Thursday, 3 September 2015

Fantastic response to Wrexham solidarity appeal for refugees and migrants

A Wrexham woman has been overwhelmed with support for her plan to show solidarity with refugees and migrants.

Katie Wilkinson, 27, a final-year Glyndwr University student,  said: 
"A friend, Leanne Davies, and I were reflecting on the tragic images of the children who drowned trying to flee Syria. Some of the comments we had read on social media sites cast a bleak response, which left us feeling disheartened and ashamed of how these innocent people were being treated and viewed. 
 "We started discussing possible ways we could support them and show solidarity; we hoped to just fill my car with some goods and drop them off with one of the many groups that are making trips to Calais. I wrote a simple Facebook status to see if any friends had any items they could donate, however the status was shared over 80 times and the comments and messages I received from people wanting to help were overwhelming and inspiring. 
 "In fact, the response was so great it led to us creating a group where over 200 people from the local community had joined in under five minutes. As I write this, just over six hours since creating the group, the membership stands at more than 400. Not only have the donations poured in from local people, but local businesses and organisations have reached out to offer themselves as drop off points, meeting locations, sorting rooms and much more. 
 "What began as a small status posted to a few friends has turned into an entire community action in the space of 24 hours. Not only is this campaign, and all the others like it, offering assistance to those in Calais who are desperately trying to survive, it is counteracting the negative depictions the government and mainstream media are projecting about what should, or should not, be done to help. 
 "As the response has been so huge, we are now planning to go directly to the camp in Calais on the 19th of September to join others from across the UK and Europe in a day of solidarity. If anyone is wishing to gain more information or get involved, please join our Facebook group 'Wrexham to Calais solidarity'.
 "Anyone wishing to make a donation there are drop off points at the Saith Seren, Glyndwr Student Guild office and Splash Magic in Plas Madoc. The last 24 hours has not only shown how compassionate and dedicated our local community is, but also how many people want to see positive change for the refugees in Calais."

Logistical nightmare of getting siblings to separate schools.

This is a letter sent to the Wrexham Leader by a concerned parent about Wrexham CBC's complacency and lack of  effort to meet parental demand for Welsh Medium Education:

Dear Editor,

Another long summer holiday draws to an end as many wonder where did all that time fly. September begins and many parents in the Wrexham area delight in their pride as they don their young children in their first school uniform. With a touch of trepidation they will accompany them to the school gate and wish them all the best as they begin what is hoped will be a happy and successful time in their respective school. Such is the case in our household this year and as a family we look forward to being able to watch our daughters walk together to and home from their school, being fortunate enough to live within walking distance allowing for some regular exercise in the process.

However, I recognise that all families have not been as fortunate. As September begins there are households in Wrexham who remain uncertain how they will cope with the school commute for this year and in future years. I can only sympathise with those parents who face the logistical nightmare of ensuring that two young siblings arrive at two different primary schools before having to commute to their own place of work in the town at the height of rush hour traffic since the council's admissions policy has forced families to separate brother and sister in the primary school which they can attend. At least one other family has been offered a place by the council in a school a significant distance from their home forcing them to bypass two closer appropriate schools which they applied for. Surely the enforced separation of young siblings and a commute greater than that which is necessary is an unfair situation to place these young children, let alone an unreasonable challenge to set working families.

Alas, not so. The council maintain that their admissions policy is appropriate. That it is perfectly acceptable to enforce the separation of brothers and sisters in relation to the primary school which they attend, and quadrupling the distance a family must travel to reach school in comparison to their nearest local school is reasonable. Indeed, the editorial of this paper has in the past indicated its view that these parents should familiarise themselves with the nuances of admissions policy and accept the reality of education services in Wrexham entails the enforced separation of siblings and travelling past schools where friends from their community are attending to begin their education outside of their village on the other side of town with not a single familiar face in the classroom.

Realising that this is the reality of the council's admission policy and its impact on 3 and 4 year olds, I find it difficult to recognise the policy as reasonable, adequate and fair.

Yours sincerely,

Rhodri Davies

Public meeting to discuss maternity services closure

Campaigners against the closure of maternity services in Wrexham Maelor hospital are hoping for a bumper turnout at a public information meeting this Friday.

The meeting in the Catrin Finch Centre, Glyndwr University, starts at 7pm on September 4th. Speakers include Dr Eamonn Jessup of the British Medical Association and local campaigner Ruth Drake, from the Cherish charity.

Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper, who has organised the meeting, said:

“The health board’s latest consultation is a very real threat to maternity services across North Wales. The board tried to close consultant-led maternity services in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd without warning earlier this year but a successful legal challenge by the BMA forced it to think again.
 “This consultation has widened the scope to include both Bangor and Wrexham hospitals, so it’s possible we could see 2,100 of the births that normally happen in the Maelor being transferred to either Chester or Glan Clwyd. We believe that extra journey will increase the risk to mothers and babies unacceptably and will not be temporary, as the board claims. “We’re equally opposed to the downgrading of services in Bangor or Glan Clwyd, because mothers there should also not be forced down the A55 in search of specialist help. There is plenty of evidence to show that journeys beyond 45 minutes increase the risk and the congestion, roadworks and accidents on the A55 make it even more hazardous.”

Cllr Harper said a petition opposing the changes had already attracted more than 2,000 signatures locally in just one week and she had been among the 700 who marched against the proposals in Rhyl on Bank Holiday Monday: 

“That shows how much people value their maternity services – many of us are incredibly thankful to the doctors, nurses and midwives in maternity and Special Care Baby Units for the work they do.
 “There are challenges facing the health board but many of the problems they face are of their own making. Shortages in middle-ranking doctors are not unique to North Wales and are not new either. Long-term planning, as Plaid Cymru has proposed, could bring a new Medical Training school to the North and start the process of training and recruiting doctors to serve both our local communities as GPs and as specialist doctors in our hospitals. “In the short term, we need to work with the Wales Deanery and Mersey Deanery to get more doctors working in our hospitals as well as ensuring nurses have the chance to become Advanced Nurse Practitioners and Advanced Neonatal Practioners. “These are practical steps both the health board and Welsh Government should be doing – in fact should have been doing some years ago. Because they have failed so badly, we’re now playing catch up and it’s become something of a crisis. It’s a crisis of their own making. Mothers, babies and their families should not pay the price for their inaction and ineptitude.”

·        Catrin Finch Centre is on Crispin Lane, Wrexham, with plenty of free parking. Tea and coffee available on the night.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Hundreds in Wrexham sign petition to protect North Wales maternity services

Hundreds of signatures were collected today in Wrecsam town centre in response to the Health Boards consultation on the future of maternity services across north Wales. 

The petition opposes any downgrading of services at the Wrexham Maelor and also calls on Betsi Cadwaladr to retain doctor-led services in all three district hospitals.

One of the four options being considered is the temporary downgrading of doctor-led maternity services at Wrexham Maelor hospital. This option would see up to 1000 expectant mothers forced to travel to either Glan Clwyd or Chester to have their babies.

Plaid's Wrexham Assembly candidate Carrie Harper said: " There was a very strong reaction from local people today to the idea of downgrading Wrexham maternity services. Many people were horrified at the proposals and expressed their concerns about the possibility of so many local women having to travel for care and the increased risk this would pose to the health of new mothers and their babies."

" Many also expressed a huge amount of support for the staff at the Maelor and the quality of care they'd received when having their own children there.."

"Childbirth is by its nature very unpredictable, I know this only to well myself having had my son 9 weeks early, having the right level of care on hand locally was absolutely vital for us and will be for other local families. Studies have shown that an increased travel time of just 45 minutes can significantly increase infant mortality rates. The increased travel time to get to either Glan Clwyd or the Countess of Chester, along with other problems such as congestion on both the A55 and the A483 will put local mothers and babies at an unacceptable increased level of risk."

 "Plaid Cymru have consistently challenged Betsicadwaldr's plans to downgrade maternity services across north Wales. Option 1 of the current consultation would see doctor led-maternity care continue to be provided at all three district hospitals at Wrexham, Glan Clwyd and Ysbyty Gwynedd.  This is the option we need to fight for."

"To give people more information, we've also organised a public meeting in the Catrin Finch centre at Glyndwr University (Crispin Lane entrance) at 7pm on Friday, September 4th. Among the speakers will be Ruth Drake from the Cherish charity and a long-time campaigner for better baby care services locally, as well as Dr Eamonn Jessup, of the British Medical Association. I would urge people to  come along to have their say."

People can also sign the online petition which currently has over 1,800 signatures here:

Friday, 28 August 2015

Council reduces use of bailiffs

Plaid Cymru has welcomed the reduction in the use of bailiffs by Wrexham Council.

