THE WELSH AMBULANCE SERVICE TRUST (WAST) has told AMs that almost 40,000 hours were ‘lost’ in 2014 because of so-called ‘handover delays’. The evidence given to the Senedd’s Health and Social Care Committee on March 5, also reports that the figure is up from around 8,000 hours lost in 2008.
Giving evidence to the assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee on the March 5, WAST’s Chairperson, Mick Giannasi, told AM’s that the ambulance service’s performance is unacceptable. He went on to detail actions intended to tackle ‘long-standing and complex problems’.
The session before the Senedd began with the testimony of Professor Siobhan McClelland, who is chair of the emergency ambulance service committee (EASC) and the author of a 2013 review into emergency transport provision. Suggesting that the eight minute target time for ambulance response times was outdated, she commented: “There is limited evidence to support the existence of the eight-minute target. I think there is a move towards looking specifically, in addition to the eight-minute target, at the most life-threatening or red 1 calls and focusing on those.”
Her contribution was supported by the new ambulance service commissioner, Stephen Harrhy, who said: “There are a number of conditions where it is absolutely essential that we get to a patient as quickly as we possibly can. In some cases, eight minutes is an appropriate time for that; in some cases, it’s less than eight minutes. So, we have to be ambitious. I also think that the standard is an old standard, and it is time to have a re-look at that.”
With reference to the targets, figures for December show that WAST’s ‘unacceptable level of service delivery’ meant that only 42.6% achieved the target time of eight minutes.
One concerned member of staff told us that ambulances based in Pembrokeshire have been forced to cover incidents in Ceredigion and as far afield as Llandeilo, as Carmarthenshire-based ambulances have been overwhelmed by calls to Swansea and beyond.
Shadow Health Minister, Plaid Cymru’s Elin Jones, highlighted the issue of ambulances waiting at hospitals outside their home areas: “I am concerned that ambulances from Blaenau Gwent or Ceredigion or Powys, when they are making transfers to centres, Morriston or Cardiff, then end up as part of the response call in those areas and do not return, possibly for a whole shift, to the areas where they were meant to be serving to start with.”
Without flexibility from unions on staff rosters and cooperation from health boards, WAST’s Chief Executive Tracy Myhill painted a bleak picture: “We need to work with the health boards. We can’t do this on our own, absolutely. If we were perfect, if all our rotas were perfect and our sickness absence was really low, we still couldn’t provide the service that we would need, because we can’t do it without the whole system.”
Theatre companies show COVID resilience
Over four decades ago, rural west Wales was at the centre of the greatest drugs bust in history. The police investigation, Operation Julie, resulted in dozens of arrests and the discovery of LSD worth £100 million. A brand-new musical play from Theatr na nÓg and Aberystwyth Arts Centre explores the story from both sides of the drugs divide – the police, and the hippies who settled in Ceredigion hoping to spread their ideals in a changing world.
This summer, Theatr na nÓg and Aberystwyth Arts Centre were due to launch an ambitious co-production for audiences in Aberystwyth. Operation Julie was to be a stage play packed with music, drama and comedy, telling the extraordinary story of what happened in and around west Wales in the mid-1970s when hippies settled in the area seeking a new way of living fuelled by acid and an alternative attitude. When a chance clue is discovered following a car accident, the local constabulary works with detectives from across Britain to uncover what turns out to be the biggest stash of acid ever found, taking out up to 60% of the world’s LSD market at that time.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck it became clear it would be impossible to open Operation Julie to live audiences at Aberystwyth Arts Centre in August and na nÓg and the arts centre made the decision to postpone its premiere until next spring.
Although a huge disappointment for both companies, they quickly decided to make the best of a bad situation, as Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s director Dafydd Rhys explains: “Though we’d prefer to be going into production now, that is no longer an option due to Covid – but it does allow the wonderful cast and team of creatives to get together to do some invaluable research and development work on the script, the characters and the music.”
Due to the continuing lockdown restrictions, writer-director Geinor Styles explains how they went about the R&D activity whilst being unable to physically rehearse together.
“I’m not a director that sits and pours over the script,” Styles says. “I like to get people up on their feet and moving. I believe I can solve things editorially whilst directing. This is probably the most frustrating thing and a real challenge for me because that is not possible over zoom. However there are advantages, the creatives, designers, sound, AV and lighting have been able to drop into rehearsal or listen in without having to physically be in the room. A real treat for us and them. It feels truly collaborative. Having them exclusively while still developing the script is very rare but such a real bonus.”
