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Hospital team’s pioneering vision is helping to save sight and cut waiting times

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A hospital team is saving people’s sight and cutting waiting times by training staff to undertake procedures previously only carried out by doctors.

The medical retina team in Singleton Hospital’s ophthalmology department has scored a second Welsh first in the space of a year.

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Suzanne Martin has become the first orthoptist in Wales to train to inject a sight-saving steroid implant directly into a patient’s eye.

The steroid, Ozurdex, is used to treat diabetic macular oedema and retinal vein occlusion, both potentially sight-threatening conditions.

Last year, Singleton’s Melvin Cua became the first non-medical practitioner (a clinician who is not a doctor) in Wales to inject it.

Using non-medical practitioners frees up doctors to do other work, vitally important when eye departments across Wales are under huge pressure.

The fact that the injections can now be given in clean rooms in Singleton, instead of the more traditional operating theatres, also provides greater capacity for more eye surgery to take place.

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Orthoptics, a separate profession from ophthalmology and optometry, diagnoses and treats eye movement disorders such as squints.

Unlike nurses, orthoptists do not traditionally give injections, so it has been a completely new experience for Suzanne.

Along with two colleagues, she initially trained to give anti-VEGF injections to treat age-related macular degeneration.

“They are easier to give so those are the ones we trained on to start with,” said Suzanne , Swansea Bay’s Head of Orthoptic Services.

Swansea Bay UHB’s Head of Orthoptic Services, Suzanne Martin (Image: Swansea Bay NHD)

“Ozurdex is technically more difficult but now I have trained to give it – the first orthoptist in Wales to do so.

“Giving injections did take me out of my comfort zone at the start because it was something I had never done before.”

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Suzanne and her colleagues also learnt new techniques that are vital when working in sterile areas – from scrubbing up to infection control.

Next she will be training another orthoptist to give injections. It’s a part of her work that, she says, she really enjoys.

“It’s quite exciting to train someone else but nerve-wracking as well. But you nurture them and when they become qualified it’s a really nice feeling.

“It’s good for the department too, and helps with recruitment.

“We have had people come for interviews who say they have heard of our department because we are so progressive with our extended roles.

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“They want to work for us because we have a really good reputation, which is great.”
One of Suzanne’s first patients is 91-year-old Peter Dover-Wade, from Swansea, who has been receiving injections for the last two years.

Close up of the injection (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mr Dover-Wade, who previously had only been given the injections by doctors, described Suzanne’s work as “perfect”.

The medical retina service deals with conditions at the back of the eye, which are treated medically using drugs, eye drops or lasers. It includes diabetic eye screening.

The development of non-medical practitioners to give injections is down to an investment in the service by Ophthalmology Clinical Service Manager, Cheryl Madeira-Cole.

She said: “It’s very rewarding to be a part of such an innovative and forward-thinking ophthalmology team.

“I am grateful to have the full support from our consultant ophthalmologist colleagues who share the vision to develop our non-medical practitioners into extended advanced practice roles.

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“I am proud to be able to offer such attractive and rewarding career opportunities for our ophthalmic technicians, nurses, orthoptists and optometrists.”

Consultant ophthalmologist, Gwyn Williams (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Consultant ophthalmologist Gwyn Williams said increasing the number of non-doctors giving this important injection increased capacity and saved more patients’ sight.

“We have a weekly clinic with around six or seven patients attending each week. So over a year it means a considerable amount of doctors’ time is saved.

“We are now also able to give the injections in specially-adapted clean rooms rather than in theatres.

“That means there are more operating slots in the theatres, and more doctors available to do the work only doctors can do.

“Obviously it means the non-medical practitioners doing it instead are then not doing the things they were employed to do initially. But we have got around that by employing more of them.

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“With Cheryl’s support we are building a department in Swansea that is more innovative than any of its kind in Wales.”

His colleague Mahmoud Awad, specialist medical retina doctor, added: “Our medical retina team is maintaining its progressive and pioneering stand.

“We are always keen on improving the efficiency of the service and the training of our staff. What a wonderful place.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Dance

Doctors prescribe dance classes to keep patients on their feet

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet.

Five of the health board’s clusters – groups of GP surgeries working together within a geographical area – are backing the scheme as the exercise to music is proven to aid falls prevention.

