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Neath Port Talbot

Regional partnership secures care home beds to tackle winter pressures

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Eight care homes in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot have offered more than 50 beds between them to help ease the unprecedented pressures on health and social care.

The beds will give patients who are ready to leave hospital – but can’t yet go because their onward care is delayed for a variety of reasons – a more homely alternative to languishing on a busy acute hospital ward.

The 55 beds have been bought for use over the winter, a time when pressures are traditionally at their highest, but expected to be even worse this year.

These transitional care beds will help tackle delays which many patients face leaving hospital, which in turn will allow patients who need to be admitted have a bed sooner. This will then help reduce the number of ambulances queuing outside hospitals waiting to admit patients.

Patients won’t be charged for their stay in these transitional care beds. The cost is being covered by Swansea Bay University Health Board and Swansea and Neath Port Talbot local authorities through the *West Glamorgan Regional Partnership’s winter pressures budget. The beds are across four care homes in Swansea and four in Neath Port Talbot.

Stays in transitional beds should be for up to six weeks. However this could be longer or shorter depending on the availability of community support packages.

There are around 250 patients currently in acute wards in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot hospitals, who are well enough to leave but delayed from doing so. Arrangements are currently in the process of being made for some of these individuals to move to the transitional care beds.

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Huge pressures on health and social care as a result of the pandemic and staffing shortages has meant innovative and flexible ways of tackling the issues have had to be sought.

The transitional care beds will be used for patients who may need some support from care staff to be able to live in their own home and are waiting for suitable arrangements to be put into place – a package of care

The beds are also available for people who have been in hospital and have been receiving some support with care tasks or help from professionals such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy and this needs to continue before they can go home.

It is also available for people who have been assessed as requiring a care home placement. They will move to one of the transitional care home beds while waiting for a bed in the home they selected to become available.

The 55 beds are the first phase of plans to buy up to 100 care beds in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot over the winter. The second procurement phase will begin shortly.

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Swansea Bay University Health Board Chief Executive, Mark Hackett, said: “The current pressures are severe and ongoing, and likely to worsen in the months ahead. We must take urgent action now so we can provide a much more appropriate environment for patients who no longer need acute medical help, but are being delayed through no fault of their own from leaving hospital.

“It is not good for their health or wellbeing to have a prolonged stay on an acute hospital ward. They are at risk of picking up infections, have little opportunity to socialise and their fitness levels can suffer badly by not moving around enough.

“A care home offers a much homelier environment, with day rooms and dining facilities, and far more opportunities to engage with others.

“I’d like to ask families to work closely with hospital teams if their relative is one of the patients identified as being suitable for the new bed scheme, to help the moves go as smoothly as possible.

“I would also like to thank our partners in West Glamorgan Regional Partnership for rising to this challenge in such a flexible and innovative way, and also the care homes who came forward so quickly to offer their available beds. I hope that we will be in a position to find another 45 beds shortly.”

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Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Mark Child, said: “These are unprecedented times. Covid-19 has not gone away.  This joint approach will provide an option that will support people’s reablement when they are ready to leave hospital care.

“Alongside our NHS colleagues, we want to reassure those leaving hospital and their families that they are getting quality care in a quality setting aimed at improving their long-term wellbeing.”

Councillor Peter Richards, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services and Health, said: “The Council has provided significant support to our NHS over the course of the pandemic and we remain committed to doing what we can to alleviate the acute pressures our NHS is now experiencing.

“The increased number of people requiring ongoing care and support following treatment in our NHS means that we need more people to work in social care. We have a significant recruitment campaign underway and I am delighted to welcome those who are starting their career with us this side of Christmas.  

“While we are increasing the number of care workers who will support people in their own homes, we also recognise the role the transition beds procured by the Health Board will play in moving people out of acute settings more quickly and will work with health colleagues and residential care providers to make this initiative a success.”

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Coronavirus

Community pharmacists boost the Covid booster vaccine campaign

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The drive to deliver Covid booster vaccines across Swansea Bay as rapidly as possible has itself been boosted by community pharmacies.

All 49 GP practices in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot joined the health board to deliver the first two doses of the vaccine.

