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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

Swansea summer of fun set to follow airshow success

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Swansea’s amazing summer of fun is set to continue in the coming weeks following the high-flying success of the Wales Airshow.

The two-day Wales Airshow is the biggest free annual event in Wales and at the weekend tens of thousands were at the city’s prom to enjoy it.

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Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said it was nice to see the much-loved show that took a two-year break due to the pandemic back this year. It’s due to return on July 1 and 2 in 2023.

Last weekend’s show was just a curtain-raiser for an unprecedented year of high-flying entertainment and sports events taking place across the city this year.

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “We’ve got an incredible array of other events still to come, including major music acts like Nile Rodgers and Chic, Paul Weller and Anne-Marie, all of whom will be performing at Singleton Park this summer.

“And that’s on top of rock legend Elton John who made the Swansea.com Stadium his own last week as part of his farewell world tour.

“There will also be free international spectator events like IRONMAN 70.3 Swansea, Volvo 2022 World Triathlon Para Series Swansea and the Para Sport Festival, all of which are being hosted by the city in August.”  

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Anne-Marie will be playing Swansea’s Singleton Park on Saturday 30 July (Image: Wikimedia / Harald Krichel / Creative Commons)

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “The council made it a policy commitment that after two years of the pandemic, 2022 would be the best-ever year for exciting, world-class sport and entertainment in our city. Working alongside our partners and events promoters, we are delivering on that promise.”

He added: “There will also be excitement indoors as well as outdoors as all this will be taking place not much more than a stone’s throw from the Grand Theatre and Swansea Arena with their incredible line-ups of events and acts that’ll also be in full swing.

“All our events will be backed-up by our Destination Marketing teams who will be sharing the news of the big Swansea welcome across the UK. We’re backing local tourism and entertainment businesses and we want everyone planning a staycation in Wales and the UK to know about it.”

The council will also be supporting events arranged by other groups and organisations – from community bike rides to triathlons and duathlons.

Thousands flocked to Swansea Bay for the Wales Airshow (Image: Swansea Council)

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “Some special events to look out for are a Gala performance at Swansea Grand, to celebrate its 125th anniversary, and the return of Swansea Festival to the Brangwyn Hall.

He added: “Following on from the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, we will also see the return of popular events including food festivals and outdoor cinema.”

Cllr Francis-Davies said the council will also be helping host three national cultural programmes that will play out across the city throughout October. 

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He said: “The World Reimagined is a national public arts and education programme, focusing on better understanding our shared histories to make racial justice a reality.

“The education and community programme will run throughout the summer and result in a spectacular arts trail of globes in key locations, creating a new temporary visitor attraction for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.”

World Reimagined will take place alongside two major projects of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK – a national celebration of British creativity.

The first project sees Swansea hosting both the Welsh and UK wide commissions, including a walking trail by the Reading Agency, working with our libraries, virtual and augmented reality to bring reading and storytelling to life.

The second project is called GALWAD: A story from our future. It’s produced by Collective Cymru and will include a new performance by National Theatre Wales culminating in an immersive public performance in Swansea city centre.

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Cllr Francis-Davies said: “The latter part of this year sees the ever-popular Admiral Swansea Bay 10K in September, the annual Fireworks display and the not-to-be-missed Christmas Parade in November.

“All these events will demonstrate not only that Swansea is throwing open its doors to offer its biggest-ever welcome to visitors this year but it’ll also be a major boost for the events, tourism and hospitality sectors after a tough two years.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Charity

Swansea resident stars in film for homelessness charity Crisis

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Social justice documentary photographer and filmmaker, Alice Aedy, has produced two hard hitting and uplifting documentary films exploring the lives and experiences of two people who have experienced homelessness.

Working alongside Brother Film, a south London based production company, and award-winning director, Lucy Werrett, Alice Aedy’s films focus on the stories of Sylmarine and Swansea-resident John, their experiences of homelessness, and life in their new accommodation.

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Leading furniture retailer DFS, and Crisis, the national charity for people experiencing homelessness, commissioned Alice to create these films to showcase the incredible work that Crisis does to help those experiencing homelessness into permanent accommodation. The films also demonstrate how something as simple as a sofa can help people settle into their new homes and make it their own.

DFS has partnered with Crisis to donate sofas to members who have recently moved into new accommodation. A sofa means that Crisis members have somewhere to relax comfortably and enables them to have family and friends over, offering a welcoming space to be proud of – something that can help boost wellbeing and mental health.

Alice Aedy said: “Following the stories of John and Sylmarine through these films was an uplifting, but emotional experience. Hearing about their struggles with homelessness opens your eyes to the challenges faced by thousands of people up and down the UK and it’s a problem that is only growing.

“Crisis does extraordinary work to help those affected by homelessness and I hope these films serve as inspiration to those working to end homelessness and reassure those currently experiencing similar stories to John and Sylmarine.”

Kiran Ramchandani, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, said: “Across Britain, 227,000 families and individuals are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness – this includes people sleeping on the streets, stuck in insecure accommodation like B&Bs, or forced to sleep in cars and sheds because they don’t have a place to call home.

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“Crisis’ mission is to end homelessness, and, through our services, we support people to find permanent housing. Our partnership with DFS is so important as it turns houses into homes where people feel safe, settled and can rebuild their lives.

“We’re grateful to Alice Aedy for telling the powerful stories of two people we support and doing so with such care and humanity.”

John from Swansea talked about his experiences of homelessness, and how charity Crisis have helped

Joanne Shawcroft, Group People Director at DFS, said: “Being comfortable in our own home is something many of us take for granted. A safe, secure and welcoming space can play an important role in helping people rebuild their lives and through our partnership with Crisis, we are proud to have helped many people to feel more at home.

“With the support of Crisis, we’re donating £200,000 of furniture to people who have experienced homelessness, just like John and Sylmarine.”

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UK Government

Council looks for people’s view on how £41m funding pot should be spent in Swansea

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Worth over £41m to the city, Swansea Council want people’s views on how funding earmarked for the city should best be used in the next three years.

Swansea Council say responses to an online survey will help them develop a local investment plan aimed at addressing the city’s needs and making the most of its opportunities.

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Feedback from residents and businesses is needed on a number of key themes by midnight on Sunday July 17. These include communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.

Once finalised, the local investment plan will then help inform a regional investment plan for South West Wales, which is aimed at unlocking £138m of UK Government Shared Prosperity Fund money that’s already been set aside for the region.

Swansea is set to benefit from £34.4m of this core funding, as well as a further £7.2m to improve the numeracy skills of adults.

The Shared Prosperity Fund is the main source of UK Government funding replacing the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund that are no longer available following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, although it is not a direct like-for-like replacement. 

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “Many organisations throughout Swansea made use of EU funds, so we know they’re interested in helping us decide how this funding should best be used over the next three years. 

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“Other people and organisations will have their own views too, which is why everyone is being encouraged to fill out the survey that’s now live on the council website.

“This is an opportunity to help determine how millions of pounds of money will best be spent to boost our communities, businesses and skills, so I’d invite as many people as possible to have their say.”

The regional investment plan will be submitted to the UK Government by August 1 for approval in the autumn.

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