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Glangwili and Withybush to be downgraded following consultation

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THE HEALTH BOARD has presented its recommendations to major changes in the way health services are delivered in west Wales today (Sept 26) – and one of those was to downgrade Glangwili Hospital and Withybush General Hospital in Pembrokeshire.

At the meeting at County Hall, Carmarthen, the Hywel Dda UHB presented outputs from its recent consultation on the future provision of health and care services to the general population together with a clinical recommendation which will be considered by the Board.

The health board’s recommendation has now been published.

The recommendations were:

• Bronglais and Prince Philip in Llanelli will retain ‘acute hospital services’
• Glangwili and Withybush will be downgraded – they will be ‘repurposed’ to offer a range of services to support a social model for health and well-being, designed with local people to meet their needs.
• A new urgent and planned care hospital will be developed in the south of the health board area.

This is not the final decision, but at this stage a recommendation.

A further detailed meeting is scheduled for the end of November. If the local community health council refuses to back the plan then it could be sent to Health Secretary Vaughan Gething for a final decision.

However, Mr Gething warned earlier this year that NHS services in Wales could ‘collapse’ without urgent transformation and called on politicians from all parties to be ‘grown up’ and to not ‘run away’ from difficult choices.

Campaigners may also ultimately try to challenge the health board’s plans in the courts – although previous attempts to overturn decisions were unsuccessful.

March: Campaigners wanted to retain all Withybush General Hospital’s services (Pic Herald)

One of the recommendations in the board papers is to develop plans for the new hospital. The board is asked to progress consideration of location options within the defined new hospital zone, between Narberth and St. Clears, through a formal feasibility study.

  • Work with local people to develop models to provide enhanced support to those communities furthest from main urgent care and hospital services.
  • Consider the impact and opportunities a new hospital in the south of the Health Board area would provide to Bronglais General Hospital.
  • Develop a plan for the approach to managing emergency conditions which are time-sensitive.

Chair of the Community Health Council Dr John Morgan said: “In our day-to-day work we’re clear that the public’s frustrations come from big problems in the health system, so over the coming years the whole system has to change to give people what they need. For that reason we think the Health Board should continue to make major system-wide plans.

“However, some of the proposed changes have really worried people. Given that we feel any change to health services must provide better quality health services to the public these changes need to be looked at individually with more public involvement. With a number of the proposed changes years away the Health Board needs to provide more detail on how they would work. Only then will the CHC be in a position to consider whether we think the more controversial changes are in the public’s best interests.”

The CHC has seen how people are welcoming more care being provided in community settings close to home.

People are less happy about placing any services further away especially if they needed care in an emergency.

Public involvement in the consultation and large-scale petitions has communicated these views loud and clear.

Dr Morgan continued: “Listening to what the public have said, the consultation has created as many questions as answers. We think that there need to be strong foundations in place to build a new system upon. This means GP practices that are more robust, well-functioning established community services, better use of technology and better travel and transport arrangements, to name but a few.”

Chief Officer Sam Dentten added: “We’re starting a long journey over the next few years. We welcome change because it’s needed, but that change must bring accessible, high quality and safe NHS services. The Health Board must commit to more engagement with the public as its plans unfold and the CHC will be listening closely, maintaining our right to take matters further if we don’t think the change is in the public interest.”

Plaid Cyrmu has responded to the decision of Hywel Dda University Health Board (UHB) to downgrade Withybush and Glangwili hospitals by calling on the Welsh Government’s Health Secretary to intervene and properly merge health and social services.

Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru AM for Mid and West Wales said: “This decision is the latest in a long line in the never ending saga that is hospital reconfiguration and in particular the persistent proposals to remove essential emergency services from smaller hospitals whilst failing to strengthen primary care and tackle the chronic workforce shortages faced by rural health boards.

“It is clear to us that the Health Board’s choice doesn’t address how services will actually be improved in the short to medium term. There is no proposal for better out-of-hours care, no plan for substantial increases in social care services, and no plans for investing in the ambulance services – only the removal of essential services and the hope that maybe, one day, we’ll see a new hospital.

“The decision also makes no mention of the transformation that needs to occur in the relationship with local authorities and the third sector for the changes to be realised.

Adam Price, Plaid Cymru AM for Carmarthen and East Dinefwr, said: “The obsession with endless reconfiguration of secondary care has to stop.  Where are the positive plans, such as those Plaid Cymru has presented, to  strengthen GP services and preventative healthcare; invest in medical training and tackling staff recruitment and retention?  There is a vacuum of information.  Creating an integrated health and social care model which works in the community should be done first in order to shape the hospital services we need.

“There’s nothing radical or transformational about closing a few hospitals and opening a new one.  The transformation comes by recognising that model isn’t delivering, and it is only by working with an integrated health and community care system will we truly change people’s lives.

“Furthermore, the health board intends ploughing ahead with a new hospital without a single penny being guaranteed for its construction. We need an urgent statement from the Health Secretary to confirm the Welsh Government will guarantee the costs.  Without that guarantee, today’s plans are meaningless and nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from the desire to downgrade local hospitals.”

Havard Hughes, a spokesman for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Conservatives commented: “These proposals as they stand are ill-thought through and don’t take account of the serious implications of stripping Carmarthen and Withybush of their A&E facilities.  We are deeply concerned that with a massive £70 million debt, Hywel Dda is proposing to close facilities at existing hospitals in order to build an entirely new uncosted hospital further away from our main towns.  Our suspicion is that downgraded hospitals, together with those such as Amman Valley will eventually be closed entirely if these plans go ahead.

“Carmarthen East & Dinefwr Conservatives responded to the consultation setting out our serious concerns that the transport implications of these plans have not been properly through.  Forcing patients to travel further from established communities on West Wales roads will inevitably lead to higher patient death rates, traffic congestion and massive inconvenience.

“The trust have put forward no convincing evidence that we have seen that the new hospital location will be attractive to staff – the contrary would seem to be the case from speaking to medical personnel.”

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Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities

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Charlie's Truck Wash

ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.

As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.

The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.

Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.

The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.

Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.

“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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