THE LOCAL Health Board is embarking on a ‘once in a lifetime’ reorganisational plan which is looking at all potential options to ‘change the status quo and focus on improving health’ of locals.
This will involve, a press release has revealed, transferring more hospital services into the community where appropriate.
This is part of a strategy that the Health Board is looking into, to help solve an acute recruitment problem which is putting a great deal of pressure on the way that the Heath Board operates – and is leading to an untenable level of use of costly temporary staff to plug gaps and services.
In the summer of 2017, the Health Board embarked in an engagement with the public called ‘The Big Conversation’ which involved public workshops and drop-ins being held across the three counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
The Health Board now says the it has independently analysed opinions of the general public and has been using that data to explore, challenge and test different scenarios.
It is yet to be seen what these changes will mean for end service users.
The Herald understands it is likely to mean hospital services being reduced or cut, and replaced with community alternatives.
The Health Board has said it will not make any changes, unless it can guarantee the safety of the people which it serves.
The Health Board has insisted that no preferred option for change has yet been determined, and nothing has been signed off or agreed at this stage.
Medical Director Dr Philip Kloer said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our health service and community to work together to design an NHS which is fit for our generation and beyond. It has been acknowledged for some time across the UK that healthcare services are challenged like never before and we need significant change. Indeed this has been recognised in the recently published ‘Parliamentary Review of Health & Social Care’ here in Wales.
“We need to develop more proactive, resilient and better resourced local community services to support and improve people’s health and wellbeing, and avoid deterioration where possible. This will involve closer working with our partners, particularly colleagues in social care. We are also looking at ways of providing the most modern clinical practice, using the latest digital, technological, and new scientific developments, in fit for purpose facilities to provide better patient outcomes and experience.
“A number of our services are fragile and dependent on significant numbers of temporary staff, which can lead to poorer quality care. For us specifically in Hywel Dda, the geography we cover is large, with many scattered communities that are getting older, needing more holistic health and social care treatment and support. Because of this, we need to better resource our community based care, which is where most of our patient contact is, and help people manage their health conditions. We also need to evolve traditional ways of working and provide a more proactive approach. This should give patients – young, older and frail and everyone in between – the services they need when the need it, so people do not have to wait too long.
“This will mean changing hospital-based care, as well as community care, and we appreciate the attachment local people and our own staff have for their local hospitals. They have been cared for in them, or work in them, and they also play an important role in our wider communities. The options may propose change to a local hospital; however this is about more than the buildings. This is about investing in our communities, attracting doctors, nurses and therapists by operating a modern healthcare system and keeping hospitals for those who really need hospital care.
“We will not put in place any change that isn’t safe for our patients and population. And we will look at all the impacts from ensuring services are safer with better patient outcomes, to considering the wider impact on people, including the most vulnerable.”
Dr Kloer added: “The potential options are evolving, with changes to them on almost a daily basis. Many will never even reach public consultation, for a variety of reasons including safety, accessibility and affordability, or will change significantly as they are tested against population needs and healthcare standards.
“We will be coming back to the public in the spring with fewer options that have been more rigorously tested and we will open and honest about what we think our preferred option is and why. We would not, and cannot, propose something that would not be safe for our population.
“We live in this community, use our NHS and work for our NHS and we want to work with our patients, staff, partners and public to ensure it is the best it can be.”
Meanwhile, Elin Jones, Ceredigion’s Assembly Member, has called for urgency in the implementation of electronic records for NHS patients in Wales, following the publication of a report by the Wales Audit Office, ‘Informatics systems in NHS Wales’.
The report outlines several of the opportunities that electronic patient records can bring to patients and health boards, as well as the current obstacles to achieving this goal.
Elin Jones, who has long-called for a paperless NHS has welcomed the report, saying: “This is an important step in the development of health services in Wales, which is long-overdue. It would make our NHS more sustainable and more flexible to every patient’s needs.
“I have heard of many instances where patients have turned up to appointments in Llanelli, Swansea or Cardiff, only to find that their medical records have not arrived. These are people who have, in some cases, had to wait a long time for a specialist appointment, and have had to travel long distances, sometimes leaving very early in the morning or have arranged overnight accommodation in order to get to a 9 am appointment.
“Being turned away because their paper record has not arrived is a failure in the current system, and would be addressed directly by electronic records.
“The technology is available, it’s just a case of putting the funding in place.
“With the proper investment into the Welsh NHS by the Welsh Government, electronic patient records can help the NHS to deliver better outcomes for patients and to make more efficient and effective use of scarce financial and human resources.”
Newtown: Online threat to ‘use of firearms at a school’ lead to swift police action
DYFED-POWYS POLICE was made aware this morning, the force said, of “utterly irresponsible and scaremongering posts” on Facebook, suggesting that the authors of the posts were going to use firearms at a school in the Newtown area.
The posts were by individuals local to Newtown, and police acted swiftly to address this, which resulted in the arrest of three local men, aged 20, 21 and 27 on suspicion of malicious communications and public order. As part of the initial response schools were also given advice to be vigilant.
A spokesman said: “Understandably the posts caused serious concern in the area, and unfortunately the subsequent rumours led to misunderstandings. This is turn led to calls to the police alleging there was a man with a firearm seen outside Newtown High School.