Plaid Cymru's Gwersyllt councillor Arfon Jones said research by the Money Advice Trust into the use of bailiffs by 326 local authorities in Wales and England showed Wrexham County Borough Council had "bucked" the overall trend by reducing the number of occasions they have instructed bailiffs to collect from individuals and businesses.

 The figures show the council reduced the number of bailiff involvement by 29% over 2 years, although that still meant instructing bailiffs on 2539 occasions - equivalent to 3.98% of properties in the area. 

Not all councils in Wales have reduced in the same way. Cardiff City Council by comparison has instructed bailiffs on 24,000 occasions, which is up 86% on two years previously - equal to 14.7% of their properties.

Cllr Arfon Jones said:

"I have had several conversations with Wrexham Council officials over the years where I have expressed concern about the council's use of bailiffs and I very much welcome this reduction in their use. There is however plenty of room to reduce further and I very much hope that we continue in that vein. I will also be asking officers for a briefing and understanding so we as local councillors can be aware of best practice."

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's Assembly candidate for Wrecsam said: 

"I have assisted many people who have been in debt and felt pressurised by bailiffs. This has caused stress and ill health in families as charges often lead to the original debt being doubled. Bailiff use should be a last resort and I very much hope that Wrexham Council will continue to reduce the number of debtors to bailiffs even more."

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Nant Silyn: Plans to close last council care home 'flawed'

Wrexham Council's plans to close its last remaining care home for the elderly are flawed and ignore the growing need for care in the community.

That's the view of Plaid Cymru's Wrexham spokeswoman Carrie Harper after a visit to Nant Silyn in Caia Park, Wrexham.

She said the consultation paper into the closure did not explain the situation in full and raises more questions than answers.

Cllr Harper said: 
"Council officers have been trying to close Nant Silyn for the past decade. Back in 2009 my Plaid Cymru colleagues and I, when we were on the council, successfully opposed a closure plan. It's clear that the current situation, where only seven of the 29 beds are occupied, has happened due to a policy of not accepting admissions for the past year and a half. It's little wonder that the place is costing more to run if there are so few people being cared for there. With just a few more residents, it's likely the home would be in surplus.

 "The determination in certain quarters to press ahead with closure would mean residents and those who use the home for vital respite care would go to a variety of care homes in the private sector. The council says there is no demand for these services but the private sector obviously disagrees as it expands in the Wrexham area.  "Furthermore the council is making assumptions regarding future cost of these private placements without acknowledging the calls from private care providers that councils will have to pay more for care if they are to afford new minimum wage standards in the coming months and years.  "The council also talks of block booking respite care in private care, which may result in them paying up to £600 a week for an empty bed. Is this really a better way to deliver a much-needed service? "Losing Nant Silyn would also mean losing a centre of expertise and care, somewhere with skills in reablement and already delivering much-needed dementia services and day care in the community. "Families today told me that Nant Silyn is just the sort of place where they feel confident that their relatives can have good quality respite care and enable them to stay in their own homes. It is also popular with local GPs, who see it as a useful halfway house for the elderly as they leave hospital. If it goes, the danger is that we will see more bed-blocking in the Maelor because we lack community facilities." 

 She also criticised Wrexham Council's decision not to consult with the wider community on this matter, saying future users were being denied a chance to have their say. Cllr Harper added: 
"There's a petition being distributed and I would urge everyone who wants to ensure we have the best possible care for our elderly and infirm to support Nant Silyn."

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Re-thinking public funding

A visit along the Clywedog Trail today got me thinking about how public money is often squandered on projects that cannot be sustained.

The Clywedog Trail runs seven miles from Minera lead mines

along the river Clywedog to Nant Mill, Coedpoeth

past the Bersham industrial heritage centre and renovated ironworks

 before winding its way past Erddig and on to King's Mill at Abenbury.

It's a wonderful trail for walkers and has some fantastic industrial heritage sites, including what many argue is the cradle of the industrial revolution in sleepy Bersham. Iron mad John Wilkinson developed world-leading industrial processes at the site, exporting cannon disguised as water pipes to France and paving the way for the rapid expansion of the Wrecsam area as an industrial centre. 

But what the above centres - lovingly restored and re-opened to the public in the 1980s and 1990s - have in common are that they are all now closed. 

Cutbacks to council budgets have meant that non-statutory services such as leisure and library services (under which these sat) were first to go. That's a matter of great regret because our history and heritage are important. Bersham was the last to close last year - allegedly to save £58,000.

