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Questions remain about Glangwili’s £25m funding

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has announced its approval of £25m of funding for upgraded neonatal care at Glangwili Hospital, only a week before the Board is due to consult on radical changes to clinical services across west Wales.

The announcement was made during a visit to Glangwili by Cabinet Secretary for Health, Vaughan Gething.

Speaking during the visit, the Cabinet Secretary​ said: “I’m delighted to approve £25million Welsh Government funding for the further redevelopment of Glangwili Hospital’s obstetric and neonatal facilities.

“This funding will improve the clinical quality, safety and innovation at the site. It will mean better access to services for patients and their parents, as well as improving the well-being of staff. This investment will address the urgent areas of concern highlighted in the Royal Colleges’ report on maternity services in Hywel Dda Health Board.

“This should significantly improve the patient experience and accommodation for families and, as it is a larger unit, may also reduce the risk of families having to travel out of our area for care due to capacity reasons.”

Hywel Dda University Health Board Chief Executive, Steve Moore​,​ said: “We welcome this news as women, children and their families deserve to have better accommodation than we are currently able to offer at Glangwili Hospital. We hope this provides our population with confidence that we will now proceed with pace to make these improvements.”

“The £25m investment in obstetric and neonatal facilities at Glangwili, west Wales’ most central General Hospital, is obviously welcome news,” said Cllr Alun Lenny, Mayor of Carmarthen.

“As the maternity ward was declared ‘not fit for purpose’ by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health three years ago, providing mothers and babies with a safer birthing facility and specialist care is long overdue, if you’ll excuse the pun!

“However, some questions must be asked. Although Vaughan Gething refers to the well-being of staff, the Hywel Dda Health Board has a chronic recruitment problem and spends over £20m annually on agency staff. The Welsh Government must give an assurance that revenue funding will be provided to staff the new facility. There’s little point in investing millions of pounds if the unit can’t be staffed properly, or piles more financial pressure on the Health Board – already £70m overspent – if they have to employ more expensive agency staff.

“The timing of this announcement and the Health Secretary’s visit is rather curious, coming as it does a week before Hywel Dda Health Board announces its options for a “once in a lifetime” transformation of clinical care in west Wales. Central to the ‘leaked’ options are plans for a new hospital near the Carmarthenshire/Pembrokeshire border.

“How could that be justified when £25m is being invested at Glangwili? Carmarthen is central to west Wales and it makes sense to locate urgent clinical care here.

“On a different note, I’m sure that residents living near Glangwili Hospital, outpatients, visitors and motorists using the A484, will welcome the provision of 59 new car parking spaces, which should help alleviate the chronic parking situation at the hospital.”

The £25m investment at the hospital is a hangover from the last round of changes and cuts to clinical services, which saw consultant-led obstetric services stripped from Withybush Hospital, with assurances made that facilities at Glangwili were fit and ready to accept more patients.

Shortly after services were transferred, a report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health stated that facilities at Glangwili were not up to the standard required of a modern consultant-led unit and that significant sums of money were required to bring them up to snuff, stating: ‘The Glangwili labour ward is not fit for purpose; it is too small, with insufficient facilities and provides a poor environment for women and staff.  The increased numbers of women using the unit, including those with high-risk pregnancies from Pembrokeshire has put additional pressure on the staff with two culturally very different teams learning to work together in cramped and difficult conditions.’

The Board accepted the Royal College’s recommendations and – due to the requirements of making out a business case to the Welsh Government – it has taken two years to secure funding to carry out the work recommended in September 2015 to deal with the fall out of the last reorganisation. That business plan predated the Board’s current and ongoing intention to reorganise west Wales’ healthcare in what is widely being trailed as ‘once in a generation’ change.

Work is expected to start before the autumn and the aim is for the scheme to be complete by 2020, by which time the future of service provision should be decided. It appears that investing £25m at Glangwili in these circumstances would be unlikely to proceed to completion of the project.

We asked the Welsh Government whether or not the £25m investment was certain to proceed, but did not get a reply to our enquiry.

We put the same point to the Health Board, who told us: “We note there has been concern that the delivery of this capital project may be adversely affected by our forthcoming consultation on the future of health services in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area which, subject to Board decision, is due to launch on Thursday, April 19.

“We would like to reassure our population that our business of providing healthcare to the very best of our abilities continues – this is the right thing to do and what our patients deserve and should rightly expect from the NHS.

