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Warning as cardiac patients put off urgent heart scans

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Patients who are putting off important heart scans until they get a Covid-19 vaccination risk damaging their health or worse, a worried clinician has warned.

Since the new vaccines became available, a worryingly high number of patients are cancelling or failing to turn up for their ultrasound cardiac scans, said Swansea Bay UHB Head of Clinical Physiology Services, Suzanne Churchill.

So far around 200 patients have cancelled since the vaccines were announced, with many explaining they wanted to avoid hospital, and the perceived risk of contracting Covid-19, until they got their vaccination.

However, Suzanne said that while she understood their concerns, there was no need to worry as there were extensive safeguards against the virus in place at the outpatient clinics. The risk of permanently damaging their health or even risking their lives from not getting a scan in time was significant.

She explained: “Our outpatient clinics are in a completely different area to the hospital wards, and we don’t see any ward patients.

“Our staff are in PPE and we have separate waiting areas where we have reduced the number of people in them so they are able to physically distance easily.

“Patients coming for a scan are in and out in under half an hour.

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“We have done everything we can to ensure safety, so there’s no need for anyone to be worried about attending their outpatient scan.”

She added: “These scans are not every day routine ones. If these patients are called for a scan it’s because they need one. If they put off the scan and it’s left too late then they could end up with permanent damage to their heart and in some cases could risk losing their lives.

“With valve monitoring, for example, there is a window of opportunity to act and if that is missed the heart will be too badly damaged to recover.”

The scans are done at Morriston, Singleton and Gorseinon hospitals, but around 50% of current appointments are not being kept. As well as cardiac scans, the service also supports some cancer patients who need investigations ahead of their treatment.

Suzanne is worried that if some scans are delayed for months until people are vaccinated, that as well as the risk to health, the service would be unable to cope with the surge in late demand.

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“I liken it to a tsunami,” she said. “We can already see the tide pulling out, and at some time in the future it will flood back in and overwhelm us.

“We won’t be in a position to see a lot of people at once so patients who have put off their scans will risk further delays.

“So we are urging people to please come for their scan when we’ve invited them in for one. It’s really important that they are investigated on time.”

Executive Medical Director Richard Evans added: “It’s really important that people seek medical advice if they have serious symptoms or are due to attend an appointment for a test such as a heart scan.

“We know that not as many people as we would expect are coming to hospital with conditions like heart attacks and strokes and we’re concerned that they’re avoiding seeking medical attention because they’re worried about Covid.

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“We are only calling people for appointments when they’re really necessary in order to prevent that condition becoming more serious. All of our departments are now expert in making sure everyone can attend safely and with all the appropriate precautions in place. ”

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Gardening

Hospital’s flower power proves big success with patients

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A summer of sun and extra flower beds have blossomed into the perfect partnership for patients’ wellbeing at Singleton Hospital.

The recent prolonged sunny spells – the hottest recorded for Wales in 30 years – have provided ideal conditions for hundreds of begonias to bloom.

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This year, the health board has invested in additional raised beds around the hospital to increase the positive impact on the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.

Betty Foley has worked at Singleton as a volunteer for over 15 years.

Seeing a large number of patients, staff and visitors during each shift, she has heard a lot of positive patient feedback for the flower features.

She said: “I deal with a large number of patients and visitors coming into Singleton and a lot of them have passed comment on how lovely the flowers look around the hospital.

“A lot arrive through the main reception and they’re welcomed by a really colourful bed of flowers, which can give you a bit of a boost when you’re going into hospital for treatment.

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“I’ve been told countless times recently by patients that they sit in front of the hospital where the benches are and the flowers take their mind off things.

“Small things like that can really make a big difference to your day.”

Christian Berndsen, gardening maintenance, and his team put the bedding plants in at the end of May.

He said: “We’ve used a lot of different types of begonias as they have a variety of bright colours that really catch the eye.

“The flowers have benefited from a great summer of sun.

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Nick Davies, and Christian Berndsen in front of one of the flower beds (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

“I’ve had a lot of comments while we’re around the hospital, which is nice. The intention was to give anyone who uses the hospital a nice, bright collection of flowers to look at around the site.

“Seeing bright flowers such as the begonias can give you a bit of a lift, so it’s been lovely to hear that patients love them as it shows it’s having a positive effect.”

