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Patient inequality as Wales misses out on lifesaving drug

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A new drug with potential lifesaving qualities has been approved for use in NHS England but not the Welsh health service.

Anti-cholesterol drug inclisiran, a twice-yearly injection to treat those who have already had strokes and heart attacks, would help cut the risk of similar life-threatening cardiovascular events reoccurring.

Following approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England and the company behind the drug, Novatris, have reached a deal to offer it to patients.

However, the Welsh Labour Government has not yet reached an agreement to offer the medicine, which usually costs nearly £2,000 per dose, at a discounted rate through NHS Wales.

Meindert Boysen, NICE deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “Inclisiran represents a potential game-changer in preventing thousands of people from dying prematurely from heart attacks and strokes. We’re therefore pleased to be able to recommend it as a cost-effective option on the NHS supported by the ground-breaking deal between NHS England and NHS Improvement and Novartis – a deal that could see as many as 300,000 people with high cholesterol or mixed dyslipidaemia who have already had a previous cardiovascular event receive the drug over the next 3 years.”

Commenting on the news, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “This is great news for people in England and will give better piece of mind to those fearful of a repeat heart attack or stroke. Hopefully, those who live near the English border will also be able to benefit from access to the drug.

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“I understand that the Welsh Government are in negotiations to supply them in NHS Wales. However, beyond value-for-money they have a responsibility to ensure that our British cousins are not better off than them due to their own inability to act swiftly.

“The Labour Government already have form for missing the boat on the efficient purchasing of vital drugs for patients: from cancer to cystic fibrosis, there are a number of treatments that have come too late in the day for those in Wales.

“As waiting times in A&E soar, ambulance queues mount, and treatment waiting lists balloon in the Labour-run NHS, the least people can expect is that they are not put at a disadvantage to others who live elsewhere in Britain.”

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Carmarthen

New special care baby unit opens at Carmarthen’s Glangwili Hospital

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A new specialist unit to care for some of the most vulnerable newborn babies has officially opened at Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen.

The new Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) is part of a £25.2m Welsh Government investment into a new development scheme to obstetric and neonatal facilities at the hospital and will serve families across mid and west Wales.

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The state-of-the-art unit has been purpose built with the focus being on the baby and their family, and the neonatal team.

The new family friendly unit will continue to provide high dependency and special care level of care to premature and unwell newborn babies with improved facilities and modern technology.

The clinical space meets national guidance which respects family privacy and dignity. There are four en suite overnight rooms for parents and a family sitting room.

The clinical area and the staff facilities will improve the working environment for the neonatal team and will be beneficial to their wellbeing. The new facilities include an appropriate area for teaching and multi-disciplinary working.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: ”The new facilities will support families during a time when they need it most. I’m pleased that Welsh Government funding has been used to create the new centre and will provide state of the art facilities for the community and for the neonatal team to provide vital care.”

Steve Moore, Chief Executive, Hywel Dda University Health Board thanked all involved in the project: “It’s wonderful to see the new unit open for babies and their families.

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“The improved facilities are part of our continued investment in women and children’s services and will provide a much enhanced environment for special care babies across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

“I wish to personally thank everyone involved in this project for their dedication and hard work over recent years. I also extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed to equipment for the unit through incredible fundraising efforts and generous donations. Thank you all.”

Lisa Humphrey, Interim General Manager for Women and Children’s Services, Hywel Dda University Health Board commented: “As project director I would like to thank all of the parents, staff and the contractors for their contribution to the delivery of this scheme.

“Having an up-to-date unit enhances the delivery of high quality care that the team already provide in an environment that improves well-being for babies, their families and staff.”

Karen Jones, Senior Nurse, Special Care Baby Unit added: “We would like to thank families who have kindly donated money to enable us to purchase medical equipment such as oxygen monitors and a monitor to assist with monitoring brain activity. We have also purchased items for the family and staff sitting rooms and furnishings for the quiet room.

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“The neonatal team are looking forward to moving into the new unit, which is spacious and light with excellent facilities for staff and parents. The environment is much improved from the previous SCBU with lovely facilities for parents to be close to their babies.”

The next stage in the project, which will see the opening of the new Maternity Ward, is expected to be completed in spring 2022.

(All images: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Coronavirus

Self-isolation period reduced in Wales

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woman in white hijab covering her face with white blanket

People who test positive for Covid-19 will be able to leave self-isolation after five full days if they have two negative lateral flow tests, Health Minister Eluned Morgan has confirmed.

The two consecutive negative lateral flow tests must be taken on days five and six of the isolation period.

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The changes are being made after a thorough examination of the evidence from Public Health Wales and bring Wales into line with changes made elsewhere in the UK.

