Letter to Welsh Government regarding Betsi Cadwaladr’s plans to centralise vascular services at Glan Clwyd.

Annwyl Vaughan Gething

Further to my oral question to you in the Assembly plenary meeting on Wednesday January 9th, we write to you with urgency regarding BCUHB’s recent announcement of their intention to downgrade the world-renowned Vascular Service at Ysbyty Gwynedd. We hope to impress upon you the need to undertake a comprehensive impact assessment of the effects of centralising services on those patients living in the most rural parts of Ynys Môn and Gwynedd, and indeed North Wales as a whole.

A commitment was given last year to safeguard the well-established in-patient and limb salvage service at Ysbyty Gwynedd – and to secure the capacity for emergency admissions – following considerable opposition from patients, staff and elected representatives to earlier plans to move services to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. Now the health board has gone back on its word.

BCUHB’s position was explained to me in a letter from the Chief Executive dated 2nd January (a copy of which is attached for your reference). In response to that letter, may we draw the following points to your attention. (This is not an exhaustive list of concerns):

1. The public consultation on which the decision is based is now considerably dated – which raises serious questions, especially since the service has changed since that consultation.

2. Elsewhere in the UK, the Vascular Society’s guidance (ie. not mandated) is implemented in a way which is mindful of the differences in needs of rural and urban areas – these plans do not give such considerations.

3. We do not believe that there is an argument that standards need to be raised within the current service offered. Ysbyty Gwynedd and Wrexham Maelor – which would be downgraded – operate to very high clinical standards, and it is therefore questionable that standards would be higher at a site that does not currently operate any vascular services, but which also has experienced problems with services currently provided there.

4. We recall that in March 2018, the Board recommended emergency admissions would go to both YG and YGC with consultants at both sites, and in agreement with clinicians and executives, also stated that emergencies would also be carried out in Bangor which is contrary to what is stated in this most recent response. We ask what has changed since March 2018, and stress that building on a recognised site of clinical excellence is far more compelling that the current plans, especially as the Vascular Society or the RCS have specifically recommended that the service should be ‘centralised’ at YGC either.

5. At present, we understand that there are a considerable amount of emergency patients admitted to YG and YWM weekly, but that patient transfer numbers between sites are low because the present system of having two sites works well – and provides the best access for the overall population of North Wales. The proposed plans would also affect the patients’ families.

6. Decision-making appears to be rushed, and ever-changing plans give the impression of further uncertainty which is demoralising for staff and worrying for patients.

7. We understand that the Vascular department at YG can remain attractive to new consultants due to its reputation and believe strongly that the Health Board should strive for such excellence, particularly in rural provision given inherent problems with recruitment, and that it is therefore sensible to build on existing foundations in this field of medicine in North Wales. Furthermore, it has been drawn to our attention that there have been three rounds of advertising posts which also raises concerns about the quality of appointments. This is at best very worrying given that the standard of any future provision at YGC is currently unknown compared to YG’s highly regarded reputation.

8. We are also concerned about the overall impact of this change on the status of Ysbyty Gwynedd, especially in the context of the introduction of a medicine course at Bangor University.

We strongly believe that no decision should be taken until there has been an urgent and transparent review that fully considers the effects of downgrading the service will have on patients living in the farthest corners of Ynys Môn and Gwynedd, who would face added challenges in accessing emergency care provision. Furthermore, we have serious concerns that this persistent agenda of shifting vital services eastwards only puts patients living not only in our constituencies, but throughout North Wales, at further risk – especially when dealing with medical emergencies.

This service change will have a real impact on emergency admissions, and we look forward to your early response in anticipation that you will now accept that this decision must be looked at again for the reasons outlined above.

Yn gywir,

Rhun ap Iorwerth
Sian Gwenllian
Hywel Williams
Liz Saville Roberts

Axing NHS services by stealth will leave rural areas facing health vaccum

Plaid Cymru politicians representing Gwynedd and Ynys Môn in the Senedd and Westminster have called on the Welsh Labour Government to undertake an urgent and comprehensive impact assessment of the effects of moving vascular services eastwards on patients living in the most rural parts of the counties.