All these sites were restored at great cost through public funding - through the Welsh Office, the WDA, the EU and latterly the Welsh Government. Like so many of these projects, the funding is usually to fund building work rather than running costs and is usually time limited so that such funds run out after three years or so.

Over-optimistic business plans, often run up hurriedly to meet artificial deadlines imposed by the grant providers keen to get rid of funding before year's end, are concocted. These show inflated visitor numbers and spending in the cafe and shop paying for staff and ongoing maintenance. The tight limitations on spending often mean great extravagance on the build when some would have been better kept for running costs.

Another more recent project that springs to mind locally is the "tarting up" of King Street, with nice new lighting and paving. The limitations of the scheme - which cost £1.6 million - are apparent. Half the shops in King Street are now closed and there was no way to spend any of that money on assisting local enterprises to either stay in business or open a new business. The money had to be spent on the paving and lighting. 

By most measures, this is a waste of money and merely reinforces the view that "the Council" and/or "the Government" hasn't got a clue when it comes to spending public money. And while there's always a need to ensure that public money is spent wisely and within strict perameters, these artificial pots of money create a race among "grant chasers". This is a curious body of people that exists in councils, universities and many voluntary/charitable groups. They scurry from pot to pot trying to justify their particular projects within those strict perameters, hoping to squirrel it away.

Unfortunately there is little thought beyond the moment of attaining the prize. There is little thought of what will be the fate of King Street in five or 10 years' time because the caravan has moved on and there's another pot of money to exploited. Among them will be the Vibrant and Viable Places to rejuvenate Wrecsam town centre. At first sight, it's encouraging to see a large slice of money coming to the town - £10.5m of public money to be boosted by private finance to £25m. However the money is to be spent partly on providing new housing. The remainder will go on developing the arts sector and creating new businesses.

 It remains to be seen how that pans out - Wrecsam has a lively creative arts industry that needs a focus and help. Entertainment in its broadest sense is the way forward for the town centre as it seeks to reinvent itself in this online/out-of-town shopping era. 

But is there anyone thinking beyond the next grant pot and how Wrecsam will look in 10 or 20 years' time? Or will we see more Minera Lead Mines, Nant Mills, Bershams and Kings Mills?

* Bersham is particularly close to my heart as I worked there on a glorified YTS scheme (MSC) back in the mid 80s.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Plan proposes 1,000 babies to be moved to Chester

New proposals on closing maternity services in North Wales could mean 1,000 babies currently being born in Wrecsam being moved to Chester.
 Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board today announced it would consult on four options. The first is to maintain the current levels of consultant-led maternity services in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Wrecsam and Bangor.
 The other three options involve the "temporary" closure of doctor-led services at one of the three hospitals.
 In the case of Wrecsam, that would mean 1,000 babies being transferred each year to the Countess of Chester hospital. The cost to the NHS in Wales is unknown.
 A further 1,100 babies would be transferred to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd under Option 2 of the consultation document with just 600 births remaining in the Maelor" in a standalone Midwife-Led Unit. In the event of an emergency, an ambulance would take the mother and/or child to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.
 Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's Wrecsam spokeswoman, said: "The health board has come up with a set of proposals that will place mothers and babies at greater risk than at present. Any decision to downgrade maternity services at the Maelor will be fiercely opposed and the idea that mothers should travel the extra distance to Chester or Glan Clwyd is a huge concern. Many people don't have ready access to a car and those that do are well aware of the problems of congestion, roadworks and regular accidents along both the A55 and A483."
 The consultation lasts until October 5th and there will be a public meetings in the following venues to discuss the options.
 Carrie Harper, who gave birth to both her children in the Maelor, said: "Please make your voice heard and make sure our local hospital is not downgraded.
 "Plaid Cymru's call for 1,000 extra doctors to be trained and recruited has never been more relevant. We need those doctors to ensure there are safe and sustainable rotas at each of our main hospitals in the North.
 "The current Labour Government in Cardiff has failed miserably to make that a priority and that's why we're seeing our NHS struggle to meet demand."

