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All local hospitals to become smoke-free from March

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PEOPLE living across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being reminded that today marks just two weeks until all hospital grounds in the three counties become smoke-free.

New laws, being introduced across Wales on Monday 1st March, build on the smoking ban introduced in 2007, and will result in all parts of Glangwili, Bronglais, Withybush and Prince Philip hospitals becoming smoke-free.

The law will also apply to all other Health Board run facilities.

The move is part of a national drive to create a healthier Wales and healthier future by protecting everyone from harmful, second-hand smoke, supporting those trying to quit, as well as reducing the normalisation of smoking, which is why the smoke-free law includes schools, public playgrounds, and outdoor areas of children’s daycare and childminding settings.

Anyone found breaking the law by smoking on these grounds could face a £100 fine.

Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “This is great news for people in the three counties and Wales as a whole. Preventing people smoking on our hospital grounds will promote healthier care environments, protect hospital users from harmful second-hand smoke and support those using NHS services to quit.”

“We know the harms smoking can do to health, so I look forward to having the backing of our staff, patients and visitors, to ensure we all play our part in building a healthier Wales for the future.

Many smokers have already been motivated to give up smoking due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is hoped this new legislation will encourage even more to do so. We have learnt that smoking can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 and also the severity of the disease.

Quitting with support provides the best chance of stopping smoking for good, which is why we are making smoking support services available to those who would like help.

The Hywel Dda Healthy Lifestyle and Wellbeing Team (Smoking) can provide expert and confidential NHS behavioural support and access to medication to help stop smoking or access to stop smoking medication.  Support is currently provided via telephone.  The service can be contacted via 0300 303 9652, which is a freephone number.

Health

Coronavirus cases in Wales still lowest in UK says Health Minister

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WALES continues to have the lowest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said today. 

The minister said the number of confirmed cases in Wales is currently 9.3 per 100,000 people. 

Eluned Morgan said: “The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is at the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.  We have recently seen a period of 10 days where no new deaths from the virus were recorded – sadly Public Health Wales reported one death yesterday.

“These achievements reflect the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Over recent weeks we have however seen very troubling developments in relation to the so-called India variant of concern – or as the World Health Organisation has re-named it, the delta variant.  This is further proof that coronavirus has not gone away. 

“We have been carefully monitoring this new variant, which appears to be spreading in many parts of England.   We have identified a growing number of cases here in Wales, including a large cluster of cases in Conwy which is under close investigation.  

“This delta variant has the potential to become the next dominant strain of the virus in the UK.  We hope we can contain cases and prevent this variant spreading further but we expect the number of cases in Wales will continue to increase.

“Whilst the public health situation therefore remains good in Wales, the delta variant brings a new level of uncertainty.  It was in this context the most recent review of the coronavirus restrictions took place on 3 June. 

“Whilst Wales is moving to alert level one as previously signalled, we will now do this in a phased way.  

“Changes to the regulations from 7 June therefore focused on easing restriction on outdoor events and activities.  The risk of transmission is much lower outdoors and these changes will allow people to take advantage of the summer.”

Up to 30 people can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.

Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated can also now take place.  This includes concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups. All organisers must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.

Finally, provision now allows for extended household to be made up of three households who can meet and have contact indoors.  This is an increase from two households previously. 

We will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the month, if public health conditions allow.   In line with the coronavirus control plan, at alert level one this would mean the rule of six would apply for meeting indoors in private homes and in holiday accommodation.

We will also consider increasing numbers for indoor organised gatherings and restarting indoor events.

This phased approach will provide time for more data on the impact of the delta variant to become available.  It will also allow time for more people to be vaccinated, which remains our best route out of the pandemic.

I am extremely grateful to Health Board vaccination teams, local partners and the many volunteers across the country for the incredible progress of our vaccination programme. 

At this rate, and subject to supply, we expect to have offered all adults 18 and over their first dose by early next week and to have hit our 3rd milestone of an uptake of 75% in all of the age ranges by the end of June, a month earlier than expected.  In reality, the percentage of people who have taken up their offer of a vaccine is far higher, which was always our aim.

We are currently recognised as the world Leader amongst countries over 1 million inhabitants.  We have vaccinated more than 86.5% of the adult population with their first dose and nearly half have completed the two-dose course.

Yesterday I published an update to our COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. 

