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Royal recognition for role in planning health board’s response to pandemic

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A Swansea Bay University Health Board staff member has been thanked for her work through the pandemic by attending a Royal Garden Party

Planning for and responding to emergencies is second nature to Karen Jones. As Swansea Bay’s Head of Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) Karen is used to expecting the unexpected.

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But nothing could have prepared her for the special invitation she received in recognition of her role in the health board’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a way of thanking her for her hard work, Karen (pictured) was invited to attend one of the Royal garden parties held annually at Buckingham Palace.

It is her duty to ensure the health board is prepared for high risks and emergencies and is able to respond and recover when necessary.

Over the last two years, much of her day-to-day work has unsurprisingly been focused on the response to Covid-19.

This has involved preparing and responding to various scenarios, the initial setting up of testing centres and creating a co-ordination centre where vital information could be shared between services.

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“My job is to try to be one step ahead to try and stop us going into an emergency situation but also being prepared to deal with them if they occur,” Karen said.

“I could see flurries of information coming through about the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019. In January I spoke to our Executive Director of Public Health, Dr Keith Reid, about it as it seemed to be increasing in activity.

“After learning more, I said I think we should invoke our pandemic response plan. I dealt with the measles outbreak in 2013 and I knew this was a rising tide emergency and going the same way so we reacted early.

“I am very proud to say that we stood up our pandemic plans early in order to be prepared.

“We developed templates based on the information about what was going on in Wuhan and asked service groups to develop responses based on a number of ‘what if’ scenarios.

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“We had to set things up very quickly.”

As part of her role, delivering on training and exercising is paramount and Karen has to organise staff exercises as a way of testing the emergency plans in place, should they be needed in future.

Just months before Covid-19 emerged, she had arranged a pandemic response exercise, in conjunction with Public Health Wales, the learning of which went on to form the basis of the real-life response in Swansea Bay.

Karen said having a Covid co-ordination centre, known as Gold Command, where senior members of staff could receive situation updates and share information had been crucial in managing the response.

At the height of the pandemic, meetings were held three times a day as guidance and information was changing rapidly.

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“It was a lifesaver because in an emergency you need a central point for all information to come in so you can manage it and distribute it,” Karen said.

“It was like a tsunami coming towards us and we were trying to make sense of all of the information, especially when we were receiving several versions of guidance about the same thing within a short space of time.

“As well as the massive response within the health board, we also had to link in with multi-agencies and their equivalents to Gold Command structures.

“It was a phenomenal response.”

Karen said she was very surprised to receive the invitation to one of the Royal garden parties but she emphasised that it was a team effort thanks to the hard work from those around her, as well as wider health board staff.

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She added: “It was a complete and utter surprise and I was extremely humbled as I really wasn’t expecting it. I was honoured.

“It was a truly memorable day and the weather was beautiful. There were so many people present, all being recognised for their contributions to society, so I really did feel humbled to be part of it.

“At the beginning of the pandemic it was hard but I was in awe as I couldn’t believe how everybody pulled together. The camaraderie and teamwork – that community tight-knit feel was something I’ll never forget.

“It’s been a team effort from an accumulation of people who had to come together from all areas, led by Dr Keith Reid.

“It is an amazing job and I absolutely love it because no one day is the same. It is so varied and you can achieve so much.”

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Siân Harrop-Griffiths, Director of Strategy, said: “Karen was instrumental in establishing Swansea Bay’s response to Covid, meaning that we were in front of most health boards in our planning.

“For example, we were the first to establish a testing centre for staff.

“She has worked tirelessly through the pandemic, utilising her skills and experience on emergency planning and business continuity to enable us to respond so well as an organisation.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for her efforts to be rewarded.”

Lead image: Karen at the Royal garden party with her husband Martin (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Swansea Bay NHS

Plans for Vascular Hybrid Theatre at Morriston Hospital get a major boost

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Plans for a state-of-the-art new operating theatre at Morriston Hospital which combines a traditional operating room with advanced medical imagery, have taken a huge step forward.

Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan has endorsed the high level multi million pound proposal. This means Swansea Bay University Health Board can now develop the next-stage detailed business case for the Vascular Hybrid Theatre for South West Wales.

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Vascular surgery treats patients with diseased arteries and veins. Blocked arteries can result in limb loss (amputation) and swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) which can burst, resulting in sudden death.

The Vascular Hybrid Theatre, the first in South West Wales, will combine operating theatre functionality and state of the art X-ray imaging equipment. It will treat around 500 patients a year, and some patients who currently need to go to England for treatment will be able to have their care in Swansea instead. The theatre could open early in 2025.

The new theatre will be used by Morrison Hospital’s vascular surgeons and radiologists to carry out minimally invasive techniques, often known as ‘keyhole surgery.

Compared with traditional surgery, hybrid operating theatre surgery is less invasive and less traumatic for patients. The hybrid approach will give patients quicker access to surgery and in some cases could mean the difference between limbs, and lives, being saved.

Currently, a significant number of South West Wales’ patients undergo staged procedures during their care, which can lead to multiple or prolonged stays in hospital.

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Swansea bay University Health Board say that access to these new advanced surgical technologies will allow Morriston’s vascular surgeons to perform both minimally-invasive image guided procedures, as well as traditional open surgery. This will not only improve the overall patient experience, but reduce the risk of amputation, reduce the length of stay in hospital and cut waiting times. 

The hybrid theatre will treat patients from the Swansea Bay, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas.

Investment in the new theatre will also save a significant amount of money for the health service because the surgical techniques the hybrid model supports not only improve patient outcomes, they are also much more efficient.

The hybrid theatre will also support the clinical staff teaching.