Wednesday 9th        Rhyl Town Hall, Wellington Road, Rhyl, LL18 1BA
Friday 11th               Wrexham Memorial Hall, Bodhyfryd, Wrexham, LL12 7AG
Tuesday 15th            Holyhead Town Hall, Newry Street, Holyhead, Anglesey, LL65 1HN
Thursday 17th           Dolgellau Leisure Centre, Ffordd Arran, Dolgellau, LL40 1LH
Monday 21st             The Interchange, 317-319 Abergele Road, Colwyn Bay, LL29 9YF
Wednesday 23rd       Flint Town Hall, Holywell Street, Flint, CH6 5NW
Monday 28th              Bangor FC, The Book People Stadium, Nantporth, Holyhead Road, Bangor, LL57 2HQ
All sessions will run from 1:00pm to 2:30pm and 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Corbyn in North Wales

Last night's meeting with Jeremy Corbyn at Connah's Quay Labour Club was an insight into the potential for political change.

 Probably half of those present were curious to hear a man offering hope and a challenge to the political establishment, the rest appeared to be fervent converts to Corbynism (note the word 'socialism' wasn't mentioned once throughout the evening).

 Corbyn is refreshingly unspun. He's been an MP since 1983 and has campaigned for every unfashionable left-wing campaign since (as have many of us!). He has a consistency that has, until now, pushed him to the margins of Labour.

 The anti-Tory, anti-austerity rhetoric was good. He questioned why the rich need bonuses to perform but workers don't. He condemned Alistair Darling's call when the banks crashed to make cuts more severe than Thatcher: "Not offering an alternative to austerity is what cost us the election."

 Given his experienced Welsh campaign managers it was surprising he was so badly briefed about Wales... he mentioned re-opening the rail link from Aberystwyth to Cardiff, which got muffled applause in Connah's Quay; he attacked academy schools, ending EMA and tuition fees - which apply only in England. And, although he was spot on about privatisation and the hollowing-out of the NHS in England, his praise for the NHS under Labour in Wales cued an embarrassed silence. Nobody round here believes Labour is doing a good job of running the NHS in Wales.

A friend who was also there commented "he's the only hope Labour have" and she's right. If Labour reject Corbyn, they continue with the spin-doctored warmongering pro-austerity Labour party that has been hollowed out. 

But politics in Corbyn's world is still binary - we're Labour because we're anti-Tory therefore vote Labour. People in Connah's Quay, who had travelled from Cheshire, Prestatyn and Wrecsam to see him, could applaud that simplistic worldview but when asked by a Labour councillor if he'd work with the SNP in an anti-austerity alliance at Westminster he ducked the question.

In contrast to the earlier Llandudno meeting, there were no open questions at the end. Pre-selected Labour loyalists were invited to ask questions. It's clear that Old Labour, which never went away in places like Alyn & Deeside, is backing Corbyn to try to get rid of the parasitical New Labourites who have ruled the roost for a generation.

If Corbyn was to win, and the opinion polls all point to that, he will face a huge challenge. The backlash has already begun from Blairite loyalists and the prospect of a vicious internal civil war is very likely, not least because Corbyn wants to "re-democratise" the party.

Another Plaid Cymru member in attendance commented there was nothing he said that Leanne Wood hadn't said in the past two years and he's right. Wales already has party that is clearly offering an alternative to the Tory cuts agenda. The crucial difference is that Corbyn has yet to win over large swathes of his party to such an anti-austerity message.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Amaethwyr a Ffracio.

Dyma lythyr dwi wedi ei yrru i Olygydd Y Tir sef misolyn Undeb Amaethwyr Cymru ar y mater o ffracio ar ei tir:

Annwyl Olygydd,

Hoffwn ddiolch i staff yr Undeb am y croeso a gefais ar eich stondin yn y Steddfod a parodrwydd y staff i drafod pwnc llosg iawn oedd gen i sef safbwynt yr undebau amaethyddol ar 'ffracio'. Mae pob ymdrech i gael safbwynt polisi gan UAC ar 'ffracio' wedi dod i fyny gyda distawrwydd llethol o'ch cyfeiriad. Mae nifer fawr ohonom, ymgyrchwyr amgylcheddol yn gefnogol iawn i'ch ymgyrch dros brisiau têg a hyrwyddo cynnyrch lleol Cymreig OND mae angen i amaethwyr ddangos cefnogaeth i amrywiaeth sydd ddim yn difrodi y gadwyn fwyd os ydynt am gynyddu y gefnogaeth at ei hachos.

Mae digon o dystiolaeth o draws y byd fod 'ffracio' yn gwenwyno y dŵr a drwy hyny achosi dinistr enfawr i'r diwydiant. Pwy sydd yn mynd i brynu llaeth os mae o wedi ei lygru gan fethane?

