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Ambulance service: 3 months to improve

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ambulance“VERY DISAPPOINTING”. That was the Welsh Government’s uncharacteristically understated response to the news that the Wales Ambulance Service’s performance had declined yet again. 

The figures show that 50.8% of ambulances in Pembrokeshire arrived at the scene of an immediate life-threatening Category A call within 8 minutes. The target is 65%. Neighbouring counties of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire achieved better figures of 53.3% and 51.9% respectively, and the average for the whole of Wales was 54.1%. While Health Minister Mark Drakeford said that he expected month on month improvement. He failed to set out what steps – if any – he will take if the Ambulance Service continues to fail. Commenting on the figures, Paul Davies AM said “It beggars belief that the Local Health Board and the Welsh Labour Government continue to steam roller through with their unpopular and illconceived changes to our hospital services. It’s clear that at present the ambulance service is under great pressure, and these proposed changes to our health services will mean that patients will have to travel further for treatment, and put even more pressure on our hard working ambulance personnel.” He added “I would like to pay tribute to the dedication of our local paramedics who are being put in an impossible situation. Travelling further to get medical help will only make matters worse and once again I would urge the Local Health Board and Welsh Labour Government to stop their reckless assault on services at Withybush Hospital.” Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones said: “It is clear that the government has failed to deliver the improvements that are needed.” The Local Health Board has repeatedly told Pembrokeshire residents that the Ambulance Service will be able to fulfil the needs of patients in the County as its plans to slash services at Withybush proceed. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Board has claimed that: “Concerns which were raised predominantly related to transport mainly the safety of women in labour and neonates in transit between units in an emergency situation. Discussions continue to take place with Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) and other bodies with a view to establishing mechanisms to resolve these concerns.” The Ambulance Service’s appalling performance figures and the fact that “discussions” are continuing with only a few weeks to go before the Board cuts services at Withybush is one indication that those concerns will not be resolved before the end of July.

PARAMEDIC Colin Picton has written to health minister Mark Drakeford. We have reprinted the letter in full here. 

MR DRAKEFORD, 

I’m writing to you, not that you’re going to take much notice to this email, as you and your band of merry men have come to your conclusions already, about removing vital resources and services from our fantastic hospital, at Withybush in Haverfordwest. I would like you to answer for me, how have you come to this decision, and on what evidence your decision has been made? Do you think it’s acceptable that lives will be lost? Do you think it’s acceptable for vulnerable people to travel such a distance to receive the care they deserve? I have three healthy children and one of them was born prematurely and we used the SCUBU at Withybush, and must say the staff there were amazing, hard-working and dedicated, and I couldn’t have imagined travelling long distances to receive this care elsewhere. As a Paramedic, let me draw some interesting facts to your attention that all my other colleagues want to say, so I will speak on their behalf: • Pembrokeshire at present has 5 ambulances available 24/7 unless Welsh Ambulance are saving money (which does happen) and due to sickness some stations go without cover reducing this to 4, sometimes 3 available vehicles. • Geographically we have one of the most rural areas in Wales. Our 8 minute response times are hardly met now as it is and we are desperate for MORE resources. • Milford Haven alone is the second most populated town in west wales next to Llanelli, and this is only getting bigger, due to additional housing being built to cope with the growing population. • We have on our doorstep one of the busiest ports in the UK and Two refinery’s two LNG plants and a power station. What would happen if there was a major incident? Where would the cover arrive from? How long will it take for them to receive the specialist care they need? How many people will die in the meantime? I have been sat outside A&E for hours at a time waiting to off load, along with sometimes 7 other vehicles, now if these vehicles were out of county that is leaving no cover what so ever in Pembrokeshire, so it’s not all about the facilities that are being downgraded its the impact on the Ambulance Service being able to meet demand, after travelling such distances. In my time as Paramedic I can count at least 20 patients that if they had not received specialist care within 10-15 minutes they would have died, now there are 70-80 staff in Pembrokeshire making that figure roughly 1600. We are playing with statistics now, something like your Cabinet is doing. But that’s potentially 1600 lives that would have been lost: now are you happy for this to happen knowing that investing in our already fantastic hospital and making it a centre of excellence would be far more beneficial than making these ridiculous decisions based on no facts, no risk assessments and no thought what so ever?! I ask you: would you be happy for one of your family to wait in excess of 1 hour for an Emergency Ambulance? Would you be happy for them to travel 50 minutes in the back when they could have been 10 minutes away from the care they needed, but it had been removed due to the penny pinching government that are in power right now? In the long run, there will be so many lives lost due to all these changes the amount of money in corporate manslaughter cases will bring the Welsh Assembly to its knees. This, I don’t care about; but lives, I do. My family my friends the people of Pembrokeshire deserve better, we deserved to be listened to. We have a right to the best possible care and you’re taking this away from us all. I look forward to your response, and would hope you could give me the reasoning for these decisions, and some helpful facts on how the Ambulance Service will meet this demand, and bearing in mind we know the current situation so we will not be palmed off with your made up statistics Mr Drakeford, let’s hear the real truth for once, we deserve to know.

Kind regards Mr Colin Picton

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Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest

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POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.

Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.

The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.

It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.

Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.

Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.

Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.

Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.

“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”

The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.

The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.

The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.

Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.

An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”

Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.

“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.

“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”

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Ceredigion’s Energy Efficiency work recognised at the Wales Energy Efficiency Awards

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ON June, 17, 2022, Wales Regional Energy Efficiency Awards were held in Cardiff. Ceredigion County Council’s Energy Efficiency Schemes scooped 2 awards.

The Energy Efficiency Awards were introduced to help recognise the fantastic work being undertaken by the energy efficiency sector in Wales. The measures were introduced to help homeowners reduce their energy bills, tackle fuel poverty and reduce Carbon emissions.

Ceredigion County Council have been delivering the ECO Local Authority Flexibility scheme along with the Warm Homes Cozy Ceredigion Scheme for a number of years. These schemes have seen a number of insulation measures and heating systems being installed in properties improving their energy efficiency. With the drive towards renewable heating systems the concentration lately has been on the installation of air source heat pumps.

The Council scooped the top prize for the Regional Council or Local Authority of the Year where one exceptional council in each of the 11 Regional areas of the UK has shown a true commitment to promoting energy efficiency within their region. This award was sponsored by Improveasy.

For this award, the judges look at the impact their work has had within the local community, what their customer and local community have to say about the council, what level of expertise the council has within its own teams and what priority the council gives to tackling fuel poverty within its current plans.

The Council also won the Regional Vulnerable Customer Support Organisation of the Year having shown a true commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable people within their region. This award was sponsored by Consumer Energy Solutions.

Councillor Matthew Vaux, is the Cabinet Member responsible for the Housing Service. He said: “I would like to congratulate the Housing team for their hard work and success at the Regional Energy Efficiency Awards this year. With the current rise in fuel costs and the increase in cost of living, this is a fantastic achievement for the Council’s housing team in showcasing that they are helping our residents save energy and combat fuel poverty.”

Find more information about Energy Efficiency Schemes on the Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/housing/financial-assistance/energy-efficiency-schemes/

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The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme

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FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.

Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.

The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.

Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.

To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.

They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.

“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.

“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”

Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.

“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”

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