expressed concerns about reduced opening hours in the town’s doctors surgery as a result of a shortage of doctors. Since September 1, the surgery at St Oswald’s has closed at 1pm on weekdays. Until then, it had been open until 6.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The surgery, a member of the Argyle Medical Group which also has practices in Pembroke Dock and Neyland, serves Pembroke, Monkton, and a number of outlying communities in the area. The surgery in Pembroke Dock will remain open from 8am – 6.30pm.

However, concerns have been raised about how the reduction of provision in Pembroke will affect elderly patients, or those with reduced mobility. Speaking to The Herald, Practice Manager for the Argyle Medical Group Juliet Goldsworthy confirmed that the reduction in surgery hours was a deirect result of staff shortages: “We’re two doctors down at the moment – its a common problem across Wales,” she said.

Safety was apparently a major consideration for the shorter opening hours. The practice was unwilling to let one doctor work at the surgery alone. “Its about managing the surgery safely andwe can’t do that at the moment,” Ms Goldsworthy added.

When we asked how long the staff shortage had been a problem for, she said that the staffing shortages were ‘relatively recent,’ though admitted that they had ‘struggled on’ over recent months. However, staff holiday time had meant that they were unable to keep the current provision. “The first doctor left about 18 months ago, and we lost another one 12 months ago,” she added.

“We have been advertising in national publications, but haven’t had any response. Accepting that the situation for patients was ‘far from ideal,’ she said that the problem was an all-Wales issue. Ms Goldsworthy confirmed that the practice had 10.75 FTE (full-time equivalent) doctors.

There are around 25,000 patients registered with the practice, which equates to 2325 patients per GP. Several years ago, the average number of patients per GP in Wales was 1640, and while Ms Goldsworthy said that this had risen to around 1900-2000, she still acknowledged that Argyle Street still did not meet these levels.

“Its not ideal – it puts a lot of pressure on both patients and doctors,” she added. Ms Goldsworthy pointed out that Argyle Street employed full-time nurse practitioners, who worked supporting GPs, as well as a full-time pharmacist who could ease the burden on doctors with work related to medication. “We were one of the first practices to take on a full-time pharmacist,”she added. “The health board seems to be looking more at approaches like this now. I understand that patients hanker for days gone by, but times have changed.”

With regards to the opening hours at St Oswalds, Ms Goldsworthy told us that if two new doctors could be recruited the situation would be reviewed after six months. At present, she said that the practice has been advertising ways for those unable to drive to attend the Argyle Street Surgery to travel there more cheaply.

“Services like country cars, and public transport can save people money on taxis,” she pointed out. Ms Goldsworthy emphasised that the surgery would still be open in mornings, and that hopefully people who would struggle to get to Pembroke Dock would be able to attend then. “We do visit a lot of people at home, if they are unable to get out. Our visiting rates are quite high,” she added. She pointed out that a shortage of GPs could lead to a continuing problem, because constant staff-shortages would lead to an increased workload, and the job becoming less attractive for medical trainees.

“There is talk of a ‘Golden Hello’ in Wales, but I’m not sure what is going to become of that,” she said. Concerningly, Ms Goldsworthy agreed with other commentators, including Simon Hart MP, who has previously said that a reduction in service provision at Withybush will lead to a knock-on effect on the county’s medical community.

“As Withybush downgrades and less doctors come to work there, their partners, who often used to work in surgeries won’t come here either, leading to the health community shrinking. We had a doctor who worked with us who was fantastic, but his wife worked in paediatric care, and when the department in Withybush downsized she had to move to Swansea to find work.

“There may also be issues with GP training at the hospital.” Speaking to The Herald, MP Simon Hart agreed that Issues faced by Withybush Hospital were a definite contributing factor in staffing problems across the medical community in the area: “From what I can discover there is a definite connection between recruitment and uncertainty over Withybush. For once the problem is not entirely about money,” he said.

“For the County to be able to attract Doctors and their families, they need to assure them that the services have a future and that there is certainty as far as their jobs are concerned. The Welsh Labour Government continues to fail in this regard and our county suffers accordingly.” We asked Hywel Dda University Health Board whether this was a fair reflection, and what if anything could be done to attract more GPs to the county.

At the time of going to press The Herald had received no reply. A spokesperson for Hywel Dda UHB said: “We would strongly urge caution when drawing ‘definite’ links between recruitment issues at a hospital and GP level as there is no absolute or clear evidence for this. GP recruitment is challenging across Wales, this is well documented, and we are experiencing this in areas across Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion as well as Pembrokeshire.

