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Electric car helps Swansea GP practices drive down carbon footprint

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A group of GP practices in Swansea is helping the environment as well as its patients thanks to a new electric vehicle.

The City Health Cluster, which covers eight GP practices in the central areas of Swansea, has received the electric car that will be used by its paramedic to visit patients at home.

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Keith Richards works as the cluster’s community paramedic and travels to patients’ homes to assess them as a way of helping GPs who are seeing patients in their surgeries.

“There are eight GP practices in the cluster but some of them have sister practices so I deal with 12 practices in total so I’m on the road a lot,” he said.

“If a surgery has a patient who needs assessing, they’ll give me a call and give me all of their details and I’ll go out and do all of their observations and get their medical history and background.

“If they need any medical intervention then I have a chat with the GP and decide how best to help them.

“I’m still a paramedic but I’m dealing with just one patient at a time for the GP so it’s more of a direct role.

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“I can do blood tests and ECGs and I’ve been able to help with administering flu and Covid vaccinations.”

Keith Richards in the GP cluster’s new electric car (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Until now, Keith had been using his own diesel car to travel between patients’ homes and surgeries.

Not only will the cluster’s electric car help cut down carbon emissions, its modern technology will even help Keith in responding to calls.

He added: “Everybody wants to help reduce carbon emissions and this seemed like an easy way to do it because I do a lot of driving around so I was probably adding a lot of pollution.

“It’s more modern than my previous car and I’ve got Bluetooth which makes answering calls a lot easier too.

“It’s also more reliable so the chance of it breaking down and not being able to get to a patient’s house is reduced.

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“We’ve all got to do our bit for the environment. There’s no point in telling other people to do something if you’re not doing anything yourself.

“We’ve all got to contribute and I think this is an excellent way of doing it.”

A charging station has been installed at Keith’s home, with plans to introduce more at several GP surgeries within the City Health Cluster, which covers Brunswick Health Centre, Greenhill Medical Centre, Abertawe Medical Partnership, Kingsway Surgery, Mountain View Health Centre, Nicholl Street Medical Centre, SA1 Medical Centre and The Harbourside Health Centre.

When fully charged the car can travel up to 270 miles, with Keith charging it twice a week. From 20 per cent to fully charged takes about six hours.

City Health Cluster lead, Dr Ceri Todd, added: “The City Health Cluster Plan has developed over the last few years to adapt and meet the changing needs of our diverse and growing population.

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“We have fostered new and innovative ways of working that support practice sustainability and help ensure we have the right people in place to deliver safe and effective health care.

“This multidisciplinary approach has ensured better access for patients that may require assessment at home.

“The cluster has considered throughout its approach to the delivery of services how it can work to develop and promote net-zero health care in the future.

“With this in mind we began our approach supporting the introduction of an electric vehicle for our valued paramedic Keith.”

Lead image: Keith Richards and City Health Cluster lead Dr Ceri Todd (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Motoring

Summer of thunderstorms warning for motorists

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As weather forecasters predict the country could be in for a summer of thunderstorms, a leading insurance comparison firm warns motorists to check their insurance policies before venturing out. 

The Met Office says a ‘hotter than normal’ summer will bring outbreaks of torrential downpours, hail and thunderstorms as temperatures cool after heatwaves.

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A glimpse of what could be a blistering summer, with high temperatures, heavy downpours and thunder and lightning was seen last weekend – particularly in the south.

Heavy and thundery rainfalls are predicted for the coming weekend, especially in the west.

Quotezone.co.uk, a leading car insurance comparison website, says any damage to cars caused by driving through flash floods might not be covered by insurance policies. It warns motorists to carefully check their policy exclusions, and even if routes are partially blocked, drivers should think twice before using waterlogged roads.

If drivers find themselves stuck in the car during a thunderstorm, official advice from the Met Office is to wind up the window and stay inside the vehicle – the metal frame of the car should act as a conductive Faraday cage, passing the current around the passengers and into the ground, should it be struck by lightning.  Open or soft top vehicles are best kept under cover. 

Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, comments: “Motorists who have taken out third party only or third-party, fire and theft insurance wouldn’t be covered for any storm damage to their vehicles – only fully-comprehensive policyholders are likely to be protected in those cases.

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“If a storm is predicted, look at official flood warnings, avoid roads that are likely to flood and allow more time for your journey, note you may have to pull over and wait it out if the downpour starts to affect your visibility – not forgetting to put on the hazard lights.

“Unfortunately, if motorists do decide to drive through waterlogged roads, there’s a very real risk that they won’t be covered for any resulting water damage to the car – even fully-comprehensive drivers.”

Greg also warns motorists that have to go out, to make sure their cars are roadworthy before setting off, which includes checking tyre tread and windscreen wipers.

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More than 20,000 people seeking to share a lift amidst rail strike chaos

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As commuters are hit with the largest rail strike in 30 years, leading UK car-share platform, Liftshare points to car-sharing as a practical solution to growing commuter frustrations and rising traffic levels.

Over 40,000 rail workers walked out in protest on Tuesday 21st June, with more strikes planned for the following Thursday and Saturday. Commuters have been advised not to travel, as services are suspended across the country.

