Friday, 28 December 2012

Arrowe Park maternity unit "not viable" without Welsh babies

The decision to move neonatal intensive care from hospitals in North Wales to Arrowe Park on the Wirral was always one of the more absurd elements of the NHS changes being proposed by Betsi Cadwaladr health board.
 It is now backfiring in spectacular fashion. Not only has there been a huge backlash among the public, but the failings of Arrowe Park have been mercilessly exposed by Plaid Cymru.
 Now comes a damning internal letter from the nurse in charge of Arrowe Park's maternity services, in which she says:

• The service being offered by Arrowe Park is below standard
• The unit is losing "customers" to other units because of this
• The unit is not viable with fewer than 3000 births per year.

 The local newspaper says:
"A four-page letter which had been sent to all midwives, medical and nursing staff by Linda Birch, lead nurse at Arrowe Park Hospital’s women and children's division, and raises deep concerns of “worrying trends” in care given to maternity patients.
The letter states: "The standard of care we are giving to our patients is not good enough and is deteriorating."
Among issues raised are concerns over record-keeping, "rude" staff, lack of privacy and dignity for patients, storage of medication and poor communications between patients and midwives.
A graph contained in the document shows the number of patients has fallen from 300 bookings per month in January, 2011, to 245 a month – representing fewer than 3,000 births per year.
The letter discloses the unit is losing patients to other maternity services providers "because we are rude to them, we are not giving them what they need".
And, shockingly, it warns: "At less than 3,000 births, our unit is not financially viable."
The hospital is now facing an independent inquiry due to report back in 2013.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for North Wales, has led the campaign to retain neonatal services in North Wales. He said:

"News of poor standards of care at the Arrowe Park maternity unit will not bring any comfort to people in North Wales who could be facing the long trip there if Betsi Cadwaladr's board presses ahead with its plans.
 "The hospital's own managers admit that the unit isn't up to standard in terms of care and it makes the decision by managers here in North Wales to move neonatal intensive care there even more questionable. That decision will be made in January and I think now is the time for the board to take a step back, reconsider the evidence and maintain neonatal intensive care here in the North.
 "To move services to a unit that its own manager admits is not viable and is failing would be a dereliction of duty. As it is, I think we have to ask what checks Betsi Cadwaladr made of Arrowe Park before opting for this, rather than listening to the clinical advice.
 "We have an excellent and proven Special Care Baby Unit service here in Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor hospitals. Moving the neonatal intensive care element to Arrowe Park must now be abandoned so that we can continue to have an excellent service within the region."

 The big question is whether Betsi Cadwaladr management conducted a proper investigation into whether Arrowe Park was fit for purpose before making their recommendations. It is becoming apparent that Arrowe Park's financial needs (it proposes to charge £1240 a day for the neonatal cases from Wales - about £1.1m a year) take precedence over the clinical needs of newborn babies.

 • A further twist in the tail is that Betsi Cadwaladr's director of nursing Jill Galvani - who as recently as October 1 was attending consultation meetings to defend the move to Arrowe Park - has now been unveiled as the new director of nursing for the Wirral University Health Trust. This is the Trust that runs Arrowe Park.  

Monday, 24 December 2012

Affordable homes policy in crisis

Wrecsam Council's affordable homes policy is in crisis.
 At the council's next planning committee, Bloor Homes, developers at the Gatewen housing estate, will propose that the proportion of affordable homes on the 236-house estate is reduced from 20% to just 5%.
 None will be for rent, they will all be 85% of the open market value with a housing association picking up the remaining 15%.
 We've reported on this development time and time again because they have consistently tried to undermine the affordable housing requirement - currently 25% under the local Unitary Development Plan.
 At a time when Cheshire West and Chester Council is aiming for 40% affordable housing in its new build, Wrecsam is opening the doors to developers who will be building more unaffordable housing estates.
Plaid councillor Arfon Jones said: "I think it's despicable that greedy developers are determined to undermine the democratic decision of Wrecsam Councillors by reducing the proportion of affordable homes on what is a massive housing estate to just 5%. If Cheshire West and Chester can include a figure of 40% affordability in their plans, then Wrecsam Planning Committee needs to get real and refuse this attempt to move the goalposts."
 Officers are recommending approval on the basis that the estate is not viable if they build 20% affordable housing. Councillors should insist on seeing the details of that viability study - if accepted it will set a precedent for every large housing developer to reduce its affordable housing quota to whatever it sees fit.

