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Landmark changes to blood donation rules as Government lifts LGBT+ restrictions

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Wales has taken the landmark decision to lift restrictions on LGBT+ people donating blood.

As part of a four-nations agreement, Health Minister Vaughan Gething, has today announced the ending of restrictions, set by SABTO (The UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs) which has seen many LGBT+ people unable to donate blood. The change will come into effect in summer 2021.

The Welsh Blood Service (WBS) will prepare for the lifting of restrictions and make changes to some of the questions blood donors are asked in order to move away from blanket restrictions and to a more personalised assessment of donors which does not take account of their sex, gender or sexual orientation.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “This announcement will put an end to the discrimination many people in the LGBT+ community have faced. So many people have worked so hard to get us to this position. I’m very grateful to them and delighted the Welsh Government has been able to see through this long-standing ambition.

“With the great progress and certainty that our medical experts and systems have brought, we can now remove the barriers that have long been in place and that have meant that some LGBT+ people cannot easily donate blood.

“In the summer of 2021 donation systems will be up and running, which mean our systems are robust, safe and no longer exclusionary.”

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First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “This is a momentous announcement, which I very much welcome. Blood donation can change people’s lives and it is only right that everyone who can give blood, should be given the opportunity to help others. This is a great day for the LGBT+ community and a great day for blood donation.”

Commenting on the announcement, Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service said “These changes represent many years of hard work by the FAIR steering group which is a UK wide collaboration of healthcare professionals and academia within which the Welsh Blood Service has played an important role.

“Whilst blood services are not responsible for setting the rules around who can and can’t donate we’re delighted that the work of the group has resulted in the development of a series of new regulations that will enable us to welcome more donors to our clinics.

“There is still work to be done to implement these new regulations but we are delighted these changes have been announced and look forward to welcoming new donors to our clinics in 2021.”


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Coronavirus

Health chief urges people to follow Welsh Gov COVID guidance – and supports action against businesses that don’t

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woman wearing face mask

Director of Public Health for Swansea Bay University Health Board, Dr Keith Reid has issued a statement urging people to follow the Welsh Government’s guidance on staying safe through the pandemic – and supports action against businesses that refuse to do so.

The warning comes as news of the new Omicron COVID variant starting to spread in the UK, coronavirus infection rates continuing to be high in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, and enforcement action taken by Swansea Council and the Welsh Government against independent cinema Cinema& Co who have refused to follow COVID safety measures.

Dr Keith Reid

Dr Reid said: “We are now seeing the emergence of the new Omicron variant with the accompanying uncertainty.  This makes it more important than ever for us all to act in a responsible way that protects our local communities and the vulnerable people within them, and the NHS.

“Although we all want the pandemic to end, Covid is undeniably still with us. Many families across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot have already experienced – or are currently living through – the anguish of loved ones being seriously ill or having died with this virus.  Others, of all ages, are suffering long-lasting impact on their own health following Covid infection.

“In the last two weeks alone in Swansea Bay 10 people have died in our hospitals with Covid. Today, we have 35 Covid-positive patients in our hospital beds and five are seriously ill in intensive care.

“Since the pandemic began, our staff have witnessed almost 1,000 patient deaths with Covid, and that figure does not include people who died outside of our hospitals. That is not only a tragedy for the families involved, but it has exacted a heavy physical and mental toll on our NHS staff, who are exhausted and yet still carrying on as best they can.”

Dr Reid added: “For businesses the rules are quite clear and there is a statutory duty of care towards customers and clients who might use business premises and also for staff.

“I support enforcement action taken against any business that deliberately flouts the current regulations.

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“These regulations are not made lightly. They are put in place to protect the public and workers. They also allow business to continue to operate, but as safely as possible.

“The regulations are based on Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advice that a number of different ‘low cost’ interventions all have a part to play in reducing risk, and that together these actions mitigate against the risk of tougher measures needing to be reintroduced later.

“Included in the regulations is the need, for example, for premises to be properly risk-assessed so important safety issues like ventilation, social distancing, etc, can be considered and managed. Covid passes or negative lateral flow tests have another part to play in reducing the risk of further infections, particularly in premises regarded as higher risk. The passes are not the full answer, but they have a part to play.

