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Health Board takes actions to protect healthcare for the most critically ill

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HEALTH and care services across West Wales are responding to the impacts of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in order to provide emergency and urgent care for patients in the safest way possible during the coming weeks.

Hywel Dda University Health Board is taking a number of actions today, and appealing for the continued support of our staff and communities to keep Hywel Dda safe as we face this new phase of the pandemic.

Actions are being taken in a planned way due to the high demand we are seeing for non-COVID care during this time of the year, together with high incidence of COVID-19 in our area, like the rest of the UK.

This is starting to result in higher numbers of COVID admissions and incidences in our hospitals and communities.  

It is also having a direct impact on our staffing levels across primary care, community and hospital services.  We currently estimate that at least 10 per cent of our workforce is absent for both COVID and non-COVID related reasons.  This figure is higher in some teams and we expect it to rise in the coming weeks. We need to plan how we deliver the most critical clinical services with the staff we have available. 

Actions being taken include:

  • The health board is providing and reminding staff of the services available to them internally to support them at this difficult time. It is standing down some less urgent work in order to redeploy staff where possible.
  • To maintain delivery of the most urgent cancer surgery in the short term, this will be undertaken for the Hywel Dda population from Prince Philip Hospital, in Llanelli, with the exception of Head and Neck urgent cancer surgery, which will continue at Glangwili General Hospital, in Carmarthen.. Our clinicians believe that concentrating the majority of our urgent care resources onto one site during the next few weeks is the best way to protect the delivery of this potentially life-saving surgery. This position will be continually reviewed and we will seek to re-establish urgent cancer surgery at our other main hospitals as soon as we can do so safely. We ask patients and families to support us and travel for their surgery. If you have no means to travel for your surgery, then please contact us on our COVID enquiries line on  0300 303 8322 or email COVIDEnquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk 
  • Outpatient & therapy appointments and clinics will be prioritised for the most urgent patients over the next few weeks. With the exception of a small number of emergency cases and some children’s appointments, we will reschedule outpatient appointments next week.  Patients will be re-booked according to clinical urgency in subsequent weeks. Unless you are contacted directly by the health board, please attend any appointment as scheduled. If anyone has concerns about the delay in their outpatient appointment, as a result of this short term measure, they can contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 or email COVIDEnquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk 

Director of Operations Andrew Carruthers said: “The whole of the UK is facing challenge from Omicron and the indirect impact on staffing. This is affecting us in Hywel Dda UHB across all our services whether in the community, primary care or hospitals, but to different degrees and is a very fluid situation. To ensure the delivery of care for the most critically unwell, and to ensure we protect the ability of our staff to provide this care, we have put in place actions that will provide some extra capacity. We apologise to anyone affected adversely by these actions and it remains our ambition, always, to re-establish our planned care services as soon as we are able to, knowing the impact this has on people’s lives.”

Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience Mandy Rayani added: “We are so grateful to our staff who continue to work in difficult circumstances, always driven by the desire to provide the best care possible to our population. We are asking our staff to be vigilant about the behaviours we know reduce transmission of COVID-19 at work and at home; and our public can also play a significant role in supporting the NHS and each other by also adhering to these principles. Unfortunately we are seeing more abuse targeted at our staff and we will not tolerate this. Health and care staff – from the clinicians to the support teams and call handlers in primary, community and hospital teams – provide a service to help our patients and communities and they should never be the victims of abuse, physical or verbal. Please help us to help you.”

Steps you can take to protect more lives, our NHS and each other include:

  • Get your full course of vaccination https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccination-programme/
  • Follow Welsh Government guidance on self-isolation and testing, including carrying out regular LFDs (health and care staff have specific and different guidance internally)
  • Wear face coverings, or if asked in a health setting, a surgical face mask
  • Keep a 2meter distance from others when you can
  • Wash hands regularly and be ready to be asked by a healthcare professional to wash hands or sanitise whether in hospital or your own home
  • Do not accompany people to hospital, GP surgery, or another setting unless they are vulnerable and need your assistance
  • Please be aware that your GP surgery may offer you appointments in different ways where appropriate, such as over the telephone or online. Please allow extra time when ordering prescriptions during this busy time. Community pharmacies are also extremely busy so you may need to wait longer than usual.
  • Pre-arrange hospital visiting with the ward sister and be understanding if it is not possible at this time due to safety

The health board continues to work closely with others including the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust, local authorities and other partners to work together in these challenging times.

If you or a loved one is unwell, remember:

If you have a relative or loved one in hospital who is medically fit but is waiting to be discharged, you may be able to help us by providing short term care or considering interim placements in care homes.