Huma Stone, Swansea Bay UHB’s Associate Service Director, Clinical Support Services for Morriston Hospital, said: “We welcome this long awaited development and are excited that we will be able to treat patients using a combination of traditional surgery and the latest minimally invasive (keyhole) treatments at the same time, saving lives and limbs. This also reduces the number of times a patient is admitted, and shortens the patient stay in hospital.”

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Senior Consultant Vascular Surgeon Louis Fligelstone said: “This brings state of the art facilities to west Wales that will enable optimal treatment of patients with swollen blood vessels (aneurysms) and blocked blood vessels and will save lives and limbs, whilst reducing the time patients spend in hospital.” 

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Mayor of Llandovery raises over £2k for air ambulance after surviving freak cycling accident

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The Mayor of Llandovery in Carmarthenshire has raised over £2,000 for Wales Air Ambulance after surviving a freak cycling accident that left him unconscious at the side of the road and saw TWO air ambulances sent to his aid.

Mayor Handel Davies and his wife Margaret raised £2,280 during the annual Mayors Charity Ball.

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The successful ball, which included an auction of rugby related paraphernalia and a raffle, also raised funds for Llandovery Hospital League of Friends.

Over 110 guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment, which included ‘an excellent address’ from Wales Air Ambulance chair of trustees David Gilbert. Over £4,500 was raised during the evening for the two good causes.

The Mayor and Mayoress presented the cheque to David Gilbert at a recent base visit at the Wales Air Ambulance’s headquarters in Llanelli.

The mayor has had personal experience of the essential service the Wales Air Ambulance provides after the Charity’s medics were called out to him during the pandemic.

Handel was involved in a freak accident when a dog ran out in front of him whilst out cycling. He was knocked unconscious for 15 minutes and despite two air ambulances being called out to him, luckily for Handel he didn’t need to be airlifted to hospital.

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Mr Davies said: “A sheepdog literally appeared from nowhere at full speed in the blink of an eye hitting the front wheel of my bike at right angles causing me to fall immediately. It happened so quickly I do not remember hitting the road, but the eyewitness commented that had I not been wearing a helmet I would not have survived. The shattered interior of the helmet is evidence of this.

“It took 6-9 months to really recover and get over the impact, which following another serious cycling accident when I was 18, has led me to decide to ‘hang up’ my bicycle and instead attend ‘spin classes’ at the local leisure centre.”

A cheque for £2,280 was presented to Wales Air Ambulance by Mayor of Llandovery, Cllr Handel Davies

The Wales Air Ambulance Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its emergency helicopters in the air and its rapid response vehicles on the road.

The 24/7 emergency service offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care. 

Reflecting on why the 24/7 Charity was chosen to benefit from the Mayor’s charity Ball, he added: “I have the utmost respect for the incredible and invaluable work the Wales Air Ambulance undertake and as we live in a beautiful part of north Carmarthenshire next to road which is very popular with both cyclists and motor bikers, over the last 25 years we have seen many accidents along this stretch of the A4069 particularly at weekends.

“It seems that almost every weekend during the summer months a Wales Air Ambulance flies overhead to attend to an incident.”

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Jane Griffiths Wales Air Ambulance’s Community Fundraising Manager said: “It was lovely to meet the Mayor and Mayoress of Llandovery during their recent base visit. They’ve raised a fantastic amount for two important causes and we’re extremely grateful for them choosing the Wales Air Ambulance as one of the charities to benefit from the Mayors Charity Ball.

“It’s lovely to hear that the mayor has recovered from his freak accident, and we wish him well for the future. Your support of our lifesaving Charity is much appreciated and will help us to continue to be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.”

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Swansea Bay NHS

£2.5m investment aims to help tackle hospital waiting lists in Swansea Bay by expanding care after surgery

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photo of woman lying in hospital bed

Swansea Bay University Health Board say a £2.5million investment in a new service that provides enhanced recovery support for patients following some types of complex surgery, will open the way for Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals to do even more to tackle waiting lists.

In the wake of the two-year+ pandemic, pressure on waiting lists is higher than ever. Changes to how Swansea Bay University Health Board delivers services; and investment in staff and equipment, are aimed at bringing those waits down the health board says.

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One of the key investments is focused on expanding enhanced post-operative care facilities, which offer a step up from general ward care for patients who need extra support immediately after their operation.

This includes offering patients advanced pain relief, blood pressure monitoring and oxygen support in the immediate 24-48 hour post-operative period.

These facilities and services are not as intensive as high dependency or intensive care units. However, this additional layer of care will offer Swansea Bay hospitals greater flexibility over where that surgery can be carried out.

Opening these services in Singleton and Neath Port Talbot hospitals mean they will soon be able to offer a wider range of certain surgeries which are currently only carried out in Morriston Hospital.

Pankaj Kumar, Deputy Group Medical Director, Morriston Hospital and the project lead said: “In providing these enhanced post-operative care facilities, the health board is providing right-sized, fit for purpose, post-operative care that is responsive to every patients’ needs and is efficient in its delivery of care.

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“It will lead to improved patient care and better clinical outcomes for patients, and will also reduce the time they spend in hospital.”

The health board says that expanding these services will also ease the pressure on critical care units located on the Morriston site, and reduce the risk of a scheduled operation being cancelled at the last minute because an emergency patient needed the bed.

Singleton Hospital, which already carries out some complex surgery, will benefit from four enhanced post-operative recovery beds to begin with (eventual plan is for six beds) offering the enhanced post-operative recovery facilities particularly for colorectal and gynaecology patients.

Neath Port Talbot’s plan to become the Orthopaedic Centre of Excellence will be supported by enhanced recovery unit beds being introduced in phase two, with the commissioning of three beds. This development will also help urology surgical patients.

Morriston Hospital already has advanced post-operative care beds as part of post-anaesthetic care unit services to complement its higher level of critical care beds.

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