Children and young people living in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot will be able to use an anonymous digital counselling and support service designed to safeguard their mental health.
In the wake of the pandemic, the health board has enlisted Kooth, a UK-based digital mental health and wellbeing company, to pilot a free, welcoming and confidential way for young people aged 11-18 years to access emotional wellbeing and early intervention mental health support.
The pilot, which goes live in Swansea Bay on 24th May, will run for 12 months, has been partially funded by the Welsh Government.
Designed as a fully safeguarded and pre-moderated community, the British Association of Psychotherapy and Counselling accredited service will offer one-to-one, anonymous counselling sessions with fully trained and qualified, experienced counsellors and emotional wellbeing practitioners.
Once logged in, users can also visit a library of self-help magazine style content, created by their peers and mental health experts, and enjoy access to message boards.
There are no thresholds for support and no waiting lists.
The health board is working with partners, including Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Local Authorities’ education and the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, to promote and implement the service in schools, and is set to augment current school-based counselling services by being available outside of school hours and during school holidays.
Counselling sessions run 365 days a year, from midday to 10pm on weekdays, and from 6pm to 10pm at weekends, and can be booked in advance or accessed as drop-in instant text-based chats.
Siân Harrop-Griffiths, SBUHB’s Director of Strategy, said: “The pandemic has presented society with a number of challenges, including the effect it’s had on the mental health of people of all ages.
“Twenty percent of the Swansea Bay population are children and young people under the age of 18, and the referrals to services that support children and young people with emotional and mental health have increased.
“Children and young people have been telling us for some time that the way they seek out advice and support is changing, and there is a need to change our approach to the way we deliver services.
“Acting on this intelligence, the health board has purchased Kooth initially for 12 months.
“This will be an opportunity to test and evaluate the outcomes of the service with our partners, including education, and provide this additional support at a time when children and young people are at their most vulnerable.”
Dr Lynne Green, Chief Clinical Officer at Kooth, said Swansea Bay UHB’s implementation of the service was timely as the pandemic was thought to have placed a strain on the mental health of many, including children and young adults.
She said: “We are delighted to be working closely with the health board to ensure 11-18year- olds are able to access free, anonymous mental health support, whenever and wherever it is needed.
“The impact of a global pandemic has led to a fundamental change in the daily lives and routines of all generations. But as the UK cautiously comes out of lockdown the wellbeing and mental health of our children and young people must be at the top of the agenda.
“We are experiencing an increase in the need for our services as young people try to adapt and manage the anxiety surrounding the new normal – from disruption in education, work, social and personal lives.”
The health board is also taking the lead in a multiagency project to develop a website, which aims to provide mental health support for children and young people.
The site, called Tidy Minds, will be hosted by Swansea Council for Voluntary Service, and scheduled to be launched next month.
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Plans for Vascular Hybrid Theatre at Morriston Hospital get a major boost
Plans for a state-of-the-art new operating theatre at Morriston Hospital which combines a traditional operating room with advanced medical imagery, have taken a huge step forward.
Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan has endorsed the high level multi million pound proposal. This means Swansea Bay University Health Board can now develop the next-stage detailed business case for the Vascular Hybrid Theatre for South West Wales.
Vascular surgery treats patients with diseased arteries and veins. Blocked arteries can result in limb loss (amputation) and swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) which can burst, resulting in sudden death.
The Vascular Hybrid Theatre, the first in South West Wales, will combine operating theatre functionality and state of the art X-ray imaging equipment. It will treat around 500 patients a year, and some patients who currently need to go to England for treatment will be able to have their care in Swansea instead. The theatre could open early in 2025.
The new theatre will be used by Morrison Hospital’s vascular surgeons and radiologists to carry out minimally invasive techniques, often known as ‘keyhole surgery.
Compared with traditional surgery, hybrid operating theatre surgery is less invasive and less traumatic for patients. The hybrid approach will give patients quicker access to surgery and in some cases could mean the difference between limbs, and lives, being saved.
Currently, a significant number of South West Wales’ patients undergo staged procedures during their care, which can lead to multiple or prolonged stays in hospital.
Swansea bay University Health Board say that access to these new advanced surgical technologies will allow Morriston’s vascular surgeons to perform both minimally-invasive image guided procedures, as well as traditional open surgery. This will not only improve the overall patient experience, but reduce the risk of amputation, reduce the length of stay in hospital and cut waiting times.
The hybrid theatre will treat patients from the Swansea Bay, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas.
Investment in the new theatre will also save a significant amount of money for the health service because the surgical techniques the hybrid model supports not only improve patient outcomes, they are also much more efficient.
The hybrid theatre will also support the clinical staff teaching.
Huma Stone, Swansea Bay UHB’s Associate Service Director, Clinical Support Services for Morriston Hospital, said: “We welcome this long awaited development and are excited that we will be able to treat patients using a combination of traditional surgery and the latest minimally invasive (keyhole) treatments at the same time, saving lives and limbs. This also reduces the number of times a patient is admitted, and shortens the patient stay in hospital.”
