Nia Griffith told us: “It is imperative that the health board get this sorted out immediately so that patients have a doctor when they call in or turn up ill at the surgery. It was quite clear in the autumn that Dr Devichand was anxious to go as soon as possible. It was very concerning to hear that new arrangements may not be in place until the 1st of August. This is a problem that we want to avoid. Seeing a doctor at the surgery is a key facility when people are ill.”
The Herald met with Labour’s Llanelli AM Candidate Lee Waters and Minister for Health and Social Services Mark Drakeford AM later that morning.
BOARD NEEDS TO ACT
Speaking about the absence of a doctor at the surgery that morning Lee Waters said, “This is something the Health Board needs to sort out. This has been bubbling along for months. They knew the changes were coming. The Health Board have a responsibility to provide a doctor at Andrew Street.
“The situation this morning was alarming. From what I understand they had security present and not doctors. They had the foresight to provide a security guard so they should have had the foresight to supply a doctor. We are putting pressure on them to make sure the patients at Andrew Street have a proper service as soon as possible.”
The Herald asked Mark Drakeford AM what could be done to avoid a similar situation happening again. He said, “Changes in GP services are inevitable in Wales and they are happening in parts of Wales already. We have to strengthen the other members of the primary care team, who can do more to free up GP’s to do the things only a GP can do.
“In the future the relationship a patient will have will be with the whole of the practice and so you have got examples in Wales and in Hywel Dda as well as having a GP in the surgery you have an advanced practice nurse, an advanced practice physiotherapist, a pharmacist who could see lots of the people a doctor would have had to previously see, paramedics working as part of the team; and then doctors, who are the scarcest and most skilled people we have in the system, don’t spend their time seeing people who could be equally, sensibly and properly looked after by somebody else.
“The situation in Andrew Street today is one the Health Board needs to get a grip of. Things did move over the weekend in terms of securing the lease of the premises. There is a plan there to make that service secure for the future. Now we need to make sure that it is delivered and delivered quickly.”
Hywel Dda University Health Board issued a statement following The Herald’s report on Monday morning.
RETIREMENT WAS ‘SHORT NOTICE’
The Board said: ‘Temporary changes to the way some patients are seen at Llanelli’s Andrews Medical Practice have been put in place today, following the short-notice retirement of locum GP Dr Prabodh Devichand on Friday.
‘Patients at the practice will still be seen by doctors and the practice nurse as usual, but clinics will be organised in a different way for a short period of time. The practice nurse will see and triage (assess) patients throughout the morning as usual, and a travelling GP from Rosedale Medical Group will be present at the practice to sign prescriptions, deal with urgent queries and run an afternoon surgery. No patients will be dispersed to other practices.
‘Patients are asked to phone the surgery if they need an appointment, rather than turn up on the day as they would have done; many patients will be able to be treated by other healthcare professionals, but for a short period of time those who need to see a doctor will either be allocated an afternoon clinic slot, or in some instances will need to see the nurse and doctor. Rosedale Medical Group are also finalising plans to put longer-term GP cover in place to provide continuity for patients.
The statement concluded: ‘Patients can also play their part by Choosing Well and ensuring that they find the right service for their individual need, from services that support self-care in the home, to grass-root community support groups, community pharmacies, optometrists and dental services.’
APOLOGY TO PATIENTS
Kathryn Davies, Executive Director of Commissioning, Therapies and Health Science at Hywel Dda, said: “We’d like to reassure patients attending Andrews Medical Practice that they will continue to receive the treatment they require, and that the Practice is working through this temporary change.
“We apologise for any inconvenience to patients caused by this situation due to the short-notice change, and assure patients that every effort is being made to find replacement GPs.”
A spokesperson for Rosedale Medical Group added: “We are working closely with the local health board to provide continuity of GP services at Andrews Medical Practice, following the unexpected departure of Dr. Devichand at very short notice.
“There are temporary measures in place, while we consolidate a suitable long-term plan. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
By the afternoon, The Herald was contacted by Nia Griffith MP who told us: “I have now had reassurances from the Health Board that there will be a doctor at Dr Devichand’s surgery this afternoon.”
For the Board, Kathryn Davies said: “The Health Board and Rosedale Medical Group can confirm that, from [Tuesday, February 2], the Andrews Medical Practice in Llanelli will return to delivering a full GMS service with a full workforce.