UPDATE: Bloor Homes is one of the UK's largest privately owned housing developers and its owner, John Bloor, was 12th in the Sunday Times Rich List for 2012. His fortune is estimated to be £480 million.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Growing up with the idea of an independent Wales

I grew up in a time when Wales didn't want to run its own affairs. I was 17 and just too young to vote in the 1979 referendum that rejected watered-down devolution decisively.

Nothing stays the same and now my eldest son is 16 and, like almost any teenager, only knows of a Wales with its own government and a Senedd, no matter how shackled and timid. He doesn't remember the dark days of direct rule.

 This new generation are growing up with the idea of greater confidence in their country's ability to run its own affairs. The older generations indulged in that Celtic cringe and we all too often slid back into blaming someone else for our woes. Enough of that.

 We need a positive reason to have the confidence to stand up. Scotland is leading the way here - the first leader of an independent Scotland is likely to be a young working-class woman from Glasgow who should have been a natural Labourite but saw through the sterile statism and inherent conservatism of that ideology. So many parallels with our own party's development in recent months under Leanne Wood.

 Gerry Hassan's perceptive piece is about how Nicola Sturgeon is making the case for an independent Scotland more relevant to people like herself. Our aim of an independent Wales also has to become more relevant - essential even - as we peer into this economic black hole created by bankers and politicians, who in turn are punishing the poor and disabled.

 We certainly can't wait for the feeble government currently lurking in Cardiff Bay to deliver an alternative to austerity. They're happy to keep Wales voting Labour until the next UK election. That's their real prize - regaining power in London rather than standing up for a Welsh alternative.

 There is a generational shift taking place as these teenagers grow up with that idea firmly planted. We've come a long way since 1979...

Ymunwch â'r chwyldro cydweithredol

Mae menter gydweithredol Saith Seren Wrecsam ar drothwy cyfnod cyffrous arall wrth i’r gwaith adeiladu fyny grisiau ddod i ben.
 Er mwyn talu am y gwaith, mae’r fenter yn cynnig cyfle i bobl ddod yn aelodau drwy fuddsoddi rhwng £100 ac £20,000 mewn cyfranddaliadau yn y fenter. Mae Saith Seren wedi agor fel tafarn a bwyty ers 11 mis ac ar fin ehangu fyny grisiau er mwyn cynnig swyddfeydd i fudiadau sy’n hyrwyddo ac yn dysgu’r Gymraeg, dosbarthiadau i ddysgwyr Cymraeg a stafelloedd gyfarfod i’r gymuned gyfan.
Mae’r gefnogaeth gan y gymuned leol ac o bob rhan o Gymru wedi bod yn hanfodol hyd yma.
 Dydan ni heb dderbyn yr un geiniog o arian cyhoeddus i’r fenter ac felly mae pob llwyddiant yn ddibynnol ar haelioni ein aelodau. Mawr yw ein diolch i’r rhai a fentrodd ar y cychwyn cyntaf a gobeithiwn y gallwn ddenu’r un faint o ddiddordeb a buddsoddiad gyda’r ail gynnig yma.
Dyma’ch cyfle chi i fentro er mwyn gwneud rhywbeth ymarferol i normaleiddio’r iaith Gymraeg mewn tre’ prin 10 milltir o’r ffin ond sydd â 1,000 o oedolion yn dysgu’r iaith mewn amryw ddosbarthiadau ac ysgol Gymraeg newydd Gwersyllt yn agor fis Medi nesaf oherwydd y galw cynnyddol am addysg ddwyieithog.
 Gallwch brynu’r cyfranddaliadau fel anrheg Nadolig hyd yn oed!
Os ydych chi am fod yn aelod o’r fenter unigryw yma, ewch i neu cysylltwch a er mwyn cael y ffurflen angenrheidiol. Neu gallwch ffonio 07747 792 441 neu ysgrifennu at Saith Seren, 18 Stryt Gaer, Wrecsam, LL13 8BG.