“We cannot pre-judge what the outcomes of our proposed consultation may be, and even if there is change to Glangwili OR Withybush Hospital in the future, this may be several years ahead. We continually evolve and improve our services, responding to advances in medicine and technology, and this will continue.”

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire AM Angela Burns, the Conservative’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Only in January the Cabinet Secretary announced £1.2m for the Board to put together a business case for further improvements to the neonatal and maternity services at Glangwili. The business case is supposed to go out for public consultation and is expected to be received by the Welsh Government this summer.

“This – very welcome – £25m is to make headway on the promise made by the Welsh Government years ago that the sacrifice of the Haverfordwest SCBU would result in a level two Special Care Baby Unit and provide better maternity facilities at Glangwili.

“It’s about time, but I have to wonder whether this is just easing the way for potential further radical changes and whether the money will still head to Glangwili if the reconfiguration proposals pull services away from the hospital.”

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Food assembly reaches fruition

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MORE and more people in Carmarthen are ditching the supermarket trolley and buying fresh food directly from local producers.

The Carmarthen Food Assembly – an online platform that allows a direct link between customers and producers – continues to grow from strength to strength, helping people have more control about what ends up on their plates whilst supporting local businesses.

This week the assembly celebrated its first anniversary, and now boasts 700 customers and 20 producers, with fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and baked goods sold and collected weekly.

Customers order their goods through an online platform, giving producers special requests if required, before picking it up on collection day at Carmarthen’s Xcel in Johnstown, or The Warren in Mansel Street.

As well as supporting the local economy the assembly also has health and environmental benefits – customers can find out exactly what has gone into their food, and carbon footprint is also reduced with food travelling an average distance of 28 miles to the pick-up point compared to around 600 miles to a supermarket.

It also reduces waste as nothing gets picked or baked unless it is ordered.

Organiser Carrie Laxton is a retired GP who saw the benefits of a food assembly and decided to set one up in Carmarthen, with the support of Carmarthenshire County Council.

“Local producers are struggling to make a living, and this is an ideal way of supporting them,” she said.

“We have anywhere between 12 and 18 producers most weeks who set up a mini-market at our collection points to meet their customers and hand over the pre-ordered goods. It makes good local food more accessible to local people as well as supporting local producers.”

Cllr Cefin Campbell, Carmarthenshire County Council’s executive board member for rural affairs, said: “This is a fantastic way to support the local economy and local producers. Rural industries continue to struggle but as consumers become more conscious of what they eat we hope that they will return back to the more traditional shopping route which is to buy from local farmers, bakers and butchers.

“The food assembly helps link customers and producers and bringing in the modern element of online orders it is working well for a growing number of people.”

Anyone can register to become a customer of the food assembly, and food producers in around the Carmarthen area are encouraged to find out how they can become involved.

Find information at www.foodassembly.com

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Man arrested on suspicion of murder

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POLICE are continuing with their thorough enquiries in the search for 28-year-old Hollie Kerrell, who is missing from Knighton.

She was last seen at her home address in Knighton on Sunday, April 22, at around 10am. No one has heard from her since.

An incident room has been set up in Llandrindod Wells police station, and enquiries have led to the arrest of a 35-year-old man on suspicion of murder. He is currently in police custody.

Superintendent Jon Cummins said: “Although there has been a significant development in this investigation in respect of an arrest taking place, we still need the help of the public in this enquiry.

“We’re appealing to anyone with any information or sightings of Hollie from 5pm on Saturday, April 21st onwards to contact us as a matter of urgency. She is described as being 5’5”, medium build with dark brown hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a black skirt and long black cardigan when last seen.

“Please, if you have any information contact us by calling 101.”

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908, quoting Ref: 138 of April 23.

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Police issue security advice to businesses following attempted burglary

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is urging businesses to consider increased security measures following an attempted burglary at a business in Dyffryn Road, Ammanford.

Two people were seen attempting to gain access to a unit at around 7.20pm on April 9.

Following on from the incident, Ammanford police have offered the following advice to business owners in the area.

​PC Elinor Rees said: “We would advise all businesses to look at their current security measures and consider if they are robust enough to prevent crime.

“We recommend investing in CCTV cameras covering all buildings and grounds around your premises, and ensure the relevant staff are aware of how to download footage in the event it is needed.

“If you need further information on protecting your business, please contact your local neighbourhood policing team by calling 101.”

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