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Online mental health support service sees a 141% rise in people seeking support as more people access NHS services digitally

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An online mental health and wellbeing service has seen a 141% increase in the number of people in the Swansea Bay University Health Board area seeking support as lockdown restrictions ease across the country – the highest increase in the whole of Wales.

SilverCloud Wales is a free online therapy service designed to help people aged 16 and over, experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, depression or stress, manage their mental health and wellbeing.

There’s no need to be referred by a GP – people can sign up and access the NHS Wales service anytime, anywhere, on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

The rise in numbers comes as new technologies are allowing more people to access NHS services in different ways. As part of its Help Us, Help You campaign, the Welsh Government is encouraging the public to get to know the breadth of NHS services and options available to them.

The new data from SilverCloud Wales shows that 141% more people in the Swansea Bay University Health Board area signed up for the online therapy service in May 2021 compared with April.

The same data also shows a 20% rise in people across Wales signing up for help with managing social anxiety in May 2021 compared with April, indicating that some people may be seeking support with managing their mental health and wellbeing as lockdown restrictions ease.

Alexandra Birrell, Psychology Assistant and Clinical Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Co-ordinator for SilverCloud Wales, explains why more people may feel they need support managing their mental health and wellbeing, particularly with anxiety, as lockdown restrictions ease this summer.

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“At the core of anxiety is often a difficulty in dealing with uncertainty, and at the core of low mood is often feelings of powerlessness and lack of control.

“We were instructed to stay home, which impacted our interaction with our social support networks, which usually serve to protect us from difficult feelings. For many, these conditions became the new normal. Now, as lockdown restrictions ease, being able to venture out of the house and managing social interactions is what brings up feelings of uncertainty.

“Of course, people will have different feelings about this, depending on their situation.

“Some people are naturally cautious whereas others are embracing the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. The difficulty is that these differences in boundaries are now something that we must learn how to communicate and navigate.”

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Fionnuala Clayton, Lead Psychological Assistant & Clinical Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Co-ordinator for SilverCloud Walessaid services like SilverCloud Wales were proving to be a lifeline for many.

“SilverCloud Wales offers people an online space to explore their personal challenges and experiences in a safe and confidential way. Returning to ‘normal’ can be just as challenging as entering lockdown.

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“While we have all faced different challenges depending on our age, vulnerability status, employment and social circles, what we all have is a collective understanding that Covid has had a real impact on our daily lives.

“Common challenges we are hearing from people who use the service range from a rise in social anxiety symptoms relating to Covid measures being relaxed, loneliness and feeling isolated, and the impact the pandemic has had on our connections with loved ones, through to those struggling with routine, low mood and sometimes consequently self-esteem and body image concerns.”

SilverCloud has seen a 141% rise in people seeking support as more people access NHS services digitally 
(Image: Liza Summer / Pexels.com)

SilverCloud Wales uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing. CBT works by encouraging people to challenge the way they think and behave so they’re better equipped to deal with life’s problems.

The service offers help for anxiety, depression, stress, sleep, money worries & more. Users select one of the easy-to-use, interactive online programmes to complete over 12 weeks and for best results are advised to use the service 15-20 minutes a day, three to four times a week.

Although an online self-help service, SilverCloud Wales is backed up and supported by a team of psychologists and online cognitive behavioural therapy co-ordinators.

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Ms Clayton added: “SilverCloud Wales users are supported through their chosen online programme by SilverCloud Supporters who have psychological backgrounds and know how to get the best out of the programme.

“No-one should feel like they are alone with their problems. It has been fantastic to see SilverCloud Wales online therapy reach so many people, not just across Powys, where it started, but now available to any patient or resident in Wales.”

To find out more and sign up, visit: https://nhswales.silvercloudhealth.com/signup/

(Lead image: Andrew Neel / Pexels.com)

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Swansea Bay NHS

Plans for Vascular Hybrid Theatre at Morriston Hospital get a major boost

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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)

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Charity

Mayor of Llandovery raises over £2k for air ambulance after surviving freak cycling accident

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The Mayor of Llandovery in Carmarthenshire has raised over £2,000 for Wales Air Ambulance after surviving a freak cycling accident that left him unconscious at the side of the road and saw TWO air ambulances sent to his aid.

Mayor Handel Davies and his wife Margaret raised £2,280 during the annual Mayors Charity Ball.

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The successful ball, which included an auction of rugby related paraphernalia and a raffle, also raised funds for Llandovery Hospital League of Friends.

Over 110 guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment, which included ‘an excellent address’ from Wales Air Ambulance chair of trustees David Gilbert. Over £4,500 was raised during the evening for the two good causes.

The Mayor and Mayoress presented the cheque to David Gilbert at a recent base visit at the Wales Air Ambulance’s headquarters in Llanelli.

The mayor has had personal experience of the essential service the Wales Air Ambulance provides after the Charity’s medics were called out to him during the pandemic.

Handel was involved in a freak accident when a dog ran out in front of him whilst out cycling. He was knocked unconscious for 15 minutes and despite two air ambulances being called out to him, luckily for Handel he didn’t need to be airlifted to hospital.

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Mr Davies said: “A sheepdog literally appeared from nowhere at full speed in the blink of an eye hitting the front wheel of my bike at right angles causing me to fall immediately. It happened so quickly I do not remember hitting the road, but the eyewitness commented that had I not been wearing a helmet I would not have survived. The shattered interior of the helmet is evidence of this.

“It took 6-9 months to really recover and get over the impact, which following another serious cycling accident when I was 18, has led me to decide to ‘hang up’ my bicycle and instead attend ‘spin classes’ at the local leisure centre.”

A cheque for £2,280 was presented to Wales Air Ambulance by Mayor of Llandovery, Cllr Handel Davies

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its emergency helicopters in the air and its rapid response vehicles on the road.

The 24/7 emergency service offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care. 

Reflecting on why the 24/7 Charity was chosen to benefit from the Mayor’s charity Ball, he added: “I have the utmost respect for the incredible and invaluable work the Wales Air Ambulance undertake and as we live in a beautiful part of north Carmarthenshire next to road which is very popular with both cyclists and motor bikers, over the last 25 years we have seen many accidents along this stretch of the A4069 particularly at weekends.

“It seems that almost every weekend during the summer months a Wales Air Ambulance flies overhead to attend to an incident.”

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Jane Griffiths Wales Air Ambulance’s Community Fundraising Manager said: “It was lovely to meet the Mayor and Mayoress of Llandovery during their recent base visit. They’ve raised a fantastic amount for two important causes and we’re extremely grateful for them choosing the Wales Air Ambulance as one of the charities to benefit from the Mayors Charity Ball.

“It’s lovely to hear that the mayor has recovered from his freak accident, and we wish him well for the future. Your support of our lifesaving Charity is much appreciated and will help us to continue to be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.”

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Swansea Bay NHS

£2.5m investment aims to help tackle hospital waiting lists in Swansea Bay by expanding care after surgery

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photo of woman lying in hospital bed

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.

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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.

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“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.

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