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Police stay tight-lipped about hospital runs

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DyfedPowysPoliceDYFED POWYS POLICE force has declined to provide information to The Herald about its use of police cars as make-shift ambulances as they have deemed it too time consuming and not worth their effort. 

According to figures released by Plaid Cymru, who made Freedom of Information requests to each Welsh police force, more than 600 patients in Wales had to be taken to hospitals by police cars rather than ambulances over the last three years. The Welsh Ambulance Service said it was missing its eight-minute target and crews were “tied up” and unable to respond to other calls. Police dealt with a wide range of patients, including those who had attempted suicide, been involved in assaults or stabbings, suffered drink-related injuries or had hypothermia. While 600 is the figure from South Wales Police, North Wales Police and Gwent Police, Wales’ largest force Dyfed Powys did not provide any figures.

The Herald asked the Force: “On how many occasions in each of the financial years 2011-12, 2012- 13 and 2013-14 have the force been asked to take patients to hospital in police vehicles because of a lack of availability of ambulances to carry out the task?” The response that came back that an exemption to providing this information, freely available apparently under the Freedom of Information, applied and told us it would take a staggering 9635 hours – over a year of man hours to provide the Herald with the basic information given freely by other Welsh police forces.

While the Welsh Government claims that the figures cited represent less than 0.05% of all calls made to the Ambulance Service, the situation has been pounced upon as evidence of the growing crisis in the Welsh Ambulance Service at a time when Health Board service reorganisations are increasing the burden placed upon the grossly under-performing service. Mike Collins, director of service delivery at the ambulance service, said the organisation was working as hard as it could take patients to hospital as quickly as possible. “The trust is working in partnership with police forces across Wales to reduce instances where our emergency colleagues are awaiting an ambulance response,” he added. “Both the trust and all four police forces maintain frequent contact and are building on the close relationship in support of each other and their staff.

“Despite the increase in calls that we experience year on year we are actually reaching more and more people across Wales than ever before.” The crisis in Ambulance provision was highlighted by performance figures released in June which showed a catastrophic failure by the Welsh Ambulance Trust to meet minimum performance levels set by the Welsh Government. 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%.

The death of three years-old Angel Jade Smith of Carmarthen shows the depth of the challenge facing those seeking to improve first responder times. Having been recovered from a serious house fire, Angel received treatment for twenty minutes at the scene and had been transported to Glangwili Hospital by police officers before an ambulance arrived, forty minutes after being called. Carmarthen Ambulance station is only seven minutes from the family’s home. The Ambulance Service announced an enquiry into the matter, but a search of their website for further information on the incident drew a blank.

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Ceredigion public transport services arrangements challenging

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WORK is ongoing to provide sustainable and affordable travel opportunities by bus.

A procurement process is currently underway to secure statutory learner transport requirements as well as opportunities for the general public to travel by bus on a number of routes in Ceredigion.

With the current arrangements coming to an end on 31 December 2022, tenders received for local bus routes are being evaluated. There is particular focus on their affordability taking into account the significant increases in tendered prices.

Unfortunately, no tender has been received for operating the 585 service, Aberystwyth-Tregaron-Lampeter. Unless a last minute contract can be negotiated, the non-school journeys on this route will not operate as of January 2023.

Opportunities for the general public to travel on some learner travel services will continue from January 2023 onwards. This is due to the integrated nature of the bus network in Ceredigion.

Councillor Keith Henson, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transport Services said, “It is a very difficult time for the bus industry with spiralling costs, a lack of qualified Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers, uncertainty around future funding arrangements and low passenger numbers. The number of people using buses in Wales has been in decline for a number of years. This has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to the amount of public funding required to subsidise local bus services rising dramatically on already stretched public finance budgets.

The Council will continue in its efforts to work with key stakeholders including local bus operators, Welsh Government and Transport for Wales to provide sustainable and affordable travel opportunities by bus. However, in the short term at least, it has to be recognised that the outlook is very challenging.”

Further updates will be provided in due course while officers focus their attention on providing the best level of travel opportunities possible.

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Flood warnings issued in parts of Ceredigion

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FLOOD warnings have been issued in Borth, Borth River Leri and the tidal area at Aberystwyth seafront.

The high tide is expected at 8:15pm on Thursday 24 November 2022 at Borth. Wave overtopping at the seafront is expected to occur between 7:15pm and 9:45pm. The properties closest to the sea front are most at risk.

If you are worried or experiencing flooding, call Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

You can visit Natural Resources Wales website to see the current flood warnings in force, check the river and sea levels or keep an eye on the 5-day flood risk forecast: https://naturalresources.wales/?lang=en

You can also follow Ceredigion County Council, Natural Resources Wales and the Met Office on social media for updates on the weather situation.

Any further details will be updated on this page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/novemberfloodwarnings

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Winter Fuel Support Scheme open for applications

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ELIGIBLE households are reminded to apply to the Winter Fuel Support Scheme for support towards paying winter fuel bills.

Welsh Government has re-launched the Winter Fuel Support Scheme for 2022 – 2023 as part of a £90m support package to address immediate pressures on living costs.

To date, Ceredigion County Council has assisted over 5,000 households with these payments, and paid out in excess of £1million. So, if you are facing increased fuel bills and think that you may qualify, please submit your application as soon as possible. Eligible households can claim a one-off £200 payment to provide support towards paying their energy bills for their primary residence in Wales.

The scheme is open to households where the applicant or their partner is responsible for paying the energy bills and is in receipt of one of the following benefits (at any time between 1 September 2022 and 31 January 2023):

Income Support
Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
Income Related Employment & Support Allowance
Universal Credit
Working Tax Credits
Child Tax Credits
Pension Credit
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Carers Allowance
Contributory Based/New Style Job Seekers Allowance
Contributory Based/New Style Employment & Support Allowance
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance
War Pension Mobility Supplement

If the applicant or their partner who is liable for the fuel costs does not receive any of the above qualifying benefits then they may still be eligible for a payment if a qualifying person lives with them. A qualifying person must meet all the following:

occupy the applicant’s or partner’s home as their primary residence, and
is a dependent child or an adult living with the applicant or their partner, and
is in receipt of one of the following benefits (at any time between 1 September 2022 and 31 January 2023):
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Attendance Allowance
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance
War Pension Mobility Supplement

The payment will be available to all eligible households regardless of whether they pay for their energy on a pre-payment meter, by direct debit or by paying a bill quarterly. The fuel received can be on or off grid.

Councillor Gareth Davies, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Finance and Procurement Services, said: “I would encourage people facing higher fuel bills to check if they are eligible for the Winter Fuel Assistance Scheme to get invaluable help with fuel bills when it is most needed.”

Applications can be made up until 5pm on 28 February 2023 on the Council website: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/benefits/winter-fuel-support-scheme/

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