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‘Now is the time to quit smoking ahead of tighter smoke-free laws,’ urges Welsh Government Minister

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Smokers are being encouraged to quit smoking for the new year ahead of new smoke-free laws being introduced in Wales.

From 1 March, Wales’ ban on smoking in hospital grounds, children’s playgrounds and school grounds, as well as outdoor day-care and child-minding settings, will be introduced. Anyone caught breaking the law could face a £100 fine.  

It is hoped preventing smoking on hospital sites will promote healthier care environments and support smokers using hospital services to quit.

The new restrictions build on the smoking ban introduced in 2007 which made indoor enclosed public places and workplaces smoke-free. To protect more workers from the harms of second-hand smoke, the law will also require those working in others’ homes to be able to work in a smoke-free environment.

Smoking in bedrooms in hotels and guest houses, as well as in self-contained holiday accommodation such as cottages, caravans and Airbnb’s, are also being phased out and will be smoke-free from 1 March 2022.

It is hoped the tighter restrictions will not only reduce people’s exposure to harmful second-hand smoke, but will also reduce the number of young people taking up smoking as well as help those trying to quit.

Those looking to quit smoking in the new year are being urged to access Wales’ free NHS support service, Help Me Quit on 0800 085 2219 www.helpmequit.wales for help and support, including access to free stop smoking medication.

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Eluned Morgan MS

Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said: “We are now just two months away from tighter smoking restrictions coming into force in Wales and the start of a new year is the perfect time to quit smoking. Many smokers have already been motivated by Covid-19 to quit and we know quitting with support provides the best chance of stop smoking for good. Help Me Quit is ready to help at every step.

“Reducing the number of young people taking up smoking will save lives. We know the harms smoking can do to health and so we’re introducing these new requirements for the benefit of future generations.

“Banning smoking outside hospitals and places where children and young people spend their time, such as public playgrounds and school grounds, will denormalise smoking and reduce the chances of children and young people starting smoking in the first place.

“We are proud to be the first part of the UK to outlaw smoking in these areas and once again leading the way.”

(Lead image: Basil MK / Pexels.com)


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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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