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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London Bridge hero calls for Carmarthen’s bravest to be nominated
THE HERO of London Bridge who was stabbed nine times as he fought off three terrorists armed with just a police baton has called on Carmarthen people to nominate an unsung hero of their own.
And British Transport Police Officer Wayne Marques said bravery and courage should be recognised because it is inspiring and encouraging to others.
He said: “Every tragedy has a silver lining and it is up to us to make sure that silver shines.”
Wayne, 39, who won the Against All Odds category in last year’s global hearing specialists Amplifon’s Brave Britons awards, was on patrol in the area of London Bridge Station when he heard screams on the evening of June 3 last year and then he saw people being stabbed in Borough High Street near the junction with London Bridge Street.
He charged at one of the terrorists lashing out with his baton. But soon he was being attacked by all three terrorists one stabbing him above his right eye which cause him to go temporarily blind in the eye.
More than 12 months on and Wayne still travels from his South London home to Harrogate, Yorkshire, where he receives rehabilitation treatment.
Seven people died in the attack and many more were badly injured.
Now Wayne is calling on people who know of acts of courage or bravery to nominate them for this year’s Amplifon – who have a store in Merlins Walk Shopping Centre, Carmarthen – Brave Briton awards.
He said: “I first felt surprised and then humble when I was nominated by a person I didn’t even know. The fact they had taken their time to fill in a form and nominate me made me feel very honoured. It would have been wrong for me to respond in any other way.”
Wayne added: “We need more people honoured in the way I was because there are a lot of people out there who go beyond what is expected of them for the sake of others.
“Even uniformed services personnel who do a job where they are expected to sometimes face danger go beyond that expectation and react to the highest magnitude.
“To nominate others and put them in the limelight is so inspiring and encouraging to others in their communities and around the country.
“Through adversity we as a nation tend to pull together. How we rally together makes this country great.”
There are six categories in the Amplifon Brave Britons awards: Against All Odds, Young Hero, Service To Their Country, Active Agers, Hero Pet, and Charity Champion.
Anyone who wishes to nominate a hero in any of the categories should visit http://www.amplifon.com
Finalists will be invited to an awards ceremony to be held at the Army and Navy Club, Pall Mall, London, on Tuesday, October 16.
A panel of judges including Falklands hero Simon Weston will also choose an overall Hero from the category winners who will win a trip to Italy.
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