Mae y cyhoedd yn ymddiried yn amaethwyr Cymru i amddiffyn tirwedd ein gwlad ar gadwyn fwyd; a mae cyfrifoldeb fawr arnoch i wneud hyny drwy ddatgan yn gyhoeddus eich gwrthwynebiad i ffracio.

Yn gywir,

Cynghorydd Arfon Jones.

Siawns na neith y llythyr sbarduno aelodau i ddod a chynnig o flaen cyfarfod blynyddol yr undeb i ddatgan safbwynt polisi fod yr undeb yn erbyn ffracio neu nwy anghonfesiynol i roi yr enw cywir arno.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Community Health Councils set to be stripped of their right to inspect health care settings.

On the 6th July 2015, the Minister for Health Mark Drakeford published a Green Paper, "Our Health, Our Health Service, " with the purpose of stopping the rot or in the Green Paper's words:
"... is to promote discussion and gather views to help inform the potential for further legislation in the Fifth Assembly with regards to improving quality and governance in the NHS in Wales"
The Green Paper whilst not promoting quality as it claims to do will in fact reduce the regulatory regime and remove powers of inspection of health care settings from Community Health Councils. 

Paragraph 92 of the Green Paper states:
"... The role of CHCs may need to be refocused towards some key functions, such as collectively representing the patient voice and providing advocacy for people wishing to raise concerns about care, while stepping back from activities which may be better carried out by others, such as inspections and service change proposals. In addition, the current model of one CHC for each health board area may no longer be the best fit for a service which works increasingly across boundaries and in partnership with other services. CHCs may need to change reflect a more integrated service model. Whether and how CHCs should change to fit the new integrated structure needs careful
consideration "
The regulation regime for visits will if the above is agreed fall to the Health Inspectorate Wales, who are not slow in ensuring their rehabilitation (after Tawelfan) and are busily undermining and briefing against the Community Health Councils to strengthen their own position.

There is however a vast difference in the capacity of Community Health Council's to carry out inspections of health care settings compared to the capacity of the poorly resourced and bureaucratic Health Inspectorate Wales. 

The difference between the two organisation is best exemplified by an email that the Chief Executive of the North Wales CHC, Geoff Ryall - Harvey sent to his members:
You will be aware that the NHS Green Paper proposes that CHCs should be stripped of their rights to enter and inspect NHS premises – a right we have held since 1974. I understand that this proposal is strongly supported by HIW who have been promoting their own “professionalism”, criticising the CHC’s lay focus and citing the Minister’s desire to do away with duplication in the inspection of the NHS.
Before accepting these arguments at face value, it would be useful to look at how things work in the real world. Let’s take, for example, Bryn Beryl Community Hospital;
When the CHC first visited Bryn Beryl using its BugWatch regime in the Summer of 2014, CHC members were appalled by the findings. I contacted the Director of Nursing and the Director of Infection Control & Preventionthat day. The hospital was closed and a range of measures including deep cleaning, staff training and support and extensive repairs to the fabric of the building were undertaken very rapidly.
CHC members visited Bryn Beryl again in November 2014 and also in February 2015 using our CareWatch methodology. We found the hospital much improved but still relatively poorly performing. We notified BCUHB accordingly and they undertook to address the issues raised.
When we visited in June of this year we found that the problems we identified in Summer 2014 were back again. CHC Officers contacted the Director of Nursing and the Director of Infection Control & Prevention and we went through a similar process of rapid rectification. The worrying thing is, of course, that matters in this isolated community hospital had deteriorated once again without BCUHB being aware of it.
Where were HIW in all of this?? The last time they visited Bryn Beryl was 2008. Seven years ago – 3 years before the creation of BCUHB. Let me say that again;
However professional and detailed that inspection was, it was seven years ago. Bryn Beryl is an isolated community hospital dealing with many vulnerable dementia patients. This is a known set of risk factors and although their own inspection showed many serious problems - HIW appeared to be content with a period between visits of at least seven years.
The 2008 HIW Report identified the same issues that the CHC identified in the Summer of 2014 – yet SEVEN YEARS LATER they have still not undertaken a follow up visit. HIW relied on an exchange of letters rather than an actual inspection to check that improvement to patient care had been carried out. By contrast, the CHC lay members did a follow up within weeks and then kept following up using BugWatch and CareWatch. We will also do our FoodWatch survey in the near future. Rest assured that we will visit Bryn Beryl very frequently until we see permanent improvements.
The BCUHB Annual Quality Statement for 2014/5 that says;
“During 2014 -2015 Healthcare Inspectorate Wales undertook a total of 8 Dignity and Essential Care Inspections across the range of ours services including our main hospitals, community settings and Mental Health Services.”
Over the past 3 years there have been many concerns about the quality of care provided by BCUHB and at least five major critical reports. This is the Local Health Board that has caused Welsh Government the most concern and it is the only Welsh Health Board to be placed in Special Measures. Despite this, HIW felt that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board warranted only 8 Dignity and Essential Care Inspections in 2014/15. NW CHC felt very differently and CHC Members have given freely of their time in order to monitor the quality of services from a patient perspective.
Page 32 of the same report records that:
“CHC members undertook over 500 assessments during 2014-15”.
There has been criticism that this is “too many”. However, we do not hear that from Ward Managers and Nurses. They welcome our members as it is often the only way they can get problems sorted out. With regard to the idea that 500+ visits is too many, this works out at somewhere around 4 visits per ward per year – certain wards may receive more than this but it will still be in single figures. HIW visiting frequency could be 4 or 5 years or even as long as a decade apart.
The Minister is right to be concerned about spending NHS money on a duplication of inspections but is aware that, in reality, HIW inspections are few and far between?
There are several other proposals in the Green Paper that substantially reduce the powers of CHCs including reducing our role in consultations and removing the power to refer Local Health Boards to the Minister. I will brief you on those changes over the next month. The closing date for comments on the Green Paper is 20th November 2015 and I believe it is essential that everyone responds, including individual members and any local organizations with an interest in maintaining an effective Patient Voice in the NHS.
Let's be in no doubt that if powerful vested health interests in Wales succeed in removing the regulatory and inspection powers of Community Health Council's there will be more care and cleanliness issues but much much less openness and transparency. 500 inspections compared to 8 will be a massive reduction in quality monitoring.