But as they are now busy delivering flu vaccines on top of their usual services, community pharmacies have stepped up to help ensure the booster is available locally as well as in the main vaccination centres.

Their involvement follows a successful pilot earlier this year which saw four of them help deliver the first two doses.

Thirteen in the Swansea area, along with Vale of Neath Pharmacy in Glynneath, have now responded to the health board’s call for expressions of interest to take part in the booster programme.

One of the first to receive their booster in a pharmacy was Nigel Godfrey (pictured above), who lives near the Vale of Neath Pharmacy.

“It was fantastic,” said Mr Godfrey. “I was working from home so I could pop down to the pharmacy on my lunch break.

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“It was local, five minutes away. A lot more convenient than having to go to one of the mass vaccination centres.

“There was no waiting, I was in and out within five minutes.

“The pharmacist put me at ease and we went into a private room. There were no problems whatsoever.”

Mr Godfrey, aged 44, is entitled to the booster because of an underlying medical condition.

“But it will also protect my friends, family and colleagues, whoever I come into contact with,” he added.

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“It’s doing the right thing, not just for myself, but also those around me and the community.”

People eligible for the booster will be contacted directly with an appointment either in one of the pharmacies or in a health board vaccination centre.

Appointments are being sent out in chronological order, at least six months after the date people received their second dose.

Six months is the threshold at which those in priority groups become eligible for the booster, not an absolute date it must be given by.

Although there are no drop-in sessions, the health board has started a reserve list for people who are aged 40 or over, who had their second dose at least six months ago.

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They must also be available to attend one of the mass vaccination centres at short notice – within two hours.

As well as the MVCs, the health board employs local vaccination centres, converted shipping containers which can be taken into communities to save people who might otherwise struggle to get to an MVC.

With the pharmacies also on board, every effort is being made to ensure as many of those who are eligible for a booster can receive it as close to their home as possible.

“However, we appreciate that will not be the same for everyone,” said Swansea Bay’s Vaccine Equity Manager, Maxine Evans.

“We send invites to people living within a certain radius of the pharmacies to begin with and, if we have slots still available, we go further out.

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“We are flexible and if people cannot get to the pharmacies because they live too far away and do not have transport, they can phone the booking office to change the appointment.

“But when we have been to the pharmacies and spoken to patients, they were really grateful and happy with the fact that it was local and easy for them to get the booster there.”

Pharmacists too say they are happy to be involved with the booster programme.

Niki Watts of Vale of Neath Pharmacy said: “We decided to take part because we believe it’s important to help the health board get the population fully vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We are located at the heart of the community so the patients find it easy to access.

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“We have good facilities, including a nice big car park right outside so the patients don’t have to walk very far, and our own dedicated consultation rooms where the vaccinations can take place in private.”

Eligibility for booster vaccines is determined nationally. It includes all adults aged 40 and over; frontline health and social care workers; people aged 16-49 with underlying health conditions putting them at higher risk of Covid-19; adult carers; and adult household contacts, aged 16 and over of anyone who is immunosuppressed.

Top of the eligibility list are people living in residential care homes for older adults. Swansea Bay has concluded its first sweep of 70 homes in the health board area – delivering more than 1,200 boosters to residents.

For various reasons, some were unable to receive the booster when the vaccinators were present, so return visits to each of the homes are now being arranged.

Georgina Assadi, health board Covid vaccine programme assistant service manager, said many of the vaccination team had not worked in the community before.

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“It was all new to them and some were a little anxious to begin with. But they all really enjoyed it because they knew they were providing protection to the most vulnerable people,” she added.

Lead image: Nigel Godfrey is given his booster by Niki Watts of Vale of Neath Pharmacy (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Margam

Margam Country Park among UK’s top ten – again

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The top ten rating comes after a UK-wide “People’s Vote” organised by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy to find the country’s ten best Green Flag Award-winning parks and green spaces.

The Green Flag Award scheme is the annual international quality standard for parks and green spaces. 

Following this year’s awards, in which Margam Country Park was once again the recipient of a prestigious Green Flag, members of the British public were invited to take part in the “People’s Choice” vote for their favourite park with tens of thousands joining in. 