“Following the short-notice retirement of Dr Devichand on Friday, a Rosedale GP partner from Neath Port Talbot has now been appointed to work at the practice all day, every day, on an ongoing basis.
“The practice will adopt a new triage system, which will involve all patients phoning in and a doctor then ringing them back to either book them in for an appointment, deal with the problem on the phone, or signpost patients to other healthcare professionals. Details of this system will be fully communicated to the public by the practice.
“It is important to note that patients will always be given a GP appointment if they want to see a GP specifically, and those patients that are invited in will be offered a time slot that is convenient to them.”
Arrest as up to 80 suspected stolen dogs are found by police
POLICE have recovered a large number of dogs suspected to have been stolen in recent months at two locations over the weekend.
Dyfed-Powys Police and South Wales Police attended two areas where dogs and puppies believed to be worth tens of thousands of pounds were found.
South Wales Police observed several dogs being released onto common land from a nearby location in Briton Ferry and recovered six dogs on Saturday, January 23. The owners of these stolen dogs have been identified and they have been returned home. A further criminal investigation is ongoing.
Superintendent Cath Larkman, of South Wales Police, said: “It needs to be borne in mind that these dogs are not merely items of financial value, these are living creatures who feel pain and suffering and loss at being stolen and they are much loved family members in many instances.
“One of the stolen dogs that was recovered at Briton Ferry fell into the water in panic at being released and had to be rescued by a police officer to prevent it drowning.
“We are pleased these dogs are back with their owners. As a police service, we take this criminality very seriously and our investigations are ongoing. We are grateful for the assistance of the public for their support with this investigation.”
On Sunday (January 24), Dyfed-Powys Police attended an address in Carmarthenshire, where officers found a large number of dogs and puppies in outbuildings.
Detective Inspector Barry Kelly, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We had been alerted to this property by a dog owner who reported the theft of five bitches and 17 puppies on Friday, January 22.
“On attendance, officers found a number of dogs, some of which have been identified through microchips.
“We estimate there to have been 70 to 80 dogs at the property, with the total value reaching tens of thousands of pounds.”
Officers remain at the location today (Monday, January 25) where work is being undertaken to scan all the animals for microchips and identify their legal owners.
“We have animal welfare officers, local authority staff and South Wales Police officers at the property today, who are making their way through the whole site scanning the dogs,” DI Kelly said.
“The problem we have is that the puppies won’t have been chipped, so unless they are feeding from the mother dog while we are there, it will be very difficult to trace their owners.
One person has been arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods following the warrant at the Carmarthenshire property, and is currently in police custody. Enquiries are ongoing as officers search the site and look into recently reported dog thefts.
DI Kelly said: “We have had seven crimes reported to us in respect of dog thefts in the past six months. The officers in case will review these investigations and re-engage with the victims. As and when we find any link with dogs recovered from the two sites, we will be in contact with the potential owners.
“Although we have made an arrest, our enquiries are still at an early stage, and we would like to hear from anyone with information that might assist us.
“We also urge dog owners – and particularly breeders – to be vigilant and take all possible steps to ensure their animals are secure. A number of dogs stolen in just one incident reported to us were estimated to be worth around £40,000, which goes to show these are incredibly high value thefts.”
Anyone with information that could assist enquiries is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police in one of the following ways:
Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd
PAUL DAIVES MS quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning.
The Conservatives’ Chief Whip also quit his frontbench role.
The dramatic move comes only 24 hours after Mr Davies got the Conservative Senedd Group’s unanimous backing.
However, later yesterday (Friday, Jan 21) – as criticism poured in – the Welsh Conservatives’ Executive met. In that meeting, Constituency Chairs reported widespread disbelief and anger among the Party’s members. Conservative Party Chair, Lord Davies of Gower, received particular criticism for a lack of leadership. Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, also attended the meeting and was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling within the Party.
In a statement issued via the Conservative Senedd media office, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on Tuesday and a beer on Wednesday.
I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.
“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.
“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.
“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.
“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.
“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”
“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”
Darren Millar blamed ‘wildly inaccurate and unfair reports’ and said:
“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.
“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.
“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.
“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Whoever replaces Paul Davies, the role is likely to an interim appointment ahead of a vote of the Party membership after the Senedd election.
Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach
THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.
Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.
The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.
Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.
The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.
The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.
In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.
If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.
With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.
If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.
If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.
The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.
Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.
The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.
During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.
They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.
A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.
“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”