Senior Consultant Vascular Surgeon Louis Fligelstone said: “This brings state of the art facilities to west Wales that will enable optimal treatment of patients with swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) and blocked blood vessels and will save lives and limbs, whilst reducing the time patients spend in hospital.”
(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)
£2.5m investment aims to help tackle hospital waiting lists in Swansea Bay by expanding care after surgery
Swansea Bay University Health Board say a £2.5million investment in a new service that provides enhanced recovery support for patients following some types of complex surgery, will open the way for Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals to do even more to tackle waiting lists.
In the wake of the two-year+ pandemic, pressure on waiting lists is higher than ever. Changes to how Swansea Bay University Health Board delivers services; and investment in staff and equipment, are aimed at bringing those waits down the health board says.
One of the key investments is focused on expanding enhanced post-operative care facilities, which offer a step up from general ward care for patients who need extra support immediately after their operation.
This includes offering patients advanced pain relief, blood pressure monitoring and oxygen support in the immediate 24-48 hour post-operative period.
These facilities and services are not as intensive as high dependency or intensive care units. However, this additional layer of care will offer Swansea Bay hospitals greater flexibility over where that surgery can be carried out.
Opening these services in Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals mean they will soon be able to offer a wider range of certain surgeries which are currently only carried out in Morriston Hospital.
Pankaj Kumar, Deputy Group Medical Director, Morriston Hospital and the project lead said: “In providing these enhanced post-operative care facilities, the health board is providing right-sized, fit for purpose, post-operative care that is responsive to every patients’ needs and is efficient in its delivery of care.
“It will lead to improved patient care and better clinical outcomes for patients, and will also reduce the time they spend in hospital.”
The health board says that expanding these services will also ease the pressure on critical care units located on the Morriston site, and reduce the risk of a scheduled operation being cancelled at the last minute because an emergency patient needed the bed.
Singleton Hospital, which already carries out some complex surgery, will benefit from four enhanced post-operative recovery beds to begin with (eventual plan is for six beds) offering the enhanced post-operative recovery facilities particularly for colorectal and gynaecology patients.
Neath Port Talbot’s plan to become the Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence will be supported by enhanced recovery unit beds being introduced in phase two, with the commissioning of three beds. This development will also help urology surgical patients.
Morriston Hospital already has advanced post-operative care beds as part of post-anaesthetic care unit services to complement its higher level of critical care beds.
Breakfast club dishes up dose of wellness to socially isolated
A new breakfast club is dishing up the opportunity for people in Swansea to connect with each other.
The well-being project is partly funded by the Bay Health Cluster, which is made up of eight GP practices spread across the Sketty, Uplands, Mumbles and Gower areas, as it aims to tackle social isolation among adults.
Based at Linden Church in West Cross, the weekly drop-ins are run by Red Community Project, an organisation which aims to bring people together and help build good relationships.
Each person is offered a cooked breakfast and is encouraged to get to know those around them.
Rachel Matthews, from Red Community Project, said: “We are hoping to make Linden Church a well-being hub in the area.
“Every Wednesday we have a free breakfast club with a cooked breakfast and our target group is people who are lonely.
“It is one of the target issues in West Cross as it’s an area with no Men’s Shed or anything for men, in particular, with mental health issues.
“We have had a mixture of people come so far. We’ve even had the police attend, as well as the local postman, so it’s definitely got a community feel to it.
“We are hoping to build up a safe place for people to come and we hope it is going to grow.”
Anyone living in the nearby area is welcome to attend the weekly drop-ins, whether they feel lonely or not.
One person who has enjoyed going along is Vance Horn.
He said: “I think it’s a great project because it gives me a break from my flat and gives me time to be with other people.
“I have been coming along since the start.
“The food here is really nice and the staff are brilliant. They are very generous in giving up their free time.”
While Jeremy Breem added: “I come here for breakfast every Wednesday and I’ve met some nice people through it.
“It helps to get you out of the house and seeing people, which I think is great.”
John Bennett is just one of the multiple volunteers who give up their time to cook, chat and clean up at the weekly meet-up.
Red Community Project also oversees the local food bank in Mumbles, with many of those volunteers lending a hand at the breakfast club too.
“It’s nice to be able to give something back to people,” Mr Bennett said.
“Some of the people here may not see anybody again or talk to anybody again for the rest of the day.
“At least here they can come and have something to eat or have a chat and hopefully it makes them feel a bit better.
“They must feel like it’s something nice to come to as we have offers of help from them to do the dishes afterwards, so it’s nice they want to give something back to us as well.
“You definitely get something out of helping other people.”
Bay Health Cluster lead, Dr Nicola Jones, said: “We are delighted to be able to help support the West Cross Well-being Project.
“It is providing a much-needed space to allow the local population to re-establish those vital connections to each other which we all missed out on during the Covid-19 pandemic, and which are vital for maintaining a healthy, thriving community.”
Lead image: Dan Evans, Barbara Matthews and Rachel Matthews of Red Community Project (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)
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