They will come into effect from 28 January, at the same time as Wales is expected to complete the move to alert level zero.

A shorter self-isolation period will support public services and businesses by reducing pressures on the workforce through Covid-related staff absences.

Financial support through the Self-Isolation Support Scheme which will return to the original payment rate of £500 in recognition of the shorter isolation period.  People who need support with essentials such as shopping and pharmacy goods will be able to access help through their local authority and voluntary organisations. 

Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said: “Self-isolation is one of the most effective ways of preventing the onward spread of this virus and disrupting its transmission. But self-isolating for long periods can have a negative impact on our mental health and can be damaging for our public services and the wider economy.

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“After carefully reviewing all the available evidence, we believe that testing on days five and six together with five full days of isolation will have the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period.

“But it is really important everyone self-isolates and uses lateral flow tests in the way advised to ensure they protect others from the risk of infection.

“The response from the public has been outstanding in Wales throughout the pandemic and we want to thank everyone for working with us to keep Wales safe.

“The booster jab has lessened the likelihood of severe cases of the virus and hospitalisation so I encourage anyone who is yet to have their vaccine to take up the offer.”

If a person is currently self-isolating as a positive case, or tests positive for Covid-19, they must self-isolate for five full days and should take a lateral flow test on day five and another test 24 hours later on day six.

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If both results are negative, it is likely they are not infectious and can stop isolating.

But anyone who tests positive on either day five or day six must continue to self-isolate until they have two negative tests taken 24 hours apart or until day 10, whichever comes first.

This change reflects the latest evidence from Public Health Wales. Guidance on self-isolation for those working in more sensitive areas such as health and care will issue shortly. 

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Health

Extra £2.2m pledged for Welsh hospices

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Hospices in Wales will receive an extra £2.2m as part of the Welsh Government’s end-of-life care review.

Of the funding, £888k will go to the two children’s hospices – Tŷ Hafan and Tŷ Gobaith – and the remainder will be shared by the adult hospice services across Wales.

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This funding is on top of the £13.8m already allocated by the Welsh Government to support the sector and strengthen bereavement support throughout the pandemic.

The announcement is part of phase one of the end-of-life care review. The second phase will look at wider end-of-life care provision from April 2022, overseen by the new programme board for end-of-life care.

The funding has been allocated in the Welsh Government’s draft Budget and will be distributed on a recurring basis from April 2022 onwards.

Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said:  “Hospices are a critical part of our healthcare service in Wales, providing essential care to more than 20,000 people in Wales affected by terminal illnesses each year, helping to prevent avoidable admissions to hospital. More than 85% of that care is provided in the community.

“This has never been more needed than over the last two years when, throughout the pandemic, hospices have been there to support patients, families and carers through the most difficult of times in the most difficult of circumstances.

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“We are committed to strengthening our focus on end-of-life care and we will continue to work closely with the new national programme board to drive actions across government and with stakeholders to improve end-of-life care services for all.”

Chief Executive of Tŷ Hafan children’s hospice Maria Timon Samra said: “Together with Tŷ Gobaith we have been campaigning for a sustainable funding solution for Wales’ children’s hospices. We are delighted by the Welsh Government’s commitment to act on the recommendations of the hospice funding review, an important first step in achieving this goal. 

“We thank the Minister, Eluned Morgan, Deputy Minster, Julie Morgan, and Members from across the Chamber, for their support for this Lifeline Fund, not forgetting those government officials who have also worked on this review.  

“We look forward to continuing to work with them to create a Wales that is more compassionate and supports children with life-limiting conditions and their families for whom our hospices are often the only place they can receive crisis and respite care and support.” 

Andy Goldsmith, Chief Executive of Tŷ Gobaith Children’s Hospice, said: “I’d like to thank the Welsh Government to responding to our ask for fair and sustainable funding for Wales’ two children’s hospices.

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“This increased funding is a major first step forward in ensuring the ‘Lifeline’ that children’s hospices provide is available for every child and family that needs us. We look forward to continuing to work with the Welsh Government to fund and develop services to meet the growing and changing need for the specialist care and bereavement support that both Tŷ Gobaith and Tŷ Hafan provide in Wales.”

Before the pandemic started, approximately two-thirds of hospices’ income came from fundraising activities.

The Welsh Government’s emergency funding of £13.8m was used to support hospices as they lost income from charitable activities; protect their core services and to strengthen bereavement support.

The end-of-life care review was led by a NHS Collaborative team which analysed information submitted by hospices and held regular meetings to keep them informed of progress.

The additional £2.2m funding provides hospices across Wales with a significant increase to their core funding allocations and offers a level of certainty on which they can plan and deliver future service provision

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(Lead image: Tŷ Hafan)

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