Arfon’s Siân Gwenllian AM and Hywel Williams MP and Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts’s call comes a month after Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board reneged on a pledge to keep the world-renowned emergency vascular service at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, performing a dramatic u-turn on a promise to safeguard the well-established in-patient and limb salvage service. Their calls have been echoed by Plaid AM for Ynys Môn, Rhun ap Iorwerth.

The Plaid Cymru representatives who have been at the forefront of a campaign opposing the downgrading of vascular services at Ysbyty Gwynedd are now calling for an urgent review into the effects downgrading the service will have on patients living in the farthest corners of the counties, who will now face added challenges to accessing emergency care provision.

Plaid Cymru Arfon’s Siân Gwenllian AM and Hywel Williams MP said,

‘We’ve now had written confirmation from the Labour Minister for Health that they have no plans to keep emergency vascular services at Ysbyty Gwynedd, despite earlier assurances that the service would be safeguarded.’

‘Local GPs in our constituency was given a guarantee that vascular surgery and emergency admissions would be maintained at Bangor, providing full support for emergency patients and in-patients.’

‘This latest announcement is a complete reversal of policy and BCUHB and the Welsh Government have simultaneously broken their promise to local people whilst pushing ahead with cumulative attempts at downgrading services at Ysbyty Gwynedd.’

‘If the Welsh Government persist with plans to remove emergency provisions from Ysbyty Gwynedd then they must, without delay, publish a comprehensive impact assessment of the effects of withdrawing these services on patients living in rural parts of the county.’

‘Those living in isolated communities who already face significant challenges in accessing healthcare will doubtless bear the brunt of moving this service further away from their reach, putting patients at risk if this agenda of shifting vital services eastwards persists.’

Liz Saville Roberts MP said,

‘People living in the farthest corners of my rural constituency such as the Llŷn Peninsula or the coastal communities of south Meirionnydd will be alarmed to learn that emergency vascular services at Ysbyty Gwynedd are being shifted further eastwards to Glan Clwyd.’

‘Any downgrading of services at Ysbyty Gwynedd seems illogical, ill-conceived and ignorant of the geography of rural Wales, especially given some of the distances people in Dwyfor Meirionnydd already have to travel to access current services.’ 

‘This in itself is an arduous journey but when dealing with medical emergencies, it is unacceptable and an unnecessary strain to place on patients and their worried families.’

‘The extra travel involved coupled with perennial concerns about the availability of ambulances in our most rural communities is an unacceptable burden which I fear could be dangerous to health and even life-threatening in serious cases.’

Plaid Cymru AM for Ynys Môn Rhun ap Iorwerth added,

‘My constituents continue to have concerns that changes to services will have a serious impact on vascular patients–not only for the extra distance that they should need to travel but also because they trust in the exceptional service that is currently offered at Bangor.’

World Mental Health Day 2018

On World Mental Health Day, there is no better time to start talking about mental health, whether you know someone who suffers from mental health problems, or you suffer yourself. Remember that today is a good day to talk, and remember to look after yourself.

There is no bad time to talk about mental health, but today is a particularly good day to make sure you remember the importance of mental health, and the need to strengthen services for those who do suffer with their mental health.

You can hear more from me on World Mental Health Day by watching the video below:

Rhun wears it pink for charity fundraiser

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM for Anglesey added a splash of pink to his usual attire to support Breast Cancer Now’s wear it pink fundraiser, which will take place on Friday 19 October to raise money for vital breast cancer research.

Rhun was joined by over 30 other members of the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff this week, all encouraging people across the UK to take part on wear it pink day and raise money for Breast Cancer Now.

Rhun is calling for his constituents in Anglesey to join him, as well as thousands of others across the UK, to sign up and take part in wear it pink which takes place during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and to date has raised over £31million towards Breast Cancer Now’s important work.

Anyone can take part in wear it pink, whether at work, school or in your community. All you need to do is wear something pink, or hold a pink themed event, and donate to Breast Cancer Now. With every penny raised, fundraisers across the UK will be