Singleton has also benefited from a wooden sculpture of an oak dragonfly, which features on the Crush Hall roundabout which is situated between the main entrance and the maternity and child health building.

That has been funded by Biophilic Wales and designed by local sculptor Simon Hedger, and adds to a creative corner in the hospital grounds.

Nick Davies, Estates Officer at Singleton Hospital, added: “The flowers and sculpture certainly improves the appearance of the hospital. As we have a lot of patients, visitors and staff coming to this hospital we firmly believe that first impressions are very important.

“If you’re waiting for an appointment or are visiting family or a friend, it’s nice for people to see and offers a little lift. In addition, it’s a natural habitat for small wildlife such as bees and butterflies.

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“Christian and the gardening team have done a great job brightening up areas around the hospital, and we’re really pleased it’s impacted patients in a positive way.”

Lead image: Volunteer Betty Foley, Nick Davies, Estates Officer at Singleton Hospital and Christian Berndsen from gardening maintenance at the Crush Hall roundabout display. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Haverfordwest

Stained glass window dedicated at Withybush Hospital Chapel

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A new stained glass window has been dedicated during a special service at St Luke’s Chapel in Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest.

The window was funded by Springboard Learning Pembrokeshire, with support from Communities First.

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The colourful piece of art was created by parents of St Mary’s School in Pembroke Dock on a course, under the direction of Springboard’s highly accomplished stained glass tutor, Pandora Hughes.

The window was originally created in 2015 and was designed to fit the windows of St Mary’s school hall in Pembroke Dock but lost its home after the school closed in 2018. The Chaplaincy Team at Withybush hospital were pleased to offer a new home to the window.

Laura Philips, Springboard Coordinator said: “It is hoped that others will get as much pleasure from its design and colours as everyone did creating them.

“The window tries to capture all that life has to offer and the importance of our culture and surroundings. It celebrates the sea and coast, the history of the Sunderland Bombers of Pembroke Dock and the town’s bold and strong architecture. The rainbow represents the hope and promise of love and life. The dove of peace is a symbol of tranquillity and the prayer of heavenly wisdom. And all around the edges you will find are images of health, wealth, nature, music, and literature. The rose stands for the importance of life to all the parents who worked on this window.”

Hywel Dda University Health Board’s chaplains Revd Geoffrey Eynon; Father Liam Bradley and Revd Martin Spain, officiated the dedication service.

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The Springboard team were in attendance and Laura Philips spoke about the historical context of the stained glass window.

Bethan Andrews, Withybush Hospital Service Delivery Manager, (Stroke and COTE), representing the health board, gave the vote of thanks to conclude the dedication, followed by the blessing and recessional hymn.

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Coronavirus

Swansea professor’s COVID contribution recognised with new honour

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A Swansea academic at the forefront of shaping our understanding of Covid-19 has received further recognition for his work in the field of data science.

Co-director of Population Data Science and Clinical Professor of Public Health at Swansea University, Professor Ronan Lyons has been elected to a prestigious European body, the Academia Europaea.

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This latest honour follows on from Professor Lyons becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and being appointed OBE in the New Year’s honours.

The focus of his work is the use of routinely collected data to better understand factors that influence health and wellbeing and developing and evaluating interventions aimed to improve the health of the public. He has led some of the largest studies ever undertaken in this field and contributed to research surrounding the pandemic and its consequences at Wales, UK and European level.

Professor Lyons said he was delighted to have been recommended for membership of the prestigious Academia Europaea, which aims to encourage the highest possible standards in scholarship, research and education, and promote a better public understanding of the benefits of learning.

He said: “This honour is a recognition of the shared efforts and hard work of the various teams and partners I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. None more so than over the last two years, during the pandemic.

“Through the European Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI) Project we’re developing research infrastructure to generate the best Covid-19 population health knowledge. The multi-disciplinary, One Wales working group provided crucial evidence to Welsh Government’s response to Covid community transmission and informed policy development across the UK.

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“The International Covid-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) partnership with Health Data Research UK and the Bills Gates Foundation and others, is supporting a globally coordinated approach to tackling Covid and future threats.

“This has been an incredibly challenging period for us all and I’m enormously proud that these labours have been acknowledged and rewarded by this election.”

Professor Lyons now joins more than 5,000 other eminent, individual scientists and scholars, who cover a broad range of academic disciplines that include former Nobel Prize laureates, Turing Award recipients and Fields Medal winners.

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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