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Health

Health Board takes actions to protect healthcare for the most critically ill

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HEALTH and care services across West Wales are responding to the impacts of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in order to provide emergency and urgent care for patients in the safest way possible during the coming weeks.

Hywel Dda University Health Board is taking a number of actions today, and appealing for the continued support of our staff and communities to keep Hywel Dda safe as we face this new phase of the pandemic.

Actions are being taken in a planned way due to the high demand we are seeing for non-COVID care during this time of the year, together with high incidence of COVID-19 in our area, like the rest of the UK.

This is starting to result in higher numbers of COVID admissions and incidences in our hospitals and communities.  

It is also having a direct impact on our staffing levels across primary care, community and hospital services.  We currently estimate that at least 10 per cent of our workforce is absent for both COVID and non-COVID related reasons.  This figure is higher in some teams and we expect it to rise in the coming weeks. We need to plan how we deliver the most critical clinical services with the staff we have available. 

Actions being taken include:

  • The health board is providing and reminding staff of the services available to them internally to support them at this difficult time. It is standing down some less urgent work in order to redeploy staff where possible.
  • To maintain delivery of the most urgent cancer surgery in the short term, this will be undertaken for the Hywel Dda population from Prince Philip Hospital, in Llanelli, with the exception of Head and Neck urgent cancer surgery, which will continue at Glangwili General Hospital, in Carmarthen.. Our clinicians believe that concentrating the majority of our urgent care resources onto one site during the next few weeks is the best way to protect the delivery of this potentially life-saving surgery. This position will be continually reviewed and we will seek to re-establish urgent cancer surgery at our other main hospitals as soon as we can do so safely. We ask patients and families to support us and travel for their surgery. If you have no means to travel for your surgery, then please contact us on our COVID enquiries line on  0300 303 8322 or email COVIDEnquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk 
  • Outpatient & therapy appointments and clinics will be prioritised for the most urgent patients over the next few weeks. With the exception of a small number of emergency cases and some children’s appointments, we will reschedule outpatient appointments next week.  Patients will be re-booked according to clinical urgency in subsequent weeks. Unless you are contacted directly by the health board, please attend any appointment as scheduled. If anyone has concerns about the delay in their outpatient appointment, as a result of this short term measure, they can contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 or email COVIDEnquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk 

Director of Operations Andrew Carruthers said: “The whole of the UK is facing challenge from Omicron and the indirect impact on staffing. This is affecting us in Hywel Dda UHB across all our services whether in the community, primary care or hospitals, but to different degrees and is a very fluid situation. To ensure the delivery of care for the most critically unwell, and to ensure we protect the ability of our staff to provide this care, we have put in place actions that will provide some extra capacity. We apologise to anyone affected adversely by these actions and it remains our ambition, always, to re-establish our planned care services as soon as we are able to, knowing the impact this has on people’s lives.”

Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience Mandy Rayani added: “We are so grateful to our staff who continue to work in difficult circumstances, always driven by the desire to provide the best care possible to our population. We are asking our staff to be vigilant about the behaviours we know reduce transmission of COVID-19 at work and at home; and our public can also play a significant role in supporting the NHS and each other by also adhering to these principles. Unfortunately we are seeing more abuse targeted at our staff and we will not tolerate this. Health and care staff – from the clinicians to the support teams and call handlers in primary, community and hospital teams – provide a service to help our patients and communities and they should never be the victims of abuse, physical or verbal. Please help us to help you.”

Steps you can take to protect more lives, our NHS and each other include:

  • Get your full course of vaccination https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccination-programme/
  • Follow Welsh Government guidance on self-isolation and testing, including carrying out regular LFDs (health and care staff have specific and different guidance internally)
  • Wear face coverings, or if asked in a health setting, a surgical face mask
  • Keep a 2meter distance from others when you can
  • Wash hands regularly and be ready to be asked by a healthcare professional to wash hands or sanitise whether in hospital or your own home
  • Do not accompany people to hospital, GP surgery, or another setting unless they are vulnerable and need your assistance
  • Please be aware that your GP surgery may offer you appointments in different ways where appropriate, such as over the telephone or online. Please allow extra time when ordering prescriptions during this busy time. Community pharmacies are also extremely busy so you may need to wait longer than usual.
  • Pre-arrange hospital visiting with the ward sister and be understanding if it is not possible at this time due to safety

The health board continues to work closely with others including the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust, local authorities and other partners to work together in these challenging times.

If you or a loved one is unwell, remember:

If you have a relative or loved one in hospital who is medically fit but is waiting to be discharged, you may be able to help us by providing short term care or considering interim placements in care homes.

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Community

Go Wild for Beat the Street Llanelli

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PARTICIPANTS in the Beat the Street Llanelli are invited to Go Wild this week!

The themed week starts on Wednesday, October 19, with the aim of encouraging local residents to explore their local parks, waterways and green spaces. Beat the Street players are invited to score double points this weekend on Beat Boxes in parks, green spaces and along the seafront.

Already, more than 6,200 people have signed up to the real-life interactive physical activity game and have together walked, cycled and rolled nearly 30,000 active travel miles. The community’s efforts mean that organisers of the game have donated £100 to three local charities; Tyisha Foodbank, Calon and Mind. A further £100 will be donated to all three when the total mileage reaches 45,000 miles!

There are also total and average points leaderboards for school, community, workplace teams and individuals with prizes for sports or book vouchers for the teams that top the tables at the end of the six-week competition.

Currently, Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes leads the total points leaderboard, with Llangennech in second place and Stebonheath CP School in third. Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel is in fourth place on the total points leaderboard and eight on the average points leaderboard.

