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Health Board uses virtual reality to teach new doctors lifesaving technique



Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Medical Illustration Department is using virtual reality to teach new doctors a real life or death technique.

The department has teamed up with Swansea University to produce a virtual reality (VR) training app that helps perfect a potentially lifesaving technique, known as the Valsalva manoeuvre, to correct an abnormal cardiac rhythm, called Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), on a virtual patient.

The app includes the medical procedure for practice, an introduction to VR for those new to the technology and an online dashboard with performance analytics.

It was designed for standalone headset use, allowing for a seamless training experience with no cables. When using the app, the trainee is guided through each step of the manoeuvre, there is also a questionnaire pre and post procedure to assess their  knowledge.

The project was kindly funded by the Swansea Bay Health Charity.
Steve Atherton (pictured above), Deputy Head of SBUHB’s Medical Illustration, played a lead role in the app’s development.

He said: “It was the idea of Dr Kevin Mohee, who worked in Morriston’s cardiology department at the time. He wanted to develop something in VR and he came up with the idea of the Valsalva manoeuvre because it’s relatively simple to perform.

“It’s a fairly common condition which is quite easy to treat initially without drugs or fancy interventions, using simple techniques involving stimulating a nerve in the neck which can reset the heart rhythm.


“They could watch a video on YouTube but the real advantage of VR is they can practice the technique on a virtual patient and if they get it wrong, it’s not the end of the world.”

Steve turned to Swansea University for help and after contacting Dr Marc Holmes, a Virtual Reality MSc course lecturer, his Morriston Hospital based team were put in contact with two MA students, Joe Charman and Jack Bengeyfield, who had set up their own software studio, Pilot Plus. 

He said: “I made the characters and the virtual world but Joe and Jack came in with their programming knowledge and supplied the code to make that world come to life.

“We wrote a plan of action, decided what you’d see when you put the headset on and what you want it to do, then those guys did the computer programing to make it happen. You are in the room and the patient is animated, they can sit up or lie down and  the bed moves.

“I basically gave them a 3D room, they had the task of making it work.”


Of the collaboration he said: “I was thrilled to be able to share knowledge and collaborate on a project with Pilot Plus. It’s a great example of how fruitful we can be when the health board works with the university and local tech companies.

“I thought developing something like this was the preserve of big companies in London or America but I wanted to know what a medical illustrator, like myself, could do within the NHS. I’ve got a skill set with 3D but I’m not a computer programmer, so I linked up with Swansea University to use two virtual reality masters students to help with the programming side.”

The next step is to conduct a proper trial of the app before making it available to all.

“We’re going to invite some medical students and some junior doctors to come in and test it. It has been trialled already by some doctors but we want to do a large cohort of 40 to have a good go at it before filling a feedback form and questionnaire to get their opinion and to drive any changes.

“Hopefully it will be up and running by the end of the year. We don’t plan to make it a money making opportunity, it will be given away free.”


The team plans to develop other VR packages to help with medical training in the future. 

Steve said: “The world is our oyster. There are loads of ideas but I’ll be guided by the clinicians, they are the ones doing the teaching. There’s no shortage of ideas, the only limit is the funding aspect.

“Talking of which, it was funded by the Health Board Charity and I would like to thank them very much, it couldn’t have happened without them.”

Joe Charman said: “It was great to work with Swansea Bay Health Board to turn their vision into a Virtual Reality application.

“Both the medical illustration from Steve and clinical expertise from Kevin were instrumental in guiding the creative process.


“We look forward to creating more Virtual Reality applications to aid both patients and clinicians.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Victorian Christmas event set for Morriston




Residents and businesses of Morriston are being encouraged to take part in a Victorian-themed Christmas event.

Shops are being invited to dress their windows in period style, entertainment is planned for Woodfield Street, the main shopping street – and residents will be asked to shop locally.

Business staff are being urged to dress like the Victorians – anything from the landed gentry to miners and copper workers.

The Christmas event – Saturday, November 27 – is being organised by Swansea Council which already has a regeneration project focused on the celebrated Victorian landmark Morriston Tabernacle.

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “The Victorian Christmas event – the day after Morriston’s annual Christmas lights switch-on and parade – will help focus attention on shopping locally. It will bring more people to town – and more business.”

The plans include food and drink stalls, children’s entertainment, music and heritage exhibitions.

Roads will remain open as activities and performances take place. The Glantawe Lions will sponsor a competition for the best shop window displays.


Funding for the event is from the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns Town Centre Business Fund.

Those wishing to take part should email Chris Davies –

Lead image: Victorian era Morriston Tabernacle (Image: Swansea Council)

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Hospital goes green with unique solar farm




A green era has dawned at Morriston Hospital which has gone live with its own full-scale solar farm.

The £5.9 million development, the first in the UK to be directly wired to an acute hospital, is the latest in a series of environmental improvements across Swansea Bay, with more to follow in the months ahead.

Commissioning work on the 10,000-panel solar farm at Brynwhillach Farm was completed earlier this month and the electricity began flowing along a 3km private wire to the hospital last week.