“Whilst we are taking clear actions to address recruitment at our hospitals, we have numerous responses to recruitment challenges at a GP level. For example, we are in the process of developing a Primary Care Support Team to offer support to Practices with workforce issues to which we have successfully appointed a GP clinical lead and three Advanced Practitioners, due to start shortly.

“We are also supporting the development of other roles that can provide patient care in General Practice working alongside GPs. For example, Argyle Surgery have employed a practice based pharmacist to support the GPs on a day to basis. This is alongside developing portfolio GP roles to increase the appeal of working in the Hywel Dda area to those wanting diversity within their role.”

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Drakeford confirmed as First Minister

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MARK DRAKEFORD was confirmed as the new First Minister after a vote in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Carmarthen-born Drakeford succeeds Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader, after Jones resigned on Tuesday.

Mr Drakeford, 64, has styled himself as a ’21st Century socialist’, and throughout his leadership campaign promoted continuity and stability as a candidate, having worked as a Welsh Government special advisor under Rhodri Morgan and being the only Welsh Government cabinet minister to support Jeremy Corbyn when he ran for the UK Labour leadership in 2015.

The AM for Cardiff West has been in the Assembly since 2011, becoming Health Minister in 2013 before becoming Finance Secretary in 2016.

Mr Drakeford grew up in Carmarthen, and was educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys. He then went on to study Latin at the University of Kent, before working as a probation officer and Barnardos project leader in west Cardiff.

Mr Drakeford went on to pursue a career in academia, lecturing at Swansea University, and then becoming a professor of social policy and applied social sciences at Cardiff University.

His first experience of electoral politics was as a councillor on the old South Glamorgan County Council, before serving the Cardiff ward of Pontcanna between 1985 and 1993.

Mr Drakeford was one of the two candidates, alongside Eluned Morgan, to have produced a manifesto during the leadership campaign, setting out many of the policies he hopes to introduce. These include an extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas such as restaurants and town centres, the cutting of emissions through greater emphasis on public transport and building on Superfast Cymru – a scheme to rollout 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.

The manifesto also proposed installing drinking fountains across Wales, double allotments, and piloting a ‘baby bundle’ – similar to baby box schemes in other countries with a package of essential items.

Mr Drakeford also suggested introducing a committee to advise the Welsh Government on the Hinckley Point power plant in Somerset, as he has spoken of his scepticism regarding nuclear power.

The new First Minister has also backed proposals put forward by economist Gerry Holtham to fund elderly social care in Wales through a tax. An annual review of PFI contracts across the Welsh public sector would be introduced, and the 22 councils across Wales would be kept as they are.

One issue that has been subject to much debate is the potential for the M4 Relief Road, but Mr Drakeford’s manifesto does not mention it specifically. Instead, it states a commitment to dealing with congestion, citing the A40 in Mid and West Wales, the A55 in the North and the M4 in South Wales.

The other two leadership candidates, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, had both backed another referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU, yet Mr Drakeford is less set on another vote, saying he would only back it should the final deal fail to protect workers’ rights.

As Finance Secretary, Mr Drakeford has been in charge of much of the Welsh Government’s approach towards Brexit so far.

In Wednesday’s vote, Mr Drakeford was backed by 30 AMs, with 12 voting for the Conservatives’ Paul Davies and nine supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

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Are you a £1m Euromillions winner? Time is running out to redeem prize

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A LAST ditch attempt is being made to locate a mystery local winner of an unclaimed £1 million pound lottery ticket.

Time is running out to find the owner of the winning ticket from the Euromillions draw bought in Ceredigion on June 22, 2018 – with Millionaire code MDLG 86259.

The winner has until Wednesday, December 19 to claim their life-changing prize.

Andy Carter, senior winners’ advisor at The National Lottery, said: “Time really is running out for the winner of this prize, but we are still hopeful that someone will come forward to claim the money. We’re urging everyone to check their old tickets or look anywhere a missing EuroMillions ticket could be hiding. This life changing prize could really help to make dreams become a reality.”

If no-one comes forward with the winning ticket before the prize claim deadline, then the prize money, plus all the interest it has generated will go to help National Lottery-funded projects across the UK.