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Health

Bereavement books to support children at Bronglais Hospital

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THANKS to donations, Hywel Dda Health Charities has purchased a collection of children’s books on bereavement for the Meurig oncology ward at Bronglais Hospital.

The books help families to support children when there has been a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Ellen Masters, Meurig Ward Administrator, said: “By having these books on the ward we are able to guide and support children and young people dealing with bad news and bereavement.

“Using stories and activities can be a really good way to discuss issues with a child who has been bereaved, helping them to explore feelings and emotions around loss.

“Parents also appreciate having something they can read to children which deals sensitively with the issues.”

Pictured with some of the books is Senior Ward Sister Alaw Ciornei.

Nicola Llewelyn, Head of Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official charity of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “The support of our local communities enables us to provide services over and above what the NHS can provide in the three counties of Hywel Dda and we are extremely grateful for every donation we receive.”

For more details about the charity and how you can help support local NHS patients and staff, go to www.hywelddahealthcharities.org.uk

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Health

NHS Dental Treatment in Wales Still 55% Lower Than Pre-Pandemic Levels

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RESPONDING to figures released this week showing that the number of courses of NHS dental treatment are still 55.1% lower than the year prior to the pandemic, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their calls for the use of dental hygienists and dental nurses to be increased to help clear backlogs.

Overall, there was a decrease of 35.5% (539,959 patients) in the total number of patients treated, and the percentage of the total population treated decreased by 17.0 percentage points. This is the largest decrease for both adults and children since the series began in the 24-month period ending March 2006.

The figures also show a worrying decline in the number of children treated decreased with a reduction of 33.6% (125,246 patients).

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS told The Ceredigion Herald: “The figures we see today are very concerning. An inability to access an NHS dentist continues to be one of the main concerns I hear from my constituents.

“Just over the course of this summer, the largest town in Powys lost two out of four of its dental practices and the picture is similar across much of Wales.

“Everyone understands the challenges faced by dentistry following the pandemic. However, there are actions the Welsh Government can take both in the here and now and in the longer term to help clear backlogs and get NHS dentistry back on track.

“When I’ve spoken to industry experts over the summer they have all said the same thing, increasing the number of dental nurses and dental hygienists, as well as broadening the work they are allowed to do will help clear backlogs.

“I will continue to press Labour to make these changes as soon as possible.”

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Health

Local Businesses help raise astonishing £10,000 for Cardio-Respiratory Ward at Bronglais Hospital

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THE ORGANISERS of the 2021 Aberystwyth Businesspersons’ Lunch have donated the £10,000 proceeds to the Cardio-Respiratory Ward at Bronglais Hospital.

Consultant Cardiologist Dr Donogh McKeogh; Aled and Rose Rowlands;

John Davies’ widow Ann; Frank Bridle; John’s daughter and son, Angharad

and Rhodri; and Iestyn Leyshon

The lunch last December was in memory of well-known local businessman, jeweller and musician John Davies, who had helped organise the annual lunch for many years but sadly passed away just a few months before.

“John was such a lovely man, a pillar of the town and so well thought of, that we decided it was fitting that the lunch should be in his memory and that the proceeds should go to the cardiac unit where he had been treated for so many years,” said Aled Rowlands, who organised the lunch along with Frank Bridle, Layla Mangan, Gary Pemberthy, Huw Bates and Iestyn Leyshon.

“It was a very successful day, with nearly 200 people enjoying a lunch, comedian, band, auction and raffle. It was a fitting tribute to John who was such a big part of the town.”

John Davies joined his parents’ business at T J Davies at the age of 16 where he worked for 64 years after leaving Llandaff Cathedral School. He passed away in August 2021, at the age of 80.

John’s wife Ann and children Angharad and Rhodri said: “We were delighted at the generous amount that was raised in his memory at the Businesspersons Christmas lunch.

“Charity work was important to John, through his membership of the Lions Club and it is fitting that the money raised went to a department where he personally received such care and attention from Dr McKeogh and his team.

“John will be remembered not only as a businessman but also as a keen and talented trumpeter, playing with Aberystwyth Town Band, Aber Jazz and Philomusica, to name but a few, as well as playing carols with the Town Band every Christmas Day around Bronglais Hospital wards and care homes in the town.”

Pictured at the cheque presentation at Bronglais Hospital are (from left) Consultant Cardiologist Dr Donogh McKeogh; Aled and Rose Rowlands; John Davies’ widow Ann; Frank Bridle; John’s daughter and son, Angharad and Rhodri; and Iestyn Leyshon.

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