Charity really does begin at home when it comes to donating hundreds of beds no longer needed at Bay Field Hospital.
They will be used to help tackle bed poverty – the true extent of which is now emerging in the Swansea Bay area, with reports of children sleeping on floors, on sofas and even in the bath.
A consignment of beds is now on its way to a refugee camp in Moldova, ready for use by people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Others are also being distributed to families in Swansea Bay who will host Ukrainian refugees coming to the UK.
But the majority will be donated to local communities, including charity groups and individual families – many of whom are struggling more than ever because of the economic crisis.
Most of the beds at Bay can be reused in Swansea Bay’s main hospitals and by NHS patients in community settings.
However, just under 600 of them, bought at the outset of the pandemic with Welsh Government funding, were only ever intended for a short-term emergency situation.
They were never meant for permanent use, as they lack the motors and pedals required to raise and lower patients. But they are ideal for everyday domestic use and include mattresses and head and foot boards.
Thanks to the vaccination programme and other measures in place during the pandemic, none of the beds were needed. But they will still be put to good use to support health and well-being in the Swansea Bay area.
Amanda Davies, the health board’s Service Improvement Manager, said 250 of the beds were being transported to Moldova. The remaining 350 will be donated locally, most of them to families with children.
“One in three children in Wales lives in poverty – around 18,000 in the Swansea Bay area,” she said.
“We were aware of a significant issue with food poverty, but bed poverty is much bigger than we could have anticipated and is something very much under the radar.
“We have heard of local children sharing beds with family members, having to top and tail in beds, and sleeping on sofas or mattresses and cushions on floors.
“We’ve even heard about a child sleeping in a bath tub. That is just unbelievable and it is unacceptable that this is happening in the 21st Century.”
Amanda said that, if a child did not have a bed to sleep in, they would be tired in school and could not learn properly.
This affected their future life chances and widened the health inequalities gap within society.
“As a health board we have a moral and ethical obligation to help families in need,” Amanda said.
“If children are sleeping on floors they are more likely to be admitted into our hospitals with various health conditions.
“As a health board we are in a unique position to make a difference. We want to bring about a lasting positive change.
“Poverty can happen so easily, to so many people. It isn’t their fault, but they are embarrassed about it.
“So we want to talk about it, to get rid of that stigma, so more people feel they can come forward and ask for help.”
The health board is working with Swansea and Neath Port Talbot local authorities, schools, and the two councils for voluntary services in Swansea Bay, which are identifying potential families to receive the beds*.
“Our staff and local organisations have been very generous in donating new bedding,” Amanda added. “Our community dental team has also donated dental packs.
“So when a child receives a bed from us, they also have a new full set of bedding and a dental pack to accompany them.”
The beds destined for Moldova are being taken there by Communication Workers Humanitarian Aid – comprising mainly of Royal Mail workers who take aid abroad to people in crisis.
“We are very appreciative to removal company Britannia Robbins, which is delivering beds free of charge to people and families who do not have their own transport,” Amanda added.
One of the charitable organisations to have received beds is Dewis. It provides specialist support to young people aged 16-25, in the Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend areas, especially those with complex needs, who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Director Pam Short said: “As a small local charity, the donation of six beds from Bay Field Hospital enables us to further support the young people we work with.
“Increasing costs mean that moving on to independent living is more challenging, and benefits and grants don’t cover all costs in enabling a young person to furnish their home.
“Having a stock of beds means we can support young people at a point of transition or those who are moving on.
“We are grateful for this kind donation, and it will help us to make a difference to those we support.”
*Please note – the health board is unable to receive bed requests directly from families or individuals.
Lead image: Staff from removal company Britannia Robbins, which has donated its services free of charge, load up a consignment of beds for delivery to local families. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)
Maggie’s making a big difference for adults with learning disabilities
For over a decade, Maggie Higgins has made a big difference to the lives of people with learning difficulties and hearing loss – contributing to work which can help reduce the risk of them developing dementia.
Her support has even helped one adult hear birds singing clearly once again.
For others, it helps fulfil their potential and maximise their independence despite any difficulties they may face.
Now her work has been recognised through a major NHS award.