The National Lottery changes the lives of individuals as well as communities – players raise, on average around £30 million for National Lottery-funded projects every week.

Euromillions UK Millionaire Maker creates two UK millionaires in every draw. For every EuroMillions line played, UK players automatically receive a Millionaire Maker Code printed on their ticket.

Ceredigion alone has around 1,675 individual National Lottery grants that have been awarded to help projects across the arts, sports, heritage, health, education, environment, charity and voluntary sectors.

With all National Lottery draws, players only have 180 days from the day of the draw to claim their prize if they have the winning ticket. Anyone who has any queries or who believes they have the winning ticket for any of The National Lottery draws within the 180 day deadline should call the National Lottery line on 0333 234 5050 or email help@national-lottery.co.uk.

Anyone concerned about lost or unchecked tickets may like to consider either setting up a National Lottery Direct Debit or playing online at www.national-lottery.co.uk.

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Free equipment and training for Ceredigion clubs

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TUESDAY (Dec 11) saw the launch of a new partnership between learning technology solution specialists Aspire2Be and six Ceredigion rugby clubs as part of the Scarlets’ Three Counties, Three Years strategy. The initiative, courtesy of Scarlets, invites Ceredigion rugby clubs and schools to participate in a pilot project providing free analysis equipment, software and training worth over £20k.

The initial pilot project will work with Aberystwyth Rugby Football Club and Ysgol Penweddig, with a funding application written for remaining clubs once the pilot is completed. ‘Analyse That’ training with Ysgol Penweddig will take place at Penweddig Comprehensive School the afternoon of Tuesday 11 December, with Aberystwyth RFC having their training in the evening on their home ground too.

The ‘Analyse That’ training programme which is run and designed by Aspire 2Be, and the pilot has been sponsored by the WRW Construction Group, one of Scarlets’ long standing sponsors sponsors, and forms part of Scarlets’ Three Counties, Three Years strategy, where the club is supporting local rugby teams and young talent across Ceredigion.

The campaign was kick started this summer where the Scarlets are making a difference across three participating regions; Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, county by county. Ceredigion will take Year One’s focus with emphasis on strengthening partnerships across local clubs and businesses to make a difference in the region’s wider communities. In addition to local partnerships across Ceredigion, the Scarlets have dedicated their 2018-19 away kit colour scheme to the region featuring its coat of arms, sandy beaches and vivid blue seas.

Part of the Aspire 2Be Team is former Scarlets coach and now leading media pundit, Sean Holley. Sean said on the overall training programme experience: “The modern rugby person now has an increasing awareness of analysis and is more digitally aware.

“The innovative ‘Analyse That’ initiative in collaboration with Aspire2Be now makes it easier and more affordable for community clubs to access what can be an expensive aspect of the game. The Scarlets should be applauded for entering into this partnership and I can’t wait to work with the Ceredigion clubs and schools to help upskill and improve their rugby experience in this initial pilot.”

Digital skill development is very much at the forefront of Scarlets’ Three Counties, Three Years campaign. Rural counties like Ceredigion often suffer from digital exclusion. The Scarlets hope this programme with the Swansea based firm Aspire2Be will help locals acquire digital skills in an engaging way.

Speaking on the benefits this training programme will bring to the community, Dai Rudge of Aberystwyth RFC said: “We are very fortunate that our club can be involved with such an innovative training initiative and partnership with Aspire2Be and the Scarlets.

“It’s great news that the Scarlets recognise a digital skill need in Wales and have partnered up with a Welsh tech company to provide digital opportunities for our rugby community. We’re also grateful to the WRW Construction Group for supporting the funding of the pilot.”

Nia Lloyd, Scarlets Community Manager said of the training. “We want all our community teams at every level, to strive to improve performance but in the absence of detailed analysis and feedback protocols being available at each club, a major aid to that improvement is missing.

“Our research leaves us in no doubt how useful these resources would be but few clubs can afford the hardware, the software or the training necessary to provide it. With our Three Counties programme we are hoping that the partnerships that the Scarlets have established between Aspire2Be and WRW Construction Group pave the way for more clubs and schools in the region to experience the exciting and useful analysis equipment and software.”

Those clubs who did not win the £20K prize will be offered the opportunity to send selected members on an exclusive training course free of charge under the guidance of Sean Holley and Aspire2Be. Participants will learn how to obtain additional training and equipment budget to participate in Ceredigion’s growing digital performance analysis community.

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