Geinor Styles, who has been developing the production since 2014 and believes that, due to COVID that the story has become even more relevant: “I feel as we move through this pandemic, that the story behind Kemp’s acid production and 8000 word micro doctrine, becomes more and more relevant to a planet that is being destroyed by consumerism and capitalism.”
She also feels the Operation Julie story is too important to be delayed. “I was astonished how relevant this story was to us living in a time where the climate was changing at an alarming rate,” she says. “That as a species, we needed to change our ways like the hippies of the ’60s and ’70s – their philosophy of wanting to ‘get back to the garden’. This philosophy was emphasised by our protagonist Richard Kemp, a talented scientist, who moved to Tregaron in the early 70s and created the purest form of LSD. He is the source of the whole story – without Kemp, you do not have Operation Julie.”
Theatr na nÓg and Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s version of events tells the story from both sides of the law, with Geinor Styles meeting and interviewing a variety of people from the area and of that time, one of the main acid dealers – Alston ‘Smiles’ Hughes, who was a key part of the LSD chain from his modest home in Llanddewi Brefi – and Lydia Jones, the daughter of the late Detective Sergeant Richie Parry, in the Zoom meetings with cast and crew.
Operation Julie is a musical play, a format favoured by the resilient and forward thinking theatre company, Greg Palmer is Operation Julie’s composer and musical director, working with actor-musicians over video call to create the score: “I’ve never rehearsed a show in this way before. My usual method is to be in the thick of things in the rehearsal room working with the actor-musicians in an organic way. This makes the cast feel part of the creative process. That immediacy is impossible to replicate via Zoom so the whole process becomes slower and more laboured.” This alterantive approach, though, has allowed Palmer to discuss LSD dealer Smiles’ psychedelic musical tastes and the records that influenced him during the period of the play. “I grew up as a teenager in the ’70s and listened to a lot of the music that Smiles et al would have been listening to. Smiles has
referenced a number of bands from that era – Caravan, Bob Dylan, Steely Dan. I’ve been very keen from the beginning of the process to have the sound world of the play reflect those musical trends.”
Theatr na nÓg and Aberystwyth Arts Centre are confident that this extended development time, will result in a truly memorable production when Operation Julie finally reaches the stage next year.
“Operation Julie will be a popular and important theatre production,” says Dafydd Rhys. “We remain totally committed to this uniquely Welsh tale that had an impact throughout the world. It also has the added bonus that the music will be fantastic! We know the audience will be in for a treat – a really good night of quality, thought provoking and popular theatre.”
Annual Canvass to go ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic
The 2020 annual canvass is required by law and will continue despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Ceredigion’s Electoral Services are continuing their service, however staff will be working differently due to the coronavirus.
Electoral Registration Officer, Eifion Evans said: “This year’s canvass, which we have to carry out by law, is taking place during a challenging public health situation. We are working to ensure that we take account of public health guidelines, including the continued importance of social distancing.”
If we have sent you a letter that asks you to respond or complete a form, you can help us by replying to it quickly and, online, rather than posting it back to us if possible. This will save Council resources and reduce the number of letters that have to be handled by Council and Royal Mail staff.”
The link to respond is on the first page of the A4 letter you will receive with part 1 and part 2 security codes.
Residents who have any questions can contact Ceredigion’s Electoral Services on 01545 572032.
CCTV cameras to be installed in Newcastle Emlyn
Three new cameras are being installed in Newcastle Emlyn as part of the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner’s key pledge to reinvest in a public CCTV system.
The work on the installation programme in the town will begin on Monday, August 10.
Cameras will be cameras installed in Sycamore Street, Emlyn Square and Heol y Bont. The camera locations have been decided following a review of a crime pattern analysis and in consultation with partner agencies.
The work is being carried out by contractors Baydale Control Systems Ltd. The hi-tech cameras are being supplied by Hikvision UK & Ireland.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “Brecon is the next town in Powys to benefit from my key election pledge to re-install public space CCTV. This is a busy town, and I am confident the cameras will prove to be a valuable asset in keeping the town safe and assisting with the detection of crime.
“The CCTV project is continuing across the force, with three cameras also installed in Newcastle Emlyn last week. The number of towns we have now included in the CCTV project is 23.
“I am confident the cameras will prove to be a valuable asset in keeping these towns safe and assisting with the detection of crime.”
Ceredigion Commander, Superintendent Robyn Mason, said: “This is a positive move for Newcastle Emlyn. Having the cameras in place while we experience an increase in visitors to the area during the holiday period will help us to keep everyone as safe as possible and assist us in carrying out quality investigations when required.”
The CCTV project is bringing over 120 state of the art CCTV cameras to towns throughout the police force area of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Powys.
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