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Team of champions help Swansea Bay patients with learning difficulties face surgery

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An award winning team of ‘learning disability champions’ in Swansea Bay hospital theatres are helping patients with learning disabilities who face surgical procedures.

The prospect of facing surgery can be daunting for the vast majority of us, but if you have learning difficulties then the whole process may appear to be even more unsettling.

Enter Sister Catherine Thomas and her colleagues.

Under her leadership Catherine has set up a team of health care practitioners – known as champions – intent on interacting with patients with learning disabilities, along with their families and carers, to ensure their journey is a safe and seamless one. 

Details such as taking time to get to know the patient, their likes and dislikes, in order to add comforting touches such as placing familiar posters on the walls and playing their favourite music, has greatly reduced anxiety and has even helped improved outcomes.

Her work has been recognised in Swansea Bay health Board’s ‘Living Our Values Awards’ with a ‘highly commended’ in the ‘Caring for Each Other’ category before going on to pocket the overall ‘Ultimate Living Our Values’ award as she all of the health board’s values.

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The accolades follow on from her being a runner up in the Royal College of Nursing Awards last year.

And Sister Thomas isn’t the only member of the team to see her work recognised, as Health Care Support Worker, Rea Pugh, was named Best Nursing Support Worker in this year’s RCNi Awards.

Joanne Phillips, Speciality Manager for Anaesthetic & Recovery in Theatres, said: “Cath`s vision of setting up a service for our patients with learning disabilities who required elective surgery, by creating a Team of Learning Disability Champions in Theatres at NPTH, encapsulates the true spirit of the Health Board’s values. This is simply, prudent care at its best.

“NPT Theatres can now offer an excellent service to this client group and their families and carers to ensure their journey is a safe and seamless one.  Cath was keen to include the whole team in this award as the delivery of this care by the team really does make a difference to the patient outcome.

“She has enthused and motivated the team who filter their knowledge and experience across all members of the Team in Theatres, so we are continually improving, by working together, to care for each other.

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“We, as a Team in Theatres, would like to congratulate Cath in her achievement for her work with Adults with Learning Disabilities. These awards give the Theatre department at NPT hospital a lovely boost of morale and puts us as Department well and truly out there!”

Sister Catherine Thomas (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Cath said: “I am overwhelmed and humbled to receive the Ultimate Living Our Values award and to be Highly Commended in the Caring for Each Other award.”

She said: “I realised that there was no specific pathway or procedures in place for these very vulnerable adults in society, when coming in to our department whilst undergoing surgical procedures.

“So I set about creating a team of dedicated champions who could access the Trust’s training, and then be able to put their training and enthusiasm into practice to provide a tailored service incorporating reasonable adjustments to make their experience safer and less frightening.

“We have together created a really good service for these individuals and their families and carers, with really good feedback. Amazing results can be achieved with just some training, passion and enthusiasm, and in all honesty, that enthusiasm has spread throughout our department and beyond.

“It feels really good to receive recognition for the efforts we have put in and hope it highlights the work elsewhere, in order for other areas to try to replicate what we have achieved.”

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Coronavirus

First Omicron variant COVID case confirmed in Wales

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A case of the Omicron variant of concern has been confirmed in Wales. The case is in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area and is linked to international travel.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “We are prepared to respond rapidly to emerging variants of concern and intensive investigations and robust public health action are being taken to slow any spread.

“The health impact of the Omicron variant is still being assessed. Currently there is no substantial evidence to suggest the Omicron variant will lead to a more severe form of illness but the data is being kept under constant review.

“As we better understand this variant we will be able to determine the next steps. In the meantime, sticking to the rules, following the steps which keep us safe and taking up the offer of a vaccine continue to be the best way to protect ourselves and the NHS.”

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Dyfed Powys Police

Eight assaults EVERY DAY on Welsh emergency workers in first six months of 2021

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Eight assaults every day were committed against Welsh emergency workers during the first six months of this year, new figures have revealed.

More than 1,360 assaults were committed in the six-month period from 01 January 2021 – 30 June 2021.

They included kicking, slapping, head-butting and verbal abuse, and ranged from common assault to serious premediated attacks involving grievous bodily harm.

At least 21 incidents involved a weapon.

With Christmas fast approaching – the time of year when assaults traditionally spike – emergency workers are asking the public to treat them with respect.

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a fraught time for all of us, but that’s no excuse to assault an emergency worker, who are normal human beings just trying to do a job.

“The run-up to Christmas means more people are out enjoying the revelry, and with alcohol consumption comes an increase in assaults, both physical and verbal.

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“There were 60 verbal attacks alone on our ambulance control room staff in the first six months of the year.

“We know it’s distressing when you’re waiting for help, but abusing our call handlers is not the answer – if anything, it could potentially delay help.

“On the road meanwhile, crews might have no choice but to leave a scene if their safety is compromised, and that’s not helpful for anyone, especially the patient.

“The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater, so we’re asking the public to work with us, not against us this Christmas.”

Almost half (47%) of assaults in the six-month period took place in South East Wales; Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend are among the most prolific local authority areas.

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Offenders aged 26-35 account for the highest portion of offending (24%), while a third of incidents involved people under the influence of alcohol.