The updated strategy looks back at what has been achieved to date and sets out preparations for what comes next, potentially including a booster for our most vulnerable citizens and a vaccine for children and young people. We are also planning to reoffer the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. The roll out of second doses will also continue.

To underpin this delivery, an online system will be established in the Autumn to allow people to book appointments convenient for them. This system could potentially be used for other vaccinations moving forward.

Wales’ successful Test, Trace, Protect service was established a year ago.  The Welsh Government has allocated an additional £32m to health boards and local authorities to extend contact tracing until the end of March 2022. This increases the total Welsh Government investment in contact tracing this financial year to £92m.

On 2 June we also published a refreshed Test, Trace, Protect strategy setting out how the service will adapt and respond to the pandemic in the months ahead.   This includes strengthening and enhance the tracing of variants of concern, as well as the management and quarantine of people returning to Wales from red and amber-list countries.

On 20 May I set-out plans for a £100m investment to kick-start the health and care system’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This money will provide for new equipment, staff, technology and ways of working to help health boards increase capacity and cut waiting times. 

As we begin resuming non-emergency care following the pandemic we have an opportunity to create a health and care system fit for the future.

Following the three week review of the restrictions on international travel, we are following the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK.

From today Portugal has been moved from green to the amber list. This decision follows increased concern in the spread of variants, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine. 

Seven countries have also been added to the red list, including Egypt and Sri Lanka.

I have today described some of the most recent developments in our ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus.   It remains vital we continue to work together to keep each other safe and to keep Wales safe.

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Health

Helping to deliver clinical services to the people of Ceredigion

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HYWEL Dda University Health Board (UHB) has published its Research and Innovation Strategy, which will help deliver clinical services to the people of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

The strategy, which is part of Hywel Dda UHB’s long-term health and care strategy, A healthier Mid and West Wales: Our Future Generations Living Well, seeks to improve the profile, quality and quantity of research and innovation activity within Hywel Dda UHB.

Additionally, while the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impact on communities across mid and west Wales, it demonstrated the vital link between research, innovation, and decision making at every level of the health care system. This includes the immediate importance of translating research and innovation into health benefits.

The Research and Innovation Strategy will focus on setting the direction and committing to the delivery of practical steps to move the health board’s research, development, and innovation agenda forward. This will be achieved through four strategic goals:

  • Improve the quality and impact of activities.
  • Invest in staff and facilities to encourage the development of a virtuous funding cycle.
  • Grow research and innovation activity in areas of strength and opportunity.
  • Develop strong and effective partnerships with academic, healthcare, industry and research organisations.

Leighton Phillips, Director for Research, Innovation and University Partnerships for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Our vision is to produce and collaborate in high quality health and care research and innovation, to improve services and health outcomes for our public, patients and staff. This strategy details how we aim to improve our research and innovation capabilities, which will have a direct benefit on the communities we serve in the three counties.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how critical research and innovation is to deal with the worst public health crisis of our time. Excellent research and innovation contribute to improved health outcomes, because it embeds a culture of the highest standards of health and care delivery, underpinned by evidence and by attracting high quality employees.

“Implementing this strategy will be done in collaboration with a wide variety of partners, from our existing funders, local authorities and Welsh Government, to private sector organisations and industry, and the health board’s clinical and managerial teams.”

If you wish to review the strategy or discuss it further with the research and innovation team, please email HDd.Research-Development@wales.nhs.uk.

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Health

Council provides feminine hygiene products to local communities

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL in partnership with local community groups and organisations, and through funding from Welsh Government’s Period Dignity Scheme, are ensuring that women and girls have access to feminine hygiene products.

A number of local groups and organisations will receive a stock of feminine hygiene products which are available to be distributed to individuals facing hardship within our communities.

Ceredigion County Council’s aim is to ensure that tampons, sanitary towels, or sustainable alternatives are available for women and girls from low income households in Ceredigion who cannot afford them.

Local community support groups and organisations have a wealth of knowledge of their local areas, and will be able to support those in need through ensuring they receive these products at this particularly challenging time.

To find out which groups or organisations hold a stock in your local area, please contact porthygymuned@ceredigion.gov.uk. 

To learn more about other grants and assistance available to those facing hardship, go to the benefits section on the Council’s website: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/coronavirus-covid-19/benefits/.

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