The 4MW farm will supply almost a quarter of Morriston’s power, cutting the electricity bill by around £500,000 a year and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

With winter fast approaching, the timing of the launch of the solar farm may seem somewhat unusual. But there is a reason for it.

Swansea Bay’s Assistant Director of Operations, Des Keighan, explained: “We had to get the work done during the summer rather than in winter when it would have been wet and extremely muddy.

“The solar farm will meet around 26 per cent of Morriston’s power but this is the average across the year.


“It will not be as active during the winter months or at night but at other times it will be far more productive.

“Even though it only went live last week, and despite it being autumn, we have already had one day when it fully powered the hospital.

“We anticipate there will be days when we will have surplus electricity to export to the National Grid as well.”

Morriston Hospital’s 14 hectare solar farm (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The health board was awarded £13.5 million, on an invest to save basis, to bring down its energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint by around 3,000 tonnes a year.

Phase one, a range of energy conservation measures at Morriston and Singleton hospitals and other health board premises, was completed earlier this year at a cost of £7.7 million.

The solar farm, developed on a 14-hectare site, is the second phase, with a third phase due to be completed by the end of next March.


It will include further LED lighting across health board sites, the installation of air source heat pumps at two locations and roof-mounted solar panels at Cefn Coed Hospital.

This amounts to an investment of £2.4 million and will result in a reduced carbon footprint of just under 300 tonnes a year.

Swansea Bay spends around £6.9 million a year on electricity, gas, water, and sewage treatment. This is expected to rise year on year, at a rate higher than inflation.

The £13.5 million was awarded through Re:Fit, a national programme, supported by the Welsh Government, to provide public sector organisations with the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, achieve guaranteed savings and cut energy costs.

Funding is provided in the form of a repayable grant through the Green Growth scheme provided by the Welsh Government.


Following an extensive selection process, the health board selected Vital Energi as its partner in December 2019.

The health board has also been supported by the Welsh Government’s Energy Service team.

Although the money has to be repaid, the solar farm and energy-reducing schemes guarantee minimum savings of more than £1.5 million a year as well as the reduction in carbon emissions.

Swansea Bay UHB Chair Emma Woollett said: “The health board wants to improve people’s health, and reducing pollution and the impact of climate change is a crucial part of that.

“We are playing our part by switching to renewable carbon-free energy sources and have invested in our own solar farm at Morriston.


“We have worked with Vital to bring this on stream and we went live last week.

“In the coming months we aim to complete further projects to reduce our carbon emissions.

“These projects will increase our renewable energy supply and help us to be a contributor to Swansea Bay’s renewable energy resources and improved air quality.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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First Cymru

Further cuts to First Cymru bus services due to ongoing driver shortage




Bus operator First Cymru has announced another raft of cuts to their services in Swansea and Llanelli due to an ongoing shortage of drivers.

The move follows earlier cuts to services in Swansea, Carmarthen and Neath Port Talbot in September.

At the time a spokesperson for the bus company said that despite double the number of drivers it usually recruited, a backlog in applications by the DVLA and the effects of the pandemic meant that it was taking months for licences to come through.

Bus drivers are also reportedly leaving in droves for higher paying HGV jobs as the nationwide lorry driver shortage continues.

The latest round of changes sees cuts to services in Townhill, Mumbles, Blaen-y-Maes, Bonymaen and Morriston. Routes in Llanelli town centre are also affected. Some routes are also being transferred to other operators.

Swansea Bus Station

All the changes to First Cymru Services from 24 October

In Llanelli, the L1 and L2 services to Swiss Valley will reduce in frequency to every 2 hours

The Llanelli to Pontarddulais L3 service will now operate every 90 minutes.

Swansea to Newton service 2 will now be hourly, rather than its current 30 minute frequency. Existing hourly services 2B and 2C will allow a 20 minute frequency between Swansea and Oystermouth to be retained, although the times will change.


Townhill circular services 12 and 13 will reduce to operate every 20 minutes, with one service 13 and two service 12’s an hour. With service 11 there will be a 10 minute frequency between Penygraig Shops and Swansea City Centre.

Swansea to Pennard service 14 will no longer be operated by First Cymru. Adventure Travel, who currently operate evening and weekend services on this route will now also run weekday services on the current timetable.

Service 20 between Swansea and Derlwyn will reduce frequency to every 30 minutes. Service 20A and 21A will maintain a 20 minute service between Swansea and Killay, but the times will change.

The Swansea to Morriston Hospital service 24 which routes through Brynhyfryd and Caemawr will no longer be operated by First Cymru. Buses will instead be operated by Adventure Travel.

Service 25 from Swansea to Blaen-y-maes will reduce in frequency from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes from Mondays to Saturdays.


Timetables will change for Swansea to Tycoch services 29 and 39 as a result of interworking services.

Bonymaen and Trallwn will see changes with service 33 being reduced from every 30 minutes to hourly. Services 31 and 32 will maintain a 20 minute service between Swansea and Bonymaen / Trallwn, but the times will change.

Swansea to Morriston service 36 will reduce from every 15 to every 20 minutes from Monday to Friday.

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