May 2021 saw the highest volume of assaults (281) as the hospitality industry re-opened in Wales after the second Covid-19 lockdown.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, there have been at least 36 incidents where an emergency worker has been deliberately coughed at.

Assaults on police account for two thirds (67%) of the total number, averaging 152 victims every month in the six-month period.

Claire Parmenter, Temporary Chief Constable at Dyfed Powys Police, said: “Assaults on police officers continue to increase and this is completely unacceptable. 

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“Assault is a traumatic offence that causes great distress to anyone, and it is no different when the victim is an emergency worker.

“In September, we saw a man handed a 26-week prison sentence suspended for two years after he violently attacked two of our police officers who had gone to his aid.

“Concerned for his safety, they gave him a lift home – and in return both were physically injured.

“The psychological impact on both officers is something they will take time to recover from.

“In the same month alone, three officers carrying out their duties suffered injuries in an unprovoked attack at the hands of the man they were trying to arrest.

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“Despite the offender’s efforts, the officers were able to arrest him although they were left with injuries.

“The offender appeared in court the day after his arrest, where he was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

“Assaults such as these stay with the victims for the rest of their careers, and none of my officers and staff should have to go to work serving the public and be afraid of being assaulted.

“With the upcoming season of goodwill, please respect and protect our emergency workers.”

Although fewer in number – 22 incidents over the six-month period – March 2021 saw an unexplained rise in assaults on fire service colleagues, especially in South Wales.

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Chief Fire Officer Huw Jakeway QFSM from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Our emergency services work hard every day keeping the public safe and should not have to deal with abuse.

“Attacks on crews while protecting our communities and keeping people safe is completely unacceptable.

“Our blue light services come to work to serve and protect the public and the impact of such assaults can lead to life-changing consequences for those involved.

“This type of behaviour is, of course, carried out by a very small minority, and we once again thank our communities for their continued support in working with us this festive season to stay safe.”

Under the Assault on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act, the definition of an emergency worker includes police, fire and ambulance staff, as well as prison staff and NHS workers.

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Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, said: “Our emergency workers provide life-saving and life-changing care every day in often difficult circumstances.

“Our NHS staff are preparing for a challenging Christmas period so now, more than ever, they deserve to be treated with respect.

“Any form of attack on our emergency workers is completely unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to work with NHS Wales employers and our partner agencies to eradicate physical or verbal assaults on staff.”

Last week, UK Government announced that it was introducing a new law that will mean a mandatory life sentence for those who kill an emergency worker in the course of their duty.

The Ministry of Justice said it would aim to pass ‘Harper’s Law’ in England and Wales – in memory of Thames Valley Police PC Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019 – as soon as possible.

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The With Us, Not Against Us campaign was launched in May 2021 by the Joint Emergency Service Group in Wales to try and reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers.

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Carmarthen

Mother gifts toys to children’s wards in memory of lifesaving son

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The family of a patient who passed away in Morriston Hospital has donated a collection of toys to the children’s wards to help keep his memory alive.

But the presents are nothing compared to the gift of life that has resulted from the deceased being an organ donor.

Marc Leach passed away on 5th May, of this year, in Morriston Hospital, following a period in critical care.

The 25-year-old, who worked as a chef in a Carmarthen restaurant, leaves behind a 5-year-old son, Lincoln.

On what would have been his 26th birthday, his family and friends met up at Marc’s place of work where the idea of keeping his memory alive for his son was hatched.

Marc’s mother, Michelle Francis, said: “On his birthday this year, on 18 November, we all got together and decided to do a toy drive for the children’s ward in Morriston, to give them new toys.

“Marc has an amazing little boy called Lincoln, who is the spitting image of his daddy. I wanted to keep my son’s memory alive so that his own son would never forget him.

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“Next year we are going to do a donor drive and raise money for mental health services.”

Marc Leach (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

When it became apparent that Marc would not survive his mother spoke to members of the organ donation team.

Michelle said: “Marc had told us he wanted to be a donor. Because his uncle had benefitted from receiving a kidney in the past, he wanted to give back.

“I’m also a registered donor, I was supposed to give one of my kidneys to my brother but a donor came up instead.”

Although the recipients of donated organs remain confidential Michelle has been told that her son’s decision has already helped save lives.

She said: “His kidneys have gone to two people, his liver has gone to another. I believe he has saved three or four people.”

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It is a bittersweet thought for Michelle.

“I’m chuffed to bits that he has saved lives but I wish he was still here as he would have only been 26 this year.”

Calling on everyone to at least have a conversation on the subject of donations, she said: “We don’t need our organs when we die but there are people out there who do need them. They are just going to waste.”

Michelle thanked those who looked after her son in his final days.

“The nurses and doctors in intensive care laughed with us and they cried with us. They were absolutely amazing.

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“They were part of the family in the end. They knew a lot about Marc from listening us talking about what he was like and what he got up to.”

Kathryn Gooding (pictured top with Marc’s mother, Michelle Francis), Swansea Bay UHB specialist nurse organ donation, said: “Organ donation really does save and improve the lives of others.

“Thanks to Marc’s donation and the bravery of his family to support the decision other lives were saved.”

Of the presentation of toys to the hospital she said: “This initiative is a lovely way of remembering Marc and his generous gift of life and hopefully to bring a smile to the children who will benefit from the toy drive.”

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