Please lobby your AM's to prevent this detrimental change from going ahead and to maintain an effective Patient Voice in the Welsh NHS.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Welsh Language Standards - The Wrexham Debate!

Wrexham Council's efforts to bully the Language Commissioner into accepting their standards and rejecting others.

I then wrote the following letter to the Leader exposing the council's little games:

Dear Editor,

Cllr Hugh Jones's press release, regurgitated without challenge by the Leader, "Welsh Language red tape too expensive" (Leader, July 17) is deserving of critical comment. Communicating with the public in the delivery of services is fundamental to the core business of the council; in fact all of the £227 million budget is used in some way with delivery of services. In order to deliver those services we have to communicate in a language whether it is English, Welsh or bilingually. How Cllr Jones succeeds in disentangling the £700,000 for Welsh is beyond me and does he therefore agree that by a simple process of elimination that it costs £226 million plus to deliver services in English? It just goes to show that his report and article are "utter tosh" and have the sole intention of undermining the role of the Language Commissioner.

He goes on to argue that Wrecsam Council shouldn't provide services in Welsh because of low take up of those services, forgetting of course that by providing inferior services in Welsh like Wrecsam do, so you are forcing customers to use English services. This is called "suppressing demand" by failing to provide an adequate service in Welsh.

Basically, Wrecsam have made no effort for years to improve on their Welsh language services and now the Commissioner and the law have caught up with them and they're now making excuses, whilst at the same time conveniently forgetting that they have known for over 3 years that this day would come. The Commissioner cannot be blamed for Wrecsam Council behaving like ostriches burying their heads in the sand.


The Leader eventually published a heavily edited and sanitised version of the above letter, but even that prompted Hugh Jones to write the following defensive response which doesn't answer the points raised in my letter.

Councillor Arfon Jones is wrong in a number of respects (Wrexham Leader 22/07/15) He knows that the truth is that, I do not and have never, argued that Wrexham should not provide services in Welsh, indeed it is the opposite. As a Council we go to significant lengths to support the Welsh Language and Culture. Similarly it is a distortion of the truth to say that “Wrexham has made no efforts for years to improve its Welsh Language services”. This is an unwarranted criticism of our Welsh Language Officer and her team. As a Council we encourage and support and pay for members of staff to attend Welsh Language Courses. In our support for the Stiwt over many years we have encouraged and enabled the provision of a Welsh Cultural Centre. Through our Library and Museum services we promote and encourage Welsh Language and Culture and we have a Welsh Language Scheme that has been approved and inspected by the former Welsh Language Board. At the same time we have increased the provision for Welsh Language in our schools. 

