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£7.5m renal unit used as meeting room.

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renalTHE PEMBROKESHIRE HERALD can reveal this week that serious concerns have been raised at flagship projects at Withybush Hospital. 

The newly built Renal unit, funded by a £7.5m grant and scheduled to open earlier this year, is currently being used as a conference centre. A spokesperson for the Local Health Board, which built the unit under a commission from The Welsh Renal Network, told the Herald: “The new renal unit is a major investment at Withybush Hospital and contains all the latest technology expected in a modern renal dialysis unit. We are actively working with the Welsh Renal Network to ensure a provider is appointed and renal patients can benefit from these facilities as soon as possible.” The Board announced in April that negotiations with The Welsh Renal Network, responsible for appointing renal service providers, were in final stages with the contract award expected by the end of May 2014. The Pembrokeshire Herald has been assured by a member of the Renal unit’s project board that the unit will open, but a date has not been given. There is also considerable disquiet that the Board intends to salami-slice cancer services away from Withybush to Carmarthen, an impression given some impetus by the Board’s failure to appoint a replacement for Dr Anne Barnes MBE. The Pembrokeshire Herald can report that the Health Board failed to advertise for a replacement for Doctor Barnes until very recently, despite knowing of her intention to leave in January. We also understand that other clinical staff have declined to “fill the gap” left by her departure, leaving the future of cancer care at Withybush under question. Peter Milewski, retired consultant surgeon, told the Herald: “Health Board middle management are only just beginning to get a sense of urgency about the situation despite the long notice they’ve had. So it sounds as though a process of muddling through is just beginning to gather momentum, hopefully maintaining the service as it is. “It’s absolutely typical of the wretched health board to drag their feet while services and waiting times get worse and worse. Apparently there is someone interesting in starting in September, but what will happen between now and then is anyone’s guess.” Lyn Neville, who works for Pembrokeshire Cancer Support, said: “They have done this before when the last consultant left and it’s left them in a hole. They’ve just handed the job to Anne and told her to get on with it. “I had a letter to say that Hywel Dda is experiencing extreme recruitment difficulties. They don’t make the vacancies particularly attractive and threats to services aren’t helping attract people to the county either. They’ve set up an Oncology review group which won’t report until the end of the year, even though Anne is leaving in July. Who is going to cover Oncology when she goes? “There are just two consultants for nearly 250,000 people; they’re in a really big hole. People are genuinely fearful about what is going to happen when Anne leaves and the Health Board has done nothing to ease those fears”. Considerable anger has been caused by the discovery that funds donated for specific health care projects in Pembrokeshire have been diverted to a consolidated central fund. It seems that the generosity of Pembrokeshire charities is being used to fund developments in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in what is arguably a considerable breach of trust and confidence between the Board and local health care charities. It has been suggested by staff at Withybush that the new dialysis unit could be shared with the longpromised Cancer Day unit, which shows no sign of being planned other on a very vague basis and without firm commitment from the Board to its provision. The Herald understands that one charity is investigating its legal options in respect of money it has handed over to the Board towards the cost of providing a Cancer Day unit at Withybush Hospital. A spokesperson for the Health Board told us: “The university health board is totally committed to providing chemotherapy for patients in Pembrokeshire. We are currently undertaking a review of Oncology Services which about strengthening and modernising local services providing high quality, safe, effective treatment and care as close to patient’s home as possible. The CHC is participating in this review. “This process is not about reducing the service we offer but is about creating a more sustainable, high quality service. This may mean the way we deliver cancer services may change.” Paul Davies, AM for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said: “I have grown increasingly frustrated and angry with the delay in the opening of the new Renal unit at Withybush Hospital. To have a new building that appears to have been completed some time ago unused is a huge waste. “A number of constituents have contacted me to voice their concerns regarding this as understandably patients are very keen to use this new facility. “Pembrokeshire patients have in some cases had to continue to travel to Carmarthen for treatment, sometimes literally passing the new building that is lying idle. “I have raised this delay in the Senedd with the Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM. “I have also contacted the Welsh Renal Clinical Network who are managing this scheme. Whilst I understand that the contract to build the unit is complex and includes work at Glangwili and Bronglais Hospitals, I question whether more could and should have been done to allow the new unit at Withybush Hospital to open far sooner.”

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Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian

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NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.

The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.

High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).

NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.

24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.

NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.

Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.

“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.

“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”

Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.

Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.

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​Major bequests for Aber research ​

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TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.

The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.

Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.

The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.

The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.

“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”

Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.

The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.

“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”

In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

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Driving Wales to international skills success

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AS SKILLS CHAMPION for Wales, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles is at the forefront of aspiring young people to develop high quality, world-class skills.

The vehicle used to drive this ambition are skills competitions, which are held on a Welsh, UK and international level.

Competitions in Wales begin with regional Welsh Government supported competitions which are events that culminate to find Wales’ top competitors who progress to take part in UKSkills national and WorldSkills international events.

This year, 36 competitors from the UK are competing at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, four of which are from Wales, two of which represent Coleg Sir Gâr, which is an impressive percentage of UK representation. These competitors have undergone a rigorous training process by WorldSkills UK, supported by training providers and employers.

Coleg Sir Gâr students have been selected for Team UK since 2009 when carpentry student Cliff Williams made the team in 2009 competing in WorldSkills Calgary. He was followed by web designer David Bowen who competed for in WorldSkills London, 2011. Carpenter Gareth Jones won gold in EuroSkills in 2012 followed by Simon McCall and Eleni Constantinou who won two silvers at EuroSkills in 2014 for hairdressing and carpentry with Eleni progressing to represent the UK and Coleg Sir Gâr in hairdressing at WorldSkills, Sao Paulo in 2015.

Last year, the college was ranked joint third place in the UK for its medal success in the Skills Show – the UK final, for achieving three golds, one silver and one bronze award. The show, held at Birmingham’s NEC every year, brings together medal winners from all nations to compete and showcase their skills and to hopefully continue their journey to the international arena, representing the UK in Worldskills which brings over 50 competing countries together and is likened to the Olympic games.

Barry Liles, Skills Champion for Wales said: “To have an impact on the economy and raise Wales and UK’s GVA, we must raise the skills of the UK population and we’re trying to do this from a young age and we’re significantly targeting industries that are important to Wales’ economy.

“The anticipated result is hoped to impact on young people and help them raise their ambitions and to find highly skilled work.”

In Wales, to help achieve this ambition, is a Welsh-Government funded project called Inspiring Skills Excellence (ISE), which is providing a supportive infrastructure to enable competitors from Wales to achieve success at national and international level.

“Much of our work is supporting competitors across Wales in their participation, training and mentoring to help them achieve excellence in skills relevant to economic growth and delivering medal winning success at national and international competitions,” said Paul Evans, ISE pan-coordinator for Wales.

“Using state of the art equipment we also engage with schools, providing hands-on and exciting experiences for young people to raise awareness of careers and the pathways available to them.”

Barry Liles added: “Being Skills Champion for Wales is a long-held ambition perhaps because I came from a vocational engineering background, I am very passionate about it.

“Industry skills are vital in our economy and I don’t want Wales to be left behind, in fact in the last seven years we have helped drive the nation forward to being one of the leading and successful nations in UK skills competitions.”

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