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Free dementia pathways project gives lifeline to Swansea and Neath Port Talbot patients and carers

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A free advice and support lifeline has been launched in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot for people living with Dementia, and their carers.

Age Cymru West Glamorgan’s Dementia Pathways Project, which is funded through the West Glamorgan Regional Partnership Board, offers free independent support and advice not available on the NHS, to help people with things like applications for benefits and entitlements and understanding their rights. The service allows people to self-refer or be referred by their GP or healthcare workers.

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Connor James, Chief Officer of Age Cymru West Glamorgan, said: “The new fully funded Dementia Pathways Project is designed to give helpful intervention at the earliest possible stage, to empower those who are living with dementia, and their carers, and to enable them to create a carefully-plotted plan that will provide as much independence as possible for as long as possible.

“This invaluable service for Swansea and Neath Port Talbot should also relieve pressure on the NHS at a time of unprecedented demand. Dementia can be a cause of distress for the individual as well as their wider, families friends and carers – but it doesn’t need to be this way, so dealing with its various complex challenges in a way that promotes independence and self-respect is vital. The Age Cymru West Glamorgan Dementia Pathway Project is a valuable tool in making this happen. We urge affected individuals and carers, as well as health and social care professionals, to get in touch today so we can start helping people in our communities who are living with Dementia.”

Age Cymru West Glamorgan supports thousands of people over 50 to live fulfilling lives, manage their daily living and get access to information and advice. Most of these crucial services are supplied free of charge by the charity, within the community.

Mr James continued: “Age Cymru West Glamorgan receives limited Government funding and we are able to offer our services thanks to the kind support of the public. We expect to see a continued unprecedented demand for our services over the winter months so we would ask anyone who is able to support us, to please consider donating to us via the Age Cymru West Glamorgan website or by calling 01792 648886. We know that it has been a tough time for many, but any donation, no matter how small, would be gratefully received in helping to continue providing our vital services, especially whilst the health and social care services are so stretched.”

Individuals, carers or health and social care workers can find out more about the free Dementia service by calling 01792 346377 or emailing dementia@agecymruwestglamorgan.org.uk

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(Lead image: Mario Wallner on Pexels.com)

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Schoolboy’s dental transformation inspires traumatised children

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A schoolboy who lost his front teeth and suffered serious facial injuries in a holiday water park accident has had his smile restored thanks to Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Community Dental Services team.

Louis Richards, 13, from Bridgend, smashed into a slide at a water park while on holiday with his family in Antalya, Turkey. 

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Louie after his dental transformation (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The impact forced three of his front teeth into his nasal cavity, knocking his nose sideways. He received emergency treatment in Turkey and flew back to the UK with a medical brace protecting his teeth. 

Now dramatic before-and-after pictures of Louis are being used to support other children who have suffered dental trauma.

Dr Rohini Mohan, Swansea Bay’s Clinical Lead for Community Dental Services successfully treated Louis at the Neath Port Talbot Resource Centre following the August 2019 incident – and gave him back a perfect smile. 

She took pictures of him before and after the procedure using a telemedicine app that enables dentists to take data-compliant photos of patients’ teeth. 

Dr Mohan said: “The pictures of Louis have been inspirational to show other children who have suffered a trauma that you can come through it. It helps their parents as well. The worst can happen, and you can still come out with a beautiful smile.

“Until they see it on the app, they don’t believe it’s possible.”

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Consultant Connect, the UK’s leading telemedicine provider to the NHS, launched the innovative app with Swansea Bay UHB in March 2021– making it the first region in the UK to trial it for community dentistry.

Hundreds of patients who are vulnerable because they live in remote areas, care homes or have physical or learning disabilities have been helped. 

More than 250 data-compliant photos have been sent on using the PhotoSAF function from dentists to consultants since the app was rolled out. 

Dental therapists on face-to-face appointments can seek advice from specialist consultants using the photo messaging function of the Consultant Connect App. The specialist can tell them whether the patient needs to be referred to see a consultant – or that the problem is minor and can be dealt with by the dentist on the scene.

This swift decision-making saves hospitals and orthodontic specialist sites from unnecessary referrals while also ensuring vulnerable patients with genuinely serious conditions are treated quickly. 

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The service has also been valuable in ensuring patient records and relevant medical documents are easily imported into a patient’s notes.

And it has enabled dentists in smaller clinics which don’t have specialist camera equipment to use the app to take pictures of successful treatments which can then inspire other patients, particularly children. 

Dr Mohan, Swansea Bay’s Clinical Lead for Community Dental Services (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Dr Mohan added: “I don’t know what we would do without it now. It’s been a life saver for us, a game-changer. We all count ourselves lucky that we’ve been the first area in the country to use this service in dentistry.