It is equally a distortion of the truth to say that the “law have caught up with the local authority” we have not breached and do not intend to breach any law. 

In terms of the Standards which the Welsh Language Commissioner is seeking to apply to Wrexham, we have accepted 134 of the 164, the problem lies in the cost of implementing the remaining 30, which has been estimated to be £700,000 each and every year. At a time when the Welsh Government is asking us to cut £45 million from our budget over the next three years, we have a clear choice, Jobs and Services or the Standards. 

Cllr Jones avoids explaining which members of staff will lose their jobs, which services will be cut in order to pay for these 30 Standards. 

The implementation of 134 standards will hopefully lead to an increase in the numbers using our services which is something that I welcome and encourage. Indeed the Council would adopt all 164 Standards if the Welsh Government provides the funding. 

Cllr Jones I know is passionate about Equalities, we need to understand that we serve a Community where several languages are spoken, not only English and Welsh but also Polish and Portuguese for example all of which provide Wrexham with a broad and rich heritage. At a time when we have a policy of reshaping services and protecting the most vulnerable in our Community we have difficult choices to make, in doing so we will fulfil our responsibility to promote and enhance the Welsh language and Culture but we will do so in a way that does not damage our responsibilities to the whole of the County Borough. 

The truth is that Wrexham Council provides the Welsh speaking public with an inferior service in Welsh and thereby suppressing the demand and forcing them to use services in English. There is no doubt that Wrexham Council are treating the Welsh language less favourably than English and the Council need to be commission a 'Mystery Shopper' exercise, but they won't because that will show up which argument is correct.

Wake up people!

Wake up people and do SOMETHING

Be the change you want to see in the world (Ghandi)

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Support/Cefnogwch Thunderclap Addysg Wrecsam

Please join this Thunderclap to support campaigners for better provision of places for Welsh Medium education in Wrecsam CBC.

Cefnogwch y Thunderclap yma i alw ar CBS Wrecsam ddarparu mwy o lefydd addysg Gymraeg yn y sir.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Parent pressure forces council re-think on Welsh-medium education

Parents campaigning for Welsh-medium education in Wrexham have welcomed news that a school is being re-assessed to see whether it can accommodate more children.

There are currently just five spaces available in reception classes across all of Wrexham’s six Welsh-medium schools - and all those are in Ysgol Bodhyfryd in the Hightown area. Parents who have failed to get their children into other schools say they fear siblings will be split up if they’re forced to accept a place in a school some distance from their homes.

There is also concern that schools cannot cope with demand at nursery level - with 20 pupils failing to get a place at Ysgol Bro Alun, Gwersyllt, despite it being a brand-new school.

The campaigners, who this week handed in a 750-word petition to the council demanding it looks urgently at how it will cope with spiralling demand for Welsh-medium education, believe pressure is mounting on the council to act.

Eleri Roberts, of Summerhill, is one of the parents affected and spoke on behalf of Ymgyrchwyr dros Addysg Gymraeg / Campaigners for Welsh Education, a local pressure group: 
“We believe the council is re-thinking and re-assessing its previous stance, which is very welcome news. It’s vital that they listen to parents, to AMs, to councillors and the hundreds of people who have signed our petition in the past fortnight asking that they work harder to meet the demand for Welsh-medium education in the county. It’s clear that the Welsh education minister is unhappy with the situation and we do not believe the council is meeting its own Welsh in Education Strategic Plan. That’s why we’ve kept up the pressure - the council has to stop paying lip service to the Welsh language.
 “We know that there are parents who want their children to go to Welsh-medium schools but know they live too far away to even be considered and opt reluctantly for a local English-medium school. That’s not meeting demand, that’s suppressing the right we should all have to choose properly. These past few weeks and months have been very difficult for parents faced with the dilemma of taking children to two different schools at the same time and then fearing that next year the problem could be even worse as demand increases but the number of places does not.”

 She said it was good to hear that Ysgol Bro Alun, which is over-subscribed despite only opening in 2013, was being re-assessed and hoped this would mean meeting demand in the short-term while the council formulated a longer-term plan to expand Welsh-medium education at primary and secondary levels.