“Police had to respond appropriately to these calls based on the threat allegedly posed, and a firearms unit was sent to the school. We can confirm that there was no man at the school, and when we have delved further into the detail of the calls, it has transpired that they were as a result of the rumours circulating, and not based on first-hand accounts.
“Police have also carried out thorough searches as a result of the arrests, and no weapons have been recovered. The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be present at the school at home time to reassure and inform parents, pupils and staff.
“We hope this clarification will reassure the community of Newtown that there is no threat to schools in the area, and the matter was dealt with seriously and swiftly. We would also appeal to everyone to stop sharing the posts and any associated rumours, in order to prevent any further unsubstantiated fear and alarm in the area.”
The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister
THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.
The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.
Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.
Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.
He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.
Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.
“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.
“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.
“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”
WASPI unaffected by appeal’s failure
A CAMPAIGN group for women born in the 1950s, whose state pension age has increased from 60-65, lost an appeal against a decision to deny them compensation for lost pension income.
Backto60 brought two test cases to the High Court last year when those cases were lost the group appealed. The Court of Appeal released its judgement rejecting the appeal on Monday, September 14.
The group’s campaign calls for a reinstatement of the age of 60 for women’s state pensions and compensation of the pension women have missed out on.
The Court found making the state pension age the same for men and women did not constitute unlawful discrimination.
WASPI CAMPAIGN UNCHANGED
The case’s failure will not affect the far better known and more widely-supported Women Against State Pensions Injustice (WASPI) campaign.
WASPI has long campaigned on the issues regarding the increase in the state pension age for women. They argue that setting aside any claim of discrimination, the UK Government failed in its duty to inform affected women adequately of the changes to the state pension age and the effect those changes would have on their pensions.
A statement issued by WASPI after the Backto60 legal challenge failed said: “Many women will be disappointed today at the judgement from the High Court.
“Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will continue to campaign for what we believe is achievable and affordable. Compensation for women who have been unfairly disadvantaged with a rapid increase to their State Pension age (SPa).
“WASPI is not opposed to the equalisation of the SPa with men but it was done without adequate notice, leaving no time to make alternative arrangements. Women were informed directly some 14 years after the SPa was first changed, many only given 18 months’ notice, of up to a six-year increase, many others were not informed at all. This left their retirement plans shattered.
“The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently considering six sample cases of maladministration out of the thousands of complaints made to the DWP by WASPI women.”
Former Conservative Pensions Minister, Baroness Roz Altmann, said: “When Pensions Minister, I saw copies of letters written by the Government to millions of these women in 2003 and 2004 about their State Pension, which failed to highlight that their pension would not be paid at age 60. These official letters failed to highlight that these women’s pension would not start being paid at age 60. It merely informed them what State Pension they might receive when they reached State Pension Age, but they did not tell them what that age would be!
“Receiving a letter from the Pensions Department about their State Pension, which did not urge them to check what their State Pension Age would be, may have lulled them into a false sense of security that they would receive it from age 60.
“This looks like maladministration.”
During the election campaign last year, Boris Johnson pledged to place ‘fresh eyes’ on the issue and said he felt sympathetic to the WASPI campaigners. Asked on Tuesday about the progress of those promised considerations, he failed to answer.
THE APPEAL ISSUE
The main issue in the appeal was whether the changes to the state pension age brought in by Parliament from 1995 onwards, unlawfully discriminated against women. Backto60 argued, amongst other things, women born in the 1950s were less likely to have contributed to the state pension scheme or were disproportionately in lower-paid jobs than men.
The Pensions Act 1995 provided that a woman born before 6 April 1950 would still receive her state pension at age 60 but a woman born after that date would receive her pension on a specified date when she was aged between 60 and 65, depending on her date of birth. The Pensions Acts 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated the move to age 65 as the state pension age for women and raised the state pension age for some men and women to 66, 67 or 68 depending on their date of birth.
Successive UK Governments made changes to address the massively-rising cost of state pensions.
When the state pension age was originally set, both pension ages were fixed at 65. When revised in 1940, women’s pension age was dropped to 60. At the time those ages were fixed, life expectancy meant the state pension was likely to be paid out for only a few years after retirement age. The lower age was fixed at 60 for women to reflect their then-dependence on a single male breadwinner in the family and the prevailing age difference between married couples.
In the post-war period, life expectancy increased, first gradually and then with increasing speed.
The boom in average life expectancy means the state pension is the largest single drain on the welfare budget – taking £111bn of it in the year 2018-19 (DWP figures). In comparison, payments for unemployment benefits totalled £2bn.
The UK Defence budget is around £28bn
In normal circumstances, the claims brought to the Court would have been barred due to the delay in bringing them. Time was extended to bring the claims. The question of the delay was, however, relevant only to the discretion whether to grant relief if unlawful discrimination was proved.
The long delay in bringing the claims made it impossible to fashion any practical remedy. The Court noted unchallenged expert evidence that the cost of reinstating pensions would exceed £200bn – more than seven times the total defence budget and around the same as the whole of the health and education budgets combined (Figures Office of Budget Responsibility).
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