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“Commuters being asked not to travel is just not practical, with reports of hospital staff staying overnight to avoid endangering patient safety. Car sharing is a real untapped resource when it comes to making these essential journeys. There are more than 47m empty seats on our roads every rush hour and that’s only set to increase as more people are forced into their cars during the rail strikes.” said Ali Clabburn, Founder and Chairman of Liftshare Group.

“For those that can drive, we’d ask them to consider sharing a lift. There are over 20,000 people looking to car share on our liftshare.com community site. It’s free to join and connect with people making the same journeys. This makes driving more affordable, which is ideal with the added pressure of rising fuel costs.”

Traffic levels have reportedly increased in a number of UK cities, exacerbating commuter emissions which account for 5% of the UK’s total emissions – 18 billion kg of CO2e annually.

President of the AA, Edmund King, spoke to Radio 4’s Today Programme about the ease and environmental benefits of Liftshare. “You just go to the website, put in the journey you want to take and see if other people are going the same way. It’s a very efficient and environmentally friendly way to travel.

“As the rail strikes cause huge disruption to people across the UK, sharing a car is a sustainable and cost effective solution to the disruption of the rail strikes. Over the last 20 years, we have seen spikes in car sharing interests correlate with strike action. The cost of living crisis means more people are actively seeking to reduce their travel costs permanently and car-sharing is a simple and effective solution to this.”

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Nearly 90% of drivers break speed limit in 20mph residential areas

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As many as 87% of Britain’s car drivers routinely break the speed limit in 20mph residential areas, according to the latest figures from the Department for Transport.

The new statistics released earlier this week, compiled throughout 2021, also show 51% of drivers still go over the 30mph limit.

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Even though speeding came down from a spike of 63% during the first lockdown, the return to pre-pandemic levels of traffic looks to have had no long-term impact on driver behaviour.

The data also reveals that 48% of motorists broke the speed limit on motorways, although this fell to 11% of cars for single carriageways last year.

Drivers exceeding the speed limit by more than 10mph hovered around 5-6% last year, while 10% went over the speed limit by at least 10mph on motorways.

Only 1% of car drivers on single carriageways broke the speed limit by more than 10mph.

Respondents who admitted to exceeding the speed limit gave the top excuse as: ‘I drive according to the speed of other road users’. On 20mph roads, users most often cited the speed limit as being ‘inappropriate’.

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Other popular reasons given for breaking the speed limit were: ‘It’s sometimes safer to go faster’, ‘pressure from other drivers’ and ‘I don’t look at the speedometer enough’.

The government figures are based on driver behaviour on roads with free-flowing traffic where there are no impediments such as bends or steep climbs.

Responding to the new data, Greg Wilson, Founder of leading car insurance comparison platform Quotezone.co.uk, says: “It’s staggering to realise that half of all motorists are still breaking the speed limit in residential 30mph zones and there is no encouraging longer-term downward trend. Residential areas are one of the areas drivers should be most cautious, given the high volume of pedestrians and children playing so it’s worrying that this is still an issue. 

“While many drivers might think it’s a minor fault breaking the speed limit by a small margin, the law takes a different view. There’s no ‘look the other way’ if motorists go over a speed limit by less than 10 percent – that’s a myth.”

Motorists can face a fine of £100 and three penalty points on their licence if they break the speed limit – which can increase to six points and a fine of up to £1,000 if they’re doing more than 41mph in a 30mph zone.

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Wilson says penalty points can add anything from 5% to car insurance premiums for the first three points on a licence, which can rise to 25% for six points.

Wilson continues: “If convicted, it’s important to be honest and fully disclose the offence to your insurance provider, because failure to do so can result in the policy being invalidated, meaning you won’t be covered.  Some providers do offer car insurance policies with competitive rates for convicted drivers, which can help motorists find an affordable premium, but it probably goes without saying that the best way to keep your car insurance price low is to obey the speed limit.” 

Last year, the Welsh Government announced plans to make 20mph the default speed limit in residential areas, with eight areas trialling the scheme, including Llanelli in Carmarthenshire, St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire and Cilfrew in Neath Port Talbot.

At the time, Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said: “Making 20mph the default speed limit in residential areas is a bold step that will save lives.

“We have made progress on reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads over the 21 years of devolution, but despite our considerable efforts the highest proportion of all casualties – 50% – occurred on 30mph roads during 2018. This cannot be tolerated, so a reduction to 20mph on our residential and other busy pedestrian urban roads has to be the way forward.

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“Decreasing speeds reduces accidents and saves lives, and alongside this the quality of life will improve, making room on our streets for safer active travel. This helps reduce our environmental impact and has a positive outcome for our physical and mental wellbeing.”

Sgt Ian Price, from Go Safe – Dyfed-Powys Police Road Harm Reduction Unit, said: “Dyfed-Powys Police, with the support of Go Safe, is working with our road safety partners to help change driver attitudes in recognising a cultural and potential legal change, regarding restricted road status from 30mph to 20mph.

“Historically we have grown up to know that streetlights mean 30, but potential legislative changes in Wales in 2023 will default a restricted road status to 20mph. Too many people are being killed or seriously injured in existing urban areas, in which a reduction in speed limit along with compliance, can only reduce the number of these incidents. We can also make our communities safer places to live by walking and cycling those short journeys.”

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