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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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Arts and Entertainment

Cult brand ‘Bingo Lingo’ announces Swansea Arena show

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Cult bingo brand Bingo Lingo has announced it will be bringing its popular mad-cap style of bingo to Swansea Arena this October.

The unconventional bingo night, which has previously sold over a million tickets to revellers across cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Luton, has announced a huge one-off show at Swansea’s newest multipurpose entertainment venue – Swansea Arena.

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Past winners have walked away with prizes ranging from the incredible to the ridiculous; from a new car, electric scooters, to festival tickets, giant inflatables and holidays.

The team behind Bingo Lingo announced the event explaining that: “We operate in over 30 cities in the UK, but the shows in Cardiff and Swansea are some of our favourites. Every event we’ve held in Swansea has sold out and the summer series we did with The Swansea Bay Pop Up was so fun. We want to give the city a huge show and Swansea Arena was the obvious choice.”

Tickets go on sale Wednesday 10 August at 12pm.

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Film & TV

Paralympian Ellie Simmonds OBE confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

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Paralympian and former Olchfa Comprehensive School pupil, Ellie Simmonds OBE has been named as a contestant on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

The five-time Paralympic champion and broadcaster joins previously announced contestants Will Mellor, Kym Marsh, Richie Anderson, Kaye Adams, Jayde Adams and Tyler West.

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Ellie Simmonds OBE said: “Oh my gosh!! I’m literally bursting with excitement!! It’s been soooo hard keeping this secret as I’ve wanted to tell everyone. I’m going on Strictly Come Dancing!! I’m a tad nervous too, well more than a tad… I’m absolutely petrified!

“To be asked to be part of the Strictly family is just so exciting and I cannot wait, it’s going to be so much fun. I’m counting down the minutes until it starts; learning to dance, meeting my partner and everyone else involved in the show. Plus wearing the sequins and all that, it’s going to be a blast.

“I’ve been watching Strictly from as far back as I can remember; it’s a traditional lead up to Christmas with my family and it’s a genuine privilege to be part of it.”

Ellie is best known as a gold medal-winning Paralympic swimmer. At the age of thirteen, while a pupil at Olchfa Comprehensive School in Swansea, she was the youngest British athlete at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, and won gold medals in the 100m and 400m freestyle events.

In 2012 she achieved gold in the 400m freestyle and the 200m Individual Medley at the Summer Paralympics in London and won a further gold in the 200m Individual Medley at Rio 2016. In addition she has won ten gold World Championship titles.

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At the age of 13 she won BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year and a year later, at just 14 years old, she became the youngest person ever receive an MBE. She was elevated to OBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to Paralympic sport.

After retiring from competitive swimming in 2020, Ellie has gone on to present for BBC Sport, most recently for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, as well as making documentaries such as Ellie Simmonds: A World Without Dwarfism? for BBC One and BBC iPlayer. She is set to explore disability and adoption in a recently announced ITV film.

(Lead image: BBC)

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Sport

Alastair Brownlee wins inaugural Swansea IRONMAN as thousands of spectators line streets to watch

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Olympian, Alastair Brownlee has won the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, with thousands of spectators lining the Swansea to Gower course to watch the event.

Pro-athlete Kat Matthews won the women’s race.

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Alistair Brownlee said: “It’s been a tough year with some ups and downs, I think I decided to race Swansea about three weeks ago. It’s actually a place I know pretty well as I’ve done some training here throughout the years, so it’s nice to be back. It’s great to take on my first 70.3 in the UK.”

On the podium, Brownlee said: “I had a couple of occasions where I was going up a hill, looking at the view over the coast to my left or right, which was really beautiful. There were some great crowds in random spots throughout the Gower, with people popping up on farm tracks and all sorts. It was lovely. I think the crowd and the weather are what made it today.”

At the pre-event press conference, Kat Matthews said: “I’m most looking forward to the change in dynamic of the course. You’ve got the first half which is really punchy rolling hills, trying not to get distracted by the sea and beach. Then you’ve got the slight technical aspect, and then you’ve got the TT element. I think it just adds the whole package to the race.

“We’ve been in and out of the cafes, actually experiencing the local area. It’s been amazing – all the locals have already been really nice. I think we’ve seen a mix of the normal Swansea, having arrived so early, and then the triathlon community wafting through. It’s been a really good mix.”

Kat Matthews celebrates winning the women’s race at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Swansea’s own Shane Williams also toed the start line at the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, finishing the race 16th in his age group with a time of 05:17:46. His first IRONMAN 70.3 event ahead of his upcoming full-distance triathlon at IRONMAN Wales in Tenby on 11 September, Williams credited the spectator support as his key driver to participate in IRONMAN events.

Ahead of the race, Shane told organisers: “I’m most looking forward to the support. It’s the reason I did my first IRONMAN down in Pembrokeshire. The support at IRONMAN Wales is unbelievable, and I’m expecting the same in Swansea. If any of the other IRONMAN events are anything to go by, we’ll have a stack of people showing up to cheer us on.”

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A proud 63% of the athlete field raced for Wales, with over 700 athletes from the Swansea area taking to the middle-distance course. Topping the Tri Club podium were local clubs Celtic Tri, Swansea Vale Tri, and the Port Talbot Harriers, who collectively brought 160 of their affiliated athletes to compete in the event.

IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea sold out over 2,000 places in less than four days and brought an estimated economic boost upward of £2.5m to the region. Returning to Swansea until at least 2024, the event will look to continue growing its popularity and visibility over the coming years.

Swansea Council say that the event brought an estimated £2.5m to the economy, with many accommodation providers doing excellent business along with many other businesses in the hospitality sector.

Ahead of the event, Declan Byrne, VP of Operations, EMEA at The IRONMAN Group said: “It takes a while to get to this point in an event’s evolution. It was November 2019 when we came down here first, to get this event up and running on a windswept day. We met our good partners in Swansea Council and Welsh Government who wanted to support this event.”

“We wanted to put a 70.3 in Wales. That was the vision. We know how strong the Welsh triathlon community is, especially in South Wales, and we felt that Swansea was the perfect location when we met with the teams here. It was also the fact that it was a community and a host venue that really wanted us to be here.

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“We have a fantastic field of professional athletes as well, which delivers a brilliant image for this event that puts Swansea and the triathlon community on the global map.”

Athletes compete during the swim section of IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Athletes entering the water (Image: Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN)
The cycle portion of the route headed along Mumbles Road and around the Gower (Image: Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN
Maurice Clavel of Germany competes in the bike section of IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Kat Matthews of Britain celebrates winning the women’s race at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
Antonio Lopez of Spain finishes second at IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea (Image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “It was an amazing week, topped off brilliantly by the weekend’s two world-class events.

“I thank all those who took part, arranged and supported the events – and thank all residents and businesses across Swansea and Gower for their patience and understanding as they made changes to their day-to-day lives.

“We do appreciate that road closures cause some disruption to normal daily routines – but they’re important to make such events as safe as possible for all involved and local residents.

“Bringing top class sport and other events to any location has its challenges but we’re determined to give the people of this area their biggest ever programme of major events.

“They give local people great things to see and do – and they boost the local economy in a substantial way.

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“This truly was a big weekend of international sport and it shone a global spotlight on Swansea as a destination.”

(Lead image: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

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