Join the cooperative revolution

Saith Seren’s cooperative adventure is about to take another exciting turn as building work on the first floor of Wrexham’s only community-owned pub and Welsh Centre comes to an end.
In order to pay for the work, the cooperative is offering another chance for people to become members by investing between £100 and £20,000 in shares in the venture. The Seven Stars opened as a pub and restaurant 11 months ago and is about to expand upstairs. We will be able to rent out offices to organisations that promote and teach the Welsh, Welsh learners’ classes and meeting rooms for the whole community. We have also restored and re-opened an important part of Wrexham’s heritage, a wonderful listed building that had lain idle for more than a year.
The support from the local community and from every part of Wales has been crucial so far. We have not received a penny of grant funding towards the enterprise and therefore all our success depends on the goodwill of our members and our own efforts. We are very grateful to those who ventured from the outset and we hope that we can attract as much interest and investment with our second offer.
This is your chance to do something practical to help build our community cooperative and normalise the language in a town where 1,000 adults are learning the language in various classes. In addition, thousands of people are sending their children to local Welsh schools  the latest opens in Gwersyllt next September due to the increasing demand for bilingual education.
 You can even buy the shares as a Christmas present!
If you want to be a member of this unique initiative, please visit or contact to obtain the necessary form. Or you can call 07747 792 441 or write to Saith Seren, 18 Stryt Gaer, Wrecsam, LL13 8BG.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Darren Millar cheering on Labour!

We in Plaid Cymru have said it a million times, there is not a blind bit of difference between the British Unionist parties...Vote Labour get Tory or vice versa. They have now reached the stage that they don't even hide the fact that they are identical. The latest example is that of Tory AM Darren Millar openly praising the Scottish Labour leader Johnann Lamont:
Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission has attracted yet more support from the Tories today after a Senior Welsh Conservative heaped praise on her for supporting “our policies.
Tory AM Darren Millar said that “yet again Johann Lamont has shown her Welsh colleagues the way forward” in abandoning their support for free prescriptions.
This is not the first time that the Tories have praised Johann Lamont after she abandoned Labour’s commitment to universal free provision of a number of vital services – some of which were key manifesto commitments she was elected upon little over a year ago.
Earlier this year Ruth Davidson said that in launching her attack on these services, Ms Lamont was moving Labour “onto Tory ground.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Mark McDonald – who sits on the Health and Sport Committee – said:
“When the Tories become the biggest cheerleaders for your health policies, it is surely time to stop and think, but Johann Lamont seems determined to press on ahead with her cuts commission.
“Darren Millar’s comments come hot on the heels after Ruth Davidson embraced Labour’s conversion to Tory policy
.“The fact is that before the SNP abolished them, there were 600,000 families on incomes of as little as £16,000 who were liable for prescription charges – a tax on the sick.
.“The more you look at them, the more alike the anti-independence parties appear to be - these startling comments from yet another Tory remind us that the only a yes vote in 2014 can safeguard the achievements of the Scottish Parliament.”

Monday, 3 December 2012

Too little, too late!

Too little, too late surely must be our response to the promises made by our weak and unimpressive Environment minister John Griffiths following last week's floods. Mr Griffiths was interviewed by Huw Edwards on the new flagship Wales Report which was then reported by BBC Wales where he said that:
"We now have a system in place that wherever housing is proposed in flood risk areas it has to be referred to the Welsh government to consider whether it needs to be called in, so we now take a much more strong line to make sure that only appropriate development takes place."
Since when have we had this process of calling in planning applications on flood plains? Is it a typical Welsh Government knee jerk reaction to crisis or is it something that was intended to be included all along in this magical new 'Planning Bill' that "We" are working on?

This begs the question of who are "We"? In the article John Griffiths goes on to say, "There's a much more hands-on approach from Welsh government," to which we the cynics comment, "You don't say."

 Our cynicism arises out of the term "We"! There is no "We" it is in fact "They" of the Planning Inspectorate who even though planning is devolved do not gain their considerable authority from the Welsh Government but rather from the Westminster Government. You now have the one and only reason why Planning Policy in Wales is such an unholy mess with unelected bureaucrats from Westminster being able to strike out Welsh Local Development Plans at a whim and imposing their own housing figures which unsurprisingly seem to meet the aspirations of developers.

We can only speculate what the Planning Inspector would have done on appeal had Denbighshire Planning Committee refused the Glasdir development in Rhuthun on the basis it was on a flood plain, but we know in our hearts they would have given it the go ahead.

What we need is a new planning system in Wales that has the needs of the people of Wales at its heart and not one that reacts to the whims of developers and Westminster politicians like Nick Boles.

We need an Environment Minister with balls!