Margam Country Park emerged as the only park in Wales to be voted into the country’s top ten. It follows a similar outcome of last year’s People’s Choice vote in which Margam also made it into the UK’s prestigious top ten parks and green spaces list.

Since the start of the pandemic, parks have played an important role for communities the length and breadth of the UK. Research conducted by Keep Britain Tidy earlier in the year showed that more than nine in ten people (93%) think that parks and green spaces are extremely important to their local community.

Now, those communities have spoken with the announcement of the winners in the 2021 People’s Choice Awards, the voting for which was held during October 2021.

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Cllr Peter Rees, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, said: “Thanks to the tireless work of our amazing staff and volunteers, Margam Country Park is a great place for recreation, sports, play, and relaxation and has yet again been shown, by a public vote, to be one of the very best in Britain.

“I’d like to thank everyone who voted for Margam Park and I am delighted it has once again been recognised in the Green Flag People’s Choice Awards. The park is such an important landmark both for our local residents and visitors and this award shows just how much people value it.”

Joining Margam Park in the People’s Choice ten most popular parks and green space are:

  • Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets
  • Cassiobury Park, Watford
  • Eoropie Park, Isle of Lewis
  • Strathaven Park, South Lanarkshire
  • University of Essex Wivenhoe Park, Colchester
  • Valentines Park, Ilford
  • Warley Woods, Smethwick
  • Telford Town Park, Telford
  • National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

Commenting on the result, International Green Flag Award Manager Paul Todd said: “Congratulations to our ten worthy winners!

“The Green Flag Award includes some of the country’s best-known and iconic parks as well as community green spaces and university campuses.

“To be voted one of the nation’s favourite parks is a real achievement and testament to all the hard work done by the thousands of parks staff and volunteers up and down the country who work tirelessly to make their parks fantastic places that everyone can enjoy.”

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Lead image: Margam Castle (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Neath Port Talbot

£4m council surplus to be reinvested into key services to get Covid recovery underway

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Councillors in Neath Port Talbot have agreed to reinvest more than £4m back into local services from a projected budget underspend to underpin the process of recovery from the pandemic.

At a meeting of Cabinet on 24 November, members were presented with a budget monitoring report which outlined the current position and set out a number of proposals for reallocating £4m from the predicted end-of-year surplus.

Half of the money will go into creating a £2m “service resilience reserve”. This will help restore services affected by the pandemic, enable the council to meet the additional service demands that it is facing as a result of the pandemic and begin to respond to priorities identified by residents through the Let’s Talk engagement campaign. 

The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr. Ted Latham said: “Throughout the pandemic the council has worked with partners and our communities to protect vulnerable people, protect services and protect the NHS. 

“Pressure on our services is now more intense than at any time since the pandemic began, a position shared across the public sector.

“Whilst the situation is very tough, our employees remain motivated and committed to delivering services for Neath Port Talbot.

“The creation of a ‘service resilience reserve’ will enable us to increase the size of our workforce to ensure we have more people available to provide care and support to elderly and vulnerable residents; that we catch up on our neighbourhood services and ensure we have a resilient response for the winter period when typically we see an increase in flooding and inclement weather. The reserve will also ensure we can continue to support our schools and that we can continue to support the NHS and Public Health Wales.”

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Cllr. Carol Clement-Williams, Cabinet Member for Finance added: “Like all councils, we went into 2021/22 with an unprecedented level of uncertainty. It wasn’t possible to predict how Covid-19 would develop or affect the council’s service delivery, costs and income. 

“The Welsh Government Hardship Fund due to end in September 2021, was extended until the end of March 2022. To put this in context, during 2020/21 we benefited from £24m of financial support from this fund.

“In addition, there are a number of ‘one-off’ situations, for example staff vacancies contributing to a Social Services underspend of £2.4m. 

“It is important that we use the underspend to the best benefit for the county borough. A big part of that will be to build service resilience. The funding will enable us to create a number of jobs across service areas and for the first time in many years we are in a position to recruit externally. I would encourage anyone who would like to be part of our drive to help communities recover from this pandemic to come forward and join Team NPT.”

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