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Vaccine milestone achieved in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire

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WITH thanks to the amazing efforts of vaccination teams and GP practices across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, we can confirm that Hywel Dda UHB has met the first Welsh Government vaccination milestone of offering a first dose to everyone in groups 1 to 4 by Monday 15 February.

Locally recorded figures confirm that at 10am today, Monday 15 February, 101,938 vaccines have been administered – that’s 92% of local people in the first 4 priority groups. With many GP practices and the Health Board’s Mass Vaccination Centres working hard over the weekend it is likely that there is still more data yet to be added but even without this, the local NHS has risen to the challenge to protect its most vulnerable people in record time.

The health board’s focus now turns to the next stage of its vaccination programme as we move on to the next priority groups while also providing second doses to those who received their first dose in December.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said, “This vaccination programme offers a real solution in the fight against COVID-19 and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played their part in this achievement.

“I’d also like to thank our community in groups priority groups 1 to 4 who have come forward in large numbers to receive their vaccine. At the start of this programme we viewed success would mean 75% of each group receiving a vaccine.

“We have surpassed this in all four groups and this puts our three counties in a very strong position to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and our local NHS.

“We hope to see this high uptake continue as we move to vaccinate groups 5 to 9 by spring and to the rest of our adult population through the summer. Thank you.”

Over the next few weeks, there will be a temporary reduction in the use of mass vaccination centres across the three counties in order to manage the logistics of delivering second doses in sequence at the vaccination centre where the first dose was received and also due to a slight reduction in the amount of vaccines being received.

Please be assured this is a planned and expected change in supply that will affect the whole of the UK. This has been factored this into our planning and it will not affect people’s appointments or delay when people are due to get their second dose. The supply of vaccines is expected to ramp up significantly from the beginning of March.

People aged 65 to 69 (priority group 5) will start to be contacted by their GP practice over the next couple of weeks to receive their vaccine and further announcements as to how people in group 6 will be invited will be made as soon as possible.

We understand people are anxious and want to know when they can have the vaccine. Please do not contact your GP, pharmacy or health board; you will be contacted when it is your turn. People will be invited to receive the vaccine in order of priority, so please be patient.

As more of our community start to receive a vaccine, people are reminded they must continue to follow current advice and guidance with regards to social distancing and wearing face coverings.

The vaccine will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We do not yet know yet whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus.

For more information about the vaccine and the Hywel Dda vaccination programme, please visit https://hduhb.nhs.wales/COVID19-Vaccination

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Carmarthenshire residents can quickly check symptoms for variety of conditions on NHS 111 Wales online

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NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker can save Carmarthenshire patients time by helping them find the right NHS service for treatment. Symptoms can be quickly checked for a variety of conditions and advice given on the best way to treat them by visiting www.111.wales.nhs.uk which is hosted by the Welsh Ambulance Service.

The way we access NHS services has changed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more options now becoming increasingly utilised, including the NHS 111 Wales online service which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be used for both health information and advice and to access urgent primary care in Welsh and English.

In a recent YouGov survey, a third of Carmarthenshire residents had not even heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker and only 19% had used it during the past 12 months.

Andrew Carruthers, Director of Operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We are asking everyone to help us by reconsidering the way you access NHS services. The methods available have changed but we are still here for you. It is worth getting to know the different ways you can access the NHS so you can be seen and treated quicker with your first port of call being NHS 111 Wales.”

According to the YouGov survey, carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign, only 67% of Carmarthenshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales online symptom checker. However, 86% said they felt it was important to have access to the service.   

NHS 111 Wales online can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. The way it works is: You answer questions about your symptoms on the website and depending on the situation you will:

·           Get self-care advice

·           Be told how to get any medicine you need

·           Find out what local service can help you

·           Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP

·           Get a face-to-face appointment if you need one

·           Be given an arrival time if you need to go to A&E – this might mean you spend less time in A&E

For those who don’t have confidence going online to seek advice, there is the NHS 111 Wales phone service. This is also a free service where patients can contact the NHS by dialling 111 to receive advice on the best way to manage their issue or gain further assistance if needed. The bilingual telephone service is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Eighty-four percent of Carmarthenshire residents had heard of the NHS 111 Wales phone service when asked for the recent YouGov survey but only 20% had used the telephone service during the last 12 months.

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Council budget set for 2021-22

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has approved a budget including a Council Tax increase of 3.45 per cent, or £45.42 a year, for the average band D property – that’s roughly 87 pence a week.

Leader of the council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said the increase is below the national average and was financially prudent given the financial consequences of Covid-19, some costs of which are still unknown.

Council Tax contributes around 26 per cent to the county council’s £386million net revenue budget which is spent on providing services to residents and businesses in Carmarthenshire.

The biggest share of Council Tax contributions is spent on education and children’s services, followed by housing and adult social care.

The budget passed by council also provides a further £133million investment in capital projects which will include regeneration schemes, redevelopment of schools, highway and leisure facility improvements and provision of affordable housing to improve Carmarthenshire.

Cllr David Jenkins, Executive Board Member for Resources, said: “This is a prudent and sustainable budget that reflects our commitment to provide first-class services to the residents and businesses of Carmarthenshire, and our ambitions to grow and improve the county, whilst providing contingencies that will see us through the continued challenges presented by the pandemic.”

The council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover planned expenditure, as well as having money in reserves to pay for unplanned expenses.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the council’s budget – around £20million in extra costs have been incurred over the last year, around £10million of income has been lost, and Council Tax collection is currently around £2million lower than expected.

Further contingency planning has been accounted for to ensure critical services can still be delivered whilst the pandemic continues to affect the county.

Following consultation, savings proposals around gulley cleansing and street cleansing were removed from the budget, and plans to cut spend on highway surface dressing were reduced.

Additional funding has been made available to support the education department and to invest in the council’s TrueCall service which safeguards vulnerable residents from fraudsters.

Furthermore, around £2.5million of internal managerial savings will be made in the coming financial year, with around £6.7million of further savings over the following two years.

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Carregaman car park enhancements underway

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WORK is getting underway to improve Ammanford’s Carregaman car park in the town centre.

Carmarthenshire County Council is making use of Welsh Government’s Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity fund as part of its Transforming Towns initiative, to make the car park more environmentally friendly and visually attractive.

The works will soon get underway and will are expected to be complete by the end of March.

A series of rain gardens will not only brighten up the car park but will help alleviate potential flooding and protect the sewer network.

Carefully chosen planting and green spaces will be utilised to create a better habitat for pollinators and other insects.

The council is also using funds from a Local Sustainable Transport Covid Response Fund to purchase a bio-diverse green roof cycle shelter to accommodate up to eight bikes, in line with the council’s efforts to increase facilities for active travel.

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of the Council and Executive Board Member for Regeneration, said: “We are pleased to use Welsh Government funding to help us improve Carregaman car park – not just so that it is more visually appealing, but also a biodiverse space that will attract pollinators and other local wildlife. These are works that will also help improve a main gateway into Ammanford town centre.”

Disruption from works will be kept to a minimum.

For further information about the council’s development and investment schemes, visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales

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