Maggie’s responsibilities within the speech and language service, which is managed by Swansea Bay and hosted in Cardiff and Vale, involves supporting adults with a learning disability, particularly hearing loss.
She has helped improve services around successful assessment, diagnosis and ongoing support for hearing loss, while a key part of her role includes overseeing the Positive Approaches to Supporting the Senses (PASS) group, which she set up with clinical psychologist Dr Sara Rhys-Jones.
PASS works closely with audiology experts to support patients, many of whom have had no concerns highlighted about their hearing, or had not been assisted in attending hearing tests or follow up appointments.
Significantly, Maggie’s work has led to a sustained sevenfold increase in referrals to audiology services for people with a learning disability – lowering the likelihood of undiagnosed or misdiagnosed hearing losses, which can decrease the risk of developing dementia.
Maggie said: “This is particularly encouraging following a Lancet Commission report in 2020 which identified that ‘unsupported hearing loss is the single greatest preventable risk factor for developing dementia.’
“People with a learning disability are at far greater risk of having undiagnosed or unsupported hearing loss and are known to be three times more likely to develop dementia than the general public.
“I raise awareness and get people seen and supported appropriately to reduce the risk where possible.
“Sensory loss is particularly prevalent and frequently undiagnosed and unsupported amongst people with a learning disability. The responses that might indicate someone has a problem hearing are very often mistaken for characteristics of their learning disability.
“It is essential that we understand what someone can see and hear so that we provide the best possible support. We cannot accurately estimate the impact of a person’s learning disability unless we are aware of what they can see and hear.”
Now in her 20th year with the speech and language service, Maggie has spent the last 12 years focusing on the impact of sensory loss on people with learning disabilities.
It is an area which she is particularly passionate about.
She said: “When I started this work, the link between unsupported hearing loss and dementia was not known but that was not the primary reason that I started to work on it.
“It was the fact that people weren’t recognising the signs of sensory loss and people were not accessing assessments. The work has become even more important now that we understand there is a link.
“You can’t underestimate the difference it can make to the lives of people with previously undiagnosed issues who go on to have hearing aids fitted.
“One lady left her hearing aid fitting appointment and burst into tears because she could hear the birds singing.
“It is terribly frustrating for individuals who, given the right support, could be involved to a much greater degree.
“When hearing aids are fitted or communication is adapted appropriately, the difference in people’s ability to engage with others and their environment can be overwhelming to see, irrespective of whether or not they use verbal communication.”
Maggie also created My Hearing Action Plan to help people with learning disabilities and their carers understand their hearing loss and the methods they can implement.
Following diagnosis of hearing loss, Maggie and her team support individuals, carers and staff to understand the impact of that person’s particular hearing loss on their communication and daily living.
Working with Occupational Therapist Maura Shanahan, she developed innovative learning disability and sensory impairment awareness training for professionals, families and carers, which enables them to experience particular levels of hearing loss.
It has led to an increase in the use of sensory-supportive approaches that help people with learning disabilities improve their health, well-being and quality of life.
Her efforts over the past decade have recently gained recognition in the form of being named the outright winner of The NHS Employers Award at the 2022 UK Advancing Healthcare Awards.
The award category identifies an outstanding achievement by an apprentice, support worker or non-registered technician in an allied health professional or healthcare science service.
She added: “I was totally amazed to be shortlisted, let alone win the award in my category.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the speech and language service for 20 years, so it was a really lovely way to celebrate that landmark.
“Working with adults with a learning disability is an absolute privilege.”
(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)
New regional centre at Morriston Hospital to treat lung conditions given go-ahead
Plans for a new multi-million pound Adult Thoracic Surgical Centre for South Wales can go ahead at pace following a major boost from Welsh Government.
The new centre, to be based at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, will treat lung cancer patients and others who need surgery for a range of chest conditions.
It will be able to operate on an increased number of patients, potentially upwards of 20% more, and will be the third largest centre in the UK.
Following extensive public consultation in 2018, it was agreed that the new centre will provide a single service for South Wales for residents living in the Swansea Bay; Hywel Dda, Cwm Taf Morgannwg; Aneurin Bevan, Powys and Cardiff and Vale Health Board areas. The centre is expected to be open within the next three to five years.