Zoe Jermin-Jones, Assistant Headteacher at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel, said: “We think that this fun, innovative idea is fantastic! Our learners at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel have told us that the idea of competing in a town-wide game is really exciting! They are involving parents, family members and friends,  and are telling us everything about how people are getting out and about, walking, cycling and scooting. Our teachers can even be seen taking walks around Llwynhendy during their lunch breaks. We have received nothing but positive feedback from all involved. 

Beat the Street is a truly wonderful resource that improves both physical and mental wellbeing. We’re looking forward to future Beat the Street games already!”

Beat the Street Llanelli: commissioned by Carmarthenshire County Council, supported by Sport Wales, provided by Intelligent Health.

Paolo Piana, Chair, Llanelli Community Partnership, said: “We’re delighted to support the Beat the Street programme and it’s great to see people out exercising and exploring new areas. It’s amazing how we tend to stick to the same tried and tested routes and how the game has opened up the idea of exploring the town on foot, which reveals new areas and parks you might not have known about, even if you’ve lived here for years.

“Beat the Street is a positive and community-focused way of encouraging people to get more active, by walking, cycling, rolling and wheeling around this beautiful area.”

Anyone of any age is invited to take part in the free game and you can still get involved for the remaining weeks. Just pick up a card from one of the distribution points listed at www.beatthestreet.me/llanelli, register your card, join a team and get playing! For more information, news and FAQs, follow @BTSLlanelli on social media.

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Health

Hywel Dda Health Board confirms Bank holiday arrangements

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FOLLOWING confirmation that Monday, 19 September, will be a Bank Holiday to mark the Queen’s State Funeral, the Health Board is contacting all patients to confirm or re-arrange their appointments, depending on service availability. Whilst all emergency services will be operating as normal, we need to adjust some elements of our planned care services and prioritise patients with urgent care needs wherever possible.

Our Chemotherapy Units will be operating as normal on Monday and some surgery for urgent cases will take place at our hospitals.

Where appointments need to be re-scheduled, patients are being contacted over the coming days by the relevant team to re-arrange their appointment as quickly as possible. In some cases, this may mean bringing appointments forward to this week. Some face-to-face outpatient appointments will still go ahead, and some may be held as an online/virtual appointment on Monday.

If you have an appointment on Monday, and have not been contacted by 1pm on Friday, please contact the health board’s communication hub on 0300 3038322 or email ask.hdd@wales.nhs.uk for further information and guidance. Staff at the communication hub are available to answer calls between 10am-4pm on Saturday, and 10am-3pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. We are contacting all patients by telephone or text message, please check your telephone for any messages.

As GP surgeries and most Community Pharmacies and Dental services will be closed on Monday, a Bank Holiday out of hours service will be provided. Individuals requiring repeat prescriptions are encouraged to arrange them in advance.

All urgent and emergency care services will continue as normal. If you are unwell and unsure what to do, you can visit the online symptom checker or call NHS 111. The Minor Injury Units at acute hospital sites will be open as usual. Opening hours for community walk-in services can be found on the health board’s website. Please attend an Emergency Department, or call 999, if you have a life-threatening illness or serious injury, such as: 

Severe breathing difficulties 

  • Severe pain or bleeding 
  • Chest pain or a suspected stroke 
  • Serious trauma injuries (e.g. from a car crash)

We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your support and patience.

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Health

Autumn Covid-19 booster roll-out begins today in Wales

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THE ROLL-out of the autumn Covid-19 booster has started today (September 1) in Wales with care home residents and staff across Wales the first to receive the vaccine.

Everyone who is eligible for the autumn booster will be invited for a vaccination by their health boards. Invitations will be issued in order of vulnerability, with everyone eligible being offered a booster vaccine by December.

The vaccine will help support the immunity of all those who are at higher risk from COVID-19, improving their protection against severe illness, while also helping to support the NHS during winter 2022-23.

This autumn, in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine booster will be offered to:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All adults aged 50 years and over
  • People aged five to 49 years who are in a clinical risk group
  • People aged five to 49 years who are household contacts of people who are  immunosuppression
  • People aged 16 to49 who are carers.

In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), eligible adults aged 18 and over will initially be offered the Moderna vaccine which protects from both the original strain of coronavirus and the Omicron variant. Those eligible aged under 18 will be offered the Pfizer vaccine. Both vaccines will be offered at least three months after a previous dose.

The vaccines will be administered in a variety of settings including GP surgeries and vaccination centres.

The winter respiratory vaccination strategy will ensure all those eligible for the autumn booster are also protected from seasonal flu – people are being encouraged to take up the flu vaccine when offered. All those eligible for a flu vaccine will be offered it before the end of the year.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Our winter respiratory vaccination programme will help protect the most vulnerable in our communities from flu and coronavirus this winter.  The COVID-19 booster campaign will start with those in care homes, alongside those working within the NHS and the social care sector.

“Vaccines have had an enormous impact on the course of the pandemic – they have saved countless lives and given us the freedom and confidence to restart our lives.

“I want to thank everyone working in the NHS and other organisations who will once again lead efforts to protect the most vulnerable through vaccination.

“This year, we will  once again offer an expanded flu programme, with 1.5 million people being eligible for a free vaccine.

I would encourage anyone who is eligible to take up their invitation to help themselves.

“All eligible adults will be invited for their autumn COVID-19 booster via letter and text message from their health board by December and I would ask people not to contact their GPs about their invite so they can continue to focus on looking after people’s health.”

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