“It’s provided better outcomes to vulnerable patients because the right decisions are made quicker. And it’s been immensely beneficial to take pictures of treatments which can then be shown to other patients.” 

Jonathan Patrick, CEO of Consultant Connect, said: “We’re delighted to be giving such a successful service to dentists, to consultants and ultimately to patients in Swansea Bay. These are challenging times in the health service, and we want to give all patients in Wales the best outcomes possible.”

How it works

Sue Davies, Lead Dental Therapist for the Dental Transformation Programme, Swansea Bay UHB, works three days a week carrying out dental checks on some of Swansea’s 2,500 care home residents.

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Sue Davies, Lead Dental Therapist for the Dental Transformation Programme (Image: Swansea Bay NHDS)

She checks for lesions inside a patient’s mouth. If she finds any, she will use the Consultant Connect PhotoSAF function to take a picture of the lesion. 

She then types in the patient’s NHS number which links the photos to the patient’s records. She can add in notes using a Dictaphone feature or by typing them in. The photos are then saved to the secure cloud – and not to Sue’s phone. 

The photos can then be sent to a clinical lead, such as Dr Rohini Mohan, to check if they need to be referred to the maxillofacial unit in Swansea.

Photos can also be used as a reference point to check if an ulcer is improving or getting worse. 

Sue also checks areas around a patient’s nose and mouth for anything suspicious and if she finds anything of concern also sends on.

And she uses Consultant Connect to print out pictures of patients with poor oral hygiene to help with training and to show to care home managers to make sure they are aware of the issues.

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She said: “The Consultant Connect App is great. I get reassurance from a consultant that I’ve made the right decision and we’re saving time and money. I would definitely recommend Consultant Connect to other dental care professionals.”

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Morriston burns team gives surgeons a helping hand with emergency training

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Surgeons around the UK could be getting hands-on training for a life and limb-saving emergency procedure using a simulator created in Swansea.

 A team at Morriston Hospital has developed a realistic silicone arm to teach a procedure called an emergency escharotomy.

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Severe injuries such as a deep burn to a limb can cause tissue to swell to the point where blood cannot easily flow past the injury.

The skin acts like a tight bandage, preventing the area around the injury from expanding to accommodate the swelling.

This tourniquet-like effect leads to the compression of the blood vessels, muscle, tissues and nerves below.

It’s known as compartment syndrome, requiring an emergency escharotomy – cutting into the skin and the tissues beneath, allowing them to spread open to relieve this build-up of pressure.

Because time is critical, the procedure sometimes has to be carried out before the patient can be transferred to a hospital with burns facilities, by surgeons who may not have had previous escharotomy experience.

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The idea for the simulator came from a team of consultants in Morriston Hospital including consultant burns, plastic and reconstructive surgeon Jonathan Cubitt.

“The aim is to improve the knowledge of general surgeons who may be working in a peripheral hospital and might have to do this procedure when a patient comes in,” he said. 

“It’s a procedure that can save lives and limbs but traditionally it has not been particularly well taught.

“Current trauma courses focus on the indications and theory of escharotomy but without being able to demonstrate the procedure in practical terms.

“You can draw pictures and show where you cut but most general surgeons will not get the hands-on operating theatre experience you need to know how to do it properly.

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 “What we have done is create a very high-fidelity training simulator to improve the skills of non-plastic surgeons so they can carry out this procedure with confidence.”

Mr Cubitt (centre) with his Morriston colleagues Ian Pallister and Sarah Hemington-Gorse (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Through the Royal College of Surgeons, Mr Cubitt successfully applied for a grant from the Blond McIndoe Research Foundation (BMRF).

This UK-based charity funds ground-breaking research, nationally and globally, into techniques and technologies that will repair, restore and regenerate tissue and reduce debilitating scarring.

To develop the training arm, Mr Cubitt worked with Morriston Hospital colleagues including burns and plastics consultant Sarah Hemington-Gorse and trauma consultant Ian Pallister, who has previously created a number of realistic injury simulators.

“It has a reusable inner arm with skeleton, fat and muscle, along with air bladders to help simulate the pressure change when you cut it, and a replaceable sleeve,” said Mr Cubitt.

“You can cut through this sleeve down to the fat to simulate the operation and it is really realistic.”

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The simulator also features a fingertip that turns pink to demonstrate reperfusion – the restoration of blood flow.

Mr Cubitt and his colleagues have since held workshops into the feasibility of a comprehensive education package to teach upper limb escharotomy.