Support and guidance on how businesses can implement reasonable control measures is available from the local authority, and is outlined in detail by the Welsh Government.

Meanwhile, I continue to urge everyone to carry on taking sensible everyday actions to protect their own health, and those of others:

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  • Make sure you have had your Covid vaccinations.
  • Self-isolate and get tested if you have any Covid symptoms, or symptoms which are unusual for you.
  • Wear a face-covering where you need to.
  • Open windows and doors to let the fresh air in when you meet up with others.
  • Avoid stuffy, crowded places – get together outdoors if you can.
  • Wash your hands frequently.”
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Coronavirus

Council urges city cinema to address COVID safety concerns

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Swansea Council has condemned the actions of the owners of a city cinema which has refused to remain shut to address serious covid health concerns.

Cinema & Co was recently issued with a closure notice after enforcement officers in the Council, during a visit, noted that no measures had been put in place by the owners to reduce the risks of spreading coronavirus to either staff or customers.

The Welsh Government has since issued a direction to the owners, ordering them to close and action was taken by council officers, supported by local police, to close the premises on Friday evening (26 November).

A council spokesperson said: “It’s disappointing to see the owners still acting in an irresponsible way and continue to trade, against the direction issued by the Welsh Government.

“Our recent visits determined there were no measures in place to protect the public and staff against coronavirus. We understand events are still planned at the venue and we would urge those who intend going along to act wisely and consider the risks they present in potentially spreading the virus to friends and family.

“We have supported businesses throughout the pandemic to ensure they are doing all they can to lower the risk of spreading the virus and adhere to current welsh government regulations. The majority have been very supportive and are doing their bit to trade safely and not risk putting additional pressures on our NHS.

“Given we have seen the emergence of the worrying omicron variant, we all need to continue to act with caution and follow the rules and regulations.  The measures are in place to keep us all safe, and help us avoid a return to a lockdown.”

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Cinema & Co remains open, with a sold-out showing of “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” taking place on Sunday (28 November). Further film showings are due to take place on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday this week.

A rescheduled court date is due to take place at Swansea Magistrates tomorrow (30 November), after the district judge hearing the case asked for more information about the legislation being used by the council to bring forward their closure order.

(Lead image: Cinema & Co)

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Welsh Ambulance Trust

Ambulance service introduces new technology to better support victims of domestic violence

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The Welsh Ambulance Service has introduced new technology to better support victims of domestic violence.

Ambulance crews have been supporting patients to access Live Fear Free for help and advice on domestic violence since its creation using a bespoke telephone number.

Now crews now have the ability to assist patients via an app on their Trust-issue iPad to speed up and streamline the process.

Live Fear Free is a 24/7 helpline for women, children and men experiencing domestic abuse, sexual violence or other forms of violence against women.

It is a main point of contact in Wales to access support, information, safety-planning, advocacy, refuge and counselling services. 

Nikki Harvey, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Head of Safeguarding, said: “The Live Fear Free helpline is a free, confidential 24/7 specialist resource that anyone can access, at any time.

“Welsh Ambulance Service crews have been using it for some years to signpost patients to help and support, using the good old fashioned telephone – until now.

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“Having the technology to refer patients digitally using iPads is not only more efficient for crews, but it means that vulnerable patients get the support they need more quickly.

“We all deserve to live without fear and in an environment which is safe, and modernising this referral pathway brings us a step closer to that.”

Live Fear Free helpline manager, Ann Williams, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside the Welsh Ambulance Service, making our joint support of those most in need across Wales even more efficient.

“For staff at the helpline and the ambulance service alike, time is critical.

“Using updated technology means that we can strengthen vital, time-saving communication methods, which will directly benefit the women, men and children getting in touch, for whom support can often be life changing or even life-saving.”

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You can contact Live Fear Free by calling 0808 80 10 800, texting 07860 077333, emailing info@livefearfreehelpline.wales or by using its 24/7 live chat service.

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