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Struggling families can rest a little easier thanks to field hospital bed donations

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

Pictured with some of the beds at Bay Field Hospital are (l-r); Sally Bloomfield, Bay Hospital Project Lead; Service Improvement Manager Amanda Davies; and Space Management and Commissioning Manager Tracey Elsey.
(Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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.

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“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)

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Carmarthenshire

Health boards warn of major computer system outage affecting 111 and out of hours GP services

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Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay University Health Boards have both issued a warning of a major computer outage that is that is used to refer patients from NHS 111 Wales to out-of-hours GP providers.

This system is used by Local Health Boards to coordinate services for patients. The health board say that the ongoing outage is significant and has been far reaching, impacting each of the four nations in the UK.

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Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay say that in response to the outage, health boards and their partners across Wales have developed and deployed plans so services can continue to operate.

They warn that the weekend will be a busier time than usual for NHS 111 Wales, and there are things that the public can do to help as work is done to resolve the issue.

Should the public continue to use 111?

Yes. As always, the public is encouraged to start with online help at 111.wales.nhs.uk where there is trusted health advice and information available, including more than 70 symptom checkers for many ailments and minor injuries.

What will be my experience if calling 111?

The weekend is a high demand period and processes have been put in place to continue to provide services. Capacity is being maximised by the Welsh Ambulance Service who answer 111 calls, and by Local Health Boards who provide the out-of-hours service. It may take longer for calls to be answered and we thank the public for their patience.

What can the public do to help?

Taking steps now to avoid needing to call 111 will #HelpUsHelpYou. If anyone has a medication concern, we encourage them to contact their GP today during working hours. If it is not an urgent concern, you can also speak to your local pharmacist about medications. You can find your GP and pharmacy opening hours at 111.wales.nhs.uk.

If you are calling 111 for health information, we ask people to think carefully about whether the enquiry is urgent. Remember that 111.wales.nhs.uk has lots of trusted health information and is a good source for many questions that you may have about common health concerns, chronic conditions, treatments, mental and physical health and much more.

The health boards say that people should consider the full range of options that are available to them in their local community which could include visiting your pharmacist for minor ailments and medicine matters.

They add that Ambulance and Emergency Departments remain very busy, and stress that it is still important to protect these services and they should continue to be used for life-threatening and serious emergencies only.

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(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Hywel Dda NHS

Health minister visits new Llanelli day surgery units nearing completion

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Work is nearing completion on the new Day Surgery Unit at Prince Philip Hospital, in Llanelli, which the health board says will help reduce surgical waiting lists for patients in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Hywel Dda University Health Board has delivered the scheme thanks to £20m of Welsh Government funding.

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Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, visited the unit on Friday (5 July), which is due to welcome patients during September 2022.

She said: “Investing in new facilities such as the day surgery unit at Prince Philip Hospital is a vital part of our ambitious strategy to transform planned care in Wales.

“This new unit will help to see thousands of people in need of surgical treatment in the Hywel Dda health board area, as well as those from neighbouring health boards, and will bring more resilience and capacity for NHS Wales to care for people when they need it.”

The unit, includes two theatres, designed specifically to reduce risk of infection by generating a continuous flow of bacteria free air, as well as preparation rooms, anaesthetic rooms, changing facilities and a recovery area.

Ultimately the theatres will have capacity to run six days of the week and will cover specialties including orthopaedics, general surgery, urology and vascular surgery, although this work will be phased.

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Although based in Llanelli, the health board say that the theatres will provide care for patients across the Hywel Dda region and for patients on the borders with Powys and Swansea health boards.

Consultant surgeon and Clinical Director for Scheduled Care Mr Ken Harries said: “We are looking ultimately for around four to five thousand patients to receive procedures in this unit annually. We are ambitious on behalf of our communities and are extending our theatre sessions and days to maximise efficiency and see patients, some of whom have had to sometimes wait significant amounts of time.

“There is a continued challenge of getting the workforce to help us deliver this, but that is a challenge we share with the NHS across the country and one which we are putting all our efforts into. We hope this first-class facility and our approach to recovery, will attract future recruits.

“An added advantage this unit will give us is that it is stand alone, which protects it from impacts within the main hospital wider activity, this will be of huge benefit to patients coming into the unit and for our staff also.”

Executive Director of Strategic Development and Operational Planning Lee Davies added: “This has been an ambitious project, driven by a shared desire to rapidly provide additional facilities for patients across our region to receive their treatment. It is part of our wider recovery plan to rapidly address waiting lists which have grown during the pandemic, which we know is of significant concern to our residents and a key priority for this health board.”

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(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Neath Port Talbot

The doctor will see you now: 21 new consultation rooms open at Neath Port Talbot Hospital

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Swansea Bay health board have announced an extra 21 consultation rooms have been opened in Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s outpatients department to help tackle its 56,000 patient waiting list backlog.

The move has seen the hospital’s Ward G, formerly a mental health ward for older people, undergo a refurbishment to transform the space into the additional outpatient facility.

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Mental health services for older people were recently transferred to Tonna Hospital, which the health board said meant Ward G became available for much-needed outpatient clinic use.

The new outpatient suite is located in a separate building, with its own entrance accessible from car parks, at the back of the hospital.

It will initially house urology and rheumatology clinics – alongside phlebotomy as soon as staff are in place. Eventually the health board hopes to cater for a wider range of outpatients including neuro rehab as well as supporting spinal, orthopaedics and gastro clinics.

The number of patients awaiting an outpatient appointment across Swansea Bay is at an all-time high, with over 56,000 patients waiting for a first appointment at the end of April 2022.

NPT Hospital staff survey one of the new consultation rooms (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The pandemic has contributed to this volume because so many appointments have been restricted over the past two years. The health board has also repurposed a large proportion of the original Outpatient area in Morriston Hospital to support critical services through Covid-19.

The space is now being permanently used for unplanned, urgent care to treat more people quickly and effectively, in line with the Changing for the Future plans which include Morriston as the centre of excellence for urgent and emergency care.

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Inese Robotham, Swansea Bay’s Chief Operating Officer, said the move at Neath Port Talbot Hospital was part of a much bigger plan to tackle waiting lists. She explained:

“The move is part of our Recovery and Sustainability Plan which identifies a need to improve and transform the way we deliver outpatient services, harnessing digital technology and patient directed care to reduce waiting lists.

“However, there is still a requirement to see patients face to face and therefore, a number of projects to increase capacity are underway. These include the new outpatients facility in Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

“We are aiming to maximise outpatient potential, and are reviewing accommodation across the organisation to ensure maximum utilisation of space and care is delivered at the right place at the right time.”

Temporary signage points to the entrance of the new outpatients ward at the rear of the hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Jessica Jones, a project manager for Swansea Bay’s transformation team, said that the work in Neath Port Talbot Hospital will help address growing waiting lists, with further improvements to come.

She said: “This does not fully re-instate the health board’s pre-Covid capacity but will significantly support specialties in delivering vital outpatient clinics. There are also plans to convert other areas to increase outpatient capacity following the implementation of the acute medical services redesign.

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“More than 40 outpatient clinic rooms were re-purposed for other uses as part of the Covid response, so the additional 21 rooms in Neath Port Talbot Hospital offer much needed capacity to help tackle the waiting list.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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