It involved 34 plastic and non-plastic surgeons, and an evaluation showed there was increase in confidence in performing an escharotomy.

 “Looking forward we aim to develop further models for lower limb and chest escharotomy and possibly even tracheostomy so that we would be able to run a comprehensive emergency burns surgery course.” said Mr Cubitt.

“Our aim is to improve emergency burns care education in the UK and globally.”

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Mr Cubitt was invited to a BMRF event in London to highlight the innovative research being carried out with the foundation’s support.

He had the opportunity to explain the training simulator to guests including the BMRF’s Royal Patron, the Princess Royal.

“She was very interested in our simulator and interested in the possible global implications for training and improving emergency burns care,” said Mr Cubitt.

Mr Cubitt demonstrating the simulator to HRGH The Princess Royal (Image:Blond McIndoe Research Foundation)

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Look out for a loved one this Blue Monday say Samaritans Cymru

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Today marks Blue Monday, supposedly the most difficult day of the year, but the leading suicide prevention charity says feeling low can happen on any day of the year and that we need to be aware of how the pandemic is increasing those feelings amongst many of us.

As pandemic uncertainties continue, Samaritans Cymru is encouraging people to get their mugs out and share a drink with a friend, neighbour or colleague who may be struggling to cope. 

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Although winter is thought to be one of the harder seasons with dark days and frosty nights, Samaritans volunteers hear similar concerns all year round from those that contact the charity. The main concerns include mental health and illness (46%), family (34%) and loneliness (28%)*. 

National treasure Dame Julie Walters joins faces from TV and comedy, including James Acaster and Keith Lemon, and talented artists across the UK to encourage people to have a cuppa and a chat with someone they care about for Samaritans Brew Monday. 

Samaritans Ambassador Dame Julie Walters thinks people can really make a difference to someone’s day just by asking if they are OK. She said: “People go through a range of emotions throughout the year so the idea of feeling blue on one day is a load of rubbish. I’ve had my fair share of blue days and have found solace in speaking to loved ones over a glass of something or two. 

“It is a simple action that can go a long way, particularly now when so many people continue to feel isolated and lonely. It doesn’t have to be Monday, or a cuppa, connecting with someone at any time during the year shows them you are there and ready to listen.” 

Talented artists who have experience of mental health struggles, including Cardiff-based Nathan Wyburn of Britain’s Got Talent fame,  have also lent their paintbrushes and pencils by creating uplifting illustrations that share a message of connection with others over a cup of something and a catch up. 

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Nathan Wyburn has had his own mental health struggles and anxiety which at times stalled his creativity, but he credits the power of talking in his recovery. Nathan is known for creating art with food, including portraits of Mariah Carey and Tim Peake, so for Brew Monday Nathan created an uplifting portrait showing two people connecting, made with coffee and biscuits. Nathan said: 

“Having suffered with anxiety, panic attacks and bouts of depression for many years, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to do anything in those moments, let alone talk – but take it from me, once you open up about how you’re feeling, it can be life-changing. I’m so proud to be supporting Brew Monday and really hope my coffee art catches someone’s eye and makes them think to pick up the phone to a friend. You never know just how much a simple conversation could help someone.”  

Samaritans Cymru continues to highlight how the pandemic has widened inequalities in Wales in order to tackle the prevalence of suicide. Living in poverty, job insecurity and loneliness and isolation are all social issues which have risen during the pandemic but it is important to recognize these are all risk factors for suicide. Reaching out to those around us and asking how they are over a cup of tea or coffee, could actually be a lifesaver, 

With support from Network Rail, Transport for Wales and the wider rail industry, Samaritans will have a presence at train stations across Wales throughout January, supporting key workers and those who are travelling, providing tea bags and tips on how to be a better listener, along with their helpline details.

Bethan Jelfs, People & Change Director at Transport for Wales said: “We’re proud to once again be supporting Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign at stations across Wales to help spread the message that it is important everyone reaches out to check on family and friends and also takes time to look after their own mental health.  With almost two years of Covid-related restrictions, which has impacted on some people more than others, this vital awareness campaign is needed more than ever.”

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Krista Sexton, Head of Operational Risk at Network Rail added: “We’re proud to support Samaritans’ Brew Monday campaign as it provides a simple but effective way for us to reach out to our railway colleagues and loved ones who might be needing a little extra support. The past two years, during the pandemic, have been difficult on many people’s mental health but, we know, not everybody always wants to share their concerns. 

This poignant campaign reminds us to stop and listen and encourage those struggling to open up and have a chat over a cup of tea.” 

Lead image: Samaritans volunteer has a virtual catch up for Brew Monday. (Image: Abbie Trayler-Smith)

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