Patients will be treated as much as possible within their local health board area, only having to travel to the Morriston centre for pre-admission assessment and the surgery itself.
The endorsement of the proposal by the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan will enable the next key stage – the development of detailed plans – to now get underway.
Siân Harrop-Griffiths, Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Director of Strategy and project lead, said: “Developing this scheme and getting the agreement of all the clinicians and organisations across South Wales has been time consuming and complex.
“But we are delighted that this endorsement by the Minister means we can now take this work forward at pace to provide better thoracic surgical services for everyone across South Wales.”
Malgorzata Kornaszewska, Consultant Thoracic Surgeon at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Clinical Lead for the South Wales Adult Thoracic Surgical Services Programme said: “The new centre will be a centre of excellence with access to modern technology, and will be able to offer a comprehensive, modern, timely and high standard service to our patients.
“It will also create an excellent opportunity for teaching, training and research. This is an exciting time for the thoracic teams and Welsh thoracic patients.”
The South Wales Adult Thoracic Surgery Centre will standardise the delivery of these services across South Wales, improving the long-term sustainability of the service.
Having the specialist service in one dedicated centre will improve equity of access and patients’ experiences, and most importantly provide better health outcomes.
The single site thoracic surgery centre will be designed in line with best practice and the recommendations of various reviews and consultation processes.
As a centre of excellence, it will provide dedicated thoracic surgery to meet national standards, enabling sub-specialisation of surgeons, which in turn will enable a higher standard of complex surgical procedures to be performed.
All health boards in South Wales, led by Swansea Bay UHB, have worked together alongside the Welsh Ambulances Services Trust and community health councils to develop and agree a plan to develop this new unit at Morriston Hospital.
Carpenter still at work after nearly slicing off his fingers says thanks to Morriston Hospital
A retired carpenter who almost sliced off his fingers is still crafting away in his workshop thanks to the skill of Morriston Hospital staff.
Colin Taylor was working on turning a piece of wood into a teapot-shaped plant potholder when his wood cutter slipped and went into his hand.
But despite slicing two fingers through to the bone, he is not just busy in his garden workshop but has also rediscovered his artistic skills as a way of thanking hospital staff.
The 73-year-old said: “I had put the wood in a vice and started shaping it with an electric cutter. I had a new blade which was able to cut everything including metal.
“It had gone well, when I had an itch on my nose and went to scratch it. I took my hand off the cutter and it cut across the timber and across my hand.
“There was blood spurting up in the air. I knocked the cutter off immediately, and my wife called my daughter who is a good first aider. She came up and my fingers were hanging off. I’d damaged them all, but particularly my middle and index finger, and had severed two tendons.
“My daughter took me to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr but they contacted Morriston Hospital who told me to come down straight away.
“From the moment I went in it must have been the best treatment in my life. The people were so nice and courteous. I was seen to first by a young lady who cleaned me up, and then the doctor came and took a look at it and said I’d have to have an operation.
“They injected my finger and the operation didn’t take too long, and I went home and my left hand was in a plaster for in six weeks. The surgeon fixed the tendons.
“It is not 100%, but it is what it is. I have got to get on with it. It’s a bit stiff in the morning and I can’t bend my middle or index finger like I used to.”
The grandfather of three has since produced a couple of paintings which he has presented to staff at Morriston Hospital by way of thanks.
He added: “I did some painting a long time ago. I always enjoyed painting and carpentry, although I know I’m no Picasso.
“But the people in hospital were so good to me I just wanted to do something to thank them.
“I’m not surprised the NHS has such a good reputation with people like that working there.”
Specialist hand physiotherapist Iona Davies added: “Following surgery and initial assessment at Morriston Hospital, Mr Taylor was able to access our specialist hand therapy services virtually, at a time when local therapy services were constrained due to Covid.
“This eliminated the need for him to travel from Tredegar, where he lives and cares for his disabled wife.
“He has been dedicated to his rehabilitation and exercises, and as a consequence has been able to achieve his treatment goals, returning to woodwork and painting. The outcome following such an injury is dependent as much on patient’s motivation and commitment as it is on surgical skill and therapy input.
“We were delighted to receive his gift.”
Lead image: Colin and daughter Heather with the painting of Morriston Hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)
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