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Each class is led by a trained dance teacher with participants encouraged to follow a range of routines, designed to develop their strength and balance, with the option of using a chair for support if their mobility is limited.

The Dance for Health programme is a collaboration between the health board, clusters, local authorities, and Aesop, an arts focused charity.

Alyson Pugh, Programme Manager at Aesop, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the health sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people aged over 65 through the medium of dance.

“During each class participants will move to a variety of music from all around the world. The classes are fun and vibrant, increasing fitness, mobility and strength.

“Afterwards, participants will have a good chance to get to know one another over a cup of tea or coffee. No previous experience is needed, everybody is welcome.”

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So far classes are held in Pontardawe, Morriston, Seven Sisters, Cwmavon and Briton Ferry, Upper Killay, Reynoldston, Mumbles and the Waterfront Museum.

Alyson said: “The health board asked for 12 classes across Swansea Bay and funded the management side while the GP clusters are funding the delivery of the classes. They wanted it to be grass roots up.

“Anyone can walk in but they wanted the main referrals to come from the virtual wards and local area coordinators and social prescribers, a whole community approach.”

Lizzie MacMillan (Image: Swansea Bay HNS)

Dance artist Lizzie MacMillan (left), a development officer for Dance for Health, said: “It’s for older people and people who are struggling a little bit with perhaps balance issues, mobility issues as well, so we are not expecting them to foxtrot along the floor on the first class or anything like that. It builds up over the weeks.

“We start off quite gently, just seeing where everyone is in the class – I like to gauge the class first of all to see if people are having problems with balance or perhaps giddiness or joint problems. I like to get to know each person in the class so that I can look after them and know their capacity for movement.

“We use the chairs quite a lot if someone is unsteady on their feet. They can still do a variation using the chair for support. We also do a standing variation if people are a little fitter or a little bit more able to push themselves further in the class.”

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster lead, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as it fits in perfectly with our goal of improving well-being and helping people remain fit and healthy.”

One participant, Pauline Anderson, said: “I’ve been to four or five classes. I thought I would try it to see what it’s like and it’s been very good.

“As you get older you become more immobile. I’ve been struggling with my knees and joints, so I have found it helpful.

“I would advise anyone thinking about it to just come along.”

Another participant, Betty Didcock, said: “I try to keep active as much as I can. I used to enjoy dancing when I was younger. I’ve made friends here. If you’re a bit shy, it’s a wonderful place to come to get used to talking to people. I’m a quiet one. I don’t always do it right but I have a go.”

While Amber Davies said: “I thought I’d come along to see what it was like. It’s important to keep busy and remain active. It’s also a good way of meeting new people.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Swansea

Swansea’s popular land train is back – and you can even take your dog for a ride!

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Taking your family for a day out along Swansea prom? Now your four-legged friend can join in the fun too by hitching a ride on the land train!

Officially known as the Swansea Bay Rider, the 72-seater land train runs along Swansea’s prom from Blackpill Lido to Southend Gardens in Mumbles giving passengers an incredible view of Swansea Bay as they travel along.

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Run by Swansea Council, the land train has been a feature of summer holiday trips for many years – whether it’s to soak up the sights in style, or hop on for a relaxing journey after a day of fun in the sun.

But did you know that dogs are allowed on board too?

The council has highlighted the little known fact that four-legged friends are welcome to ride the land train with their owners, as long as they are wearing a lead and are under control.

With more people than ever taking their dog on holiday or on days out, the land train is another fun activity that all the family can enjoy.

The Swansea Bay Rider is also fully accessible to wheelchair users.

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The land train runs every weekend from 23 April to 4 September, and daily during the school holidays between 30 May and 3 June, and again between Friday 15 July and Sunday 4 September.

The 30 minute ride from Blackpill to Southend runs 7 times a day at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm from Blackpill.

Return journeys from Southend are at 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

Can’t get enough of riding the land-train? How about becoming its driver!

Swansea Council are recruiting a land train driver on a zero hours contract for £19,264 per annum (pro-rata). Applications are open until 24 May on the council’s website.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Books & Literature

Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend

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From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.

In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.

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Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.

For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.

“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”

Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”

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David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.

“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”

The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.

“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!

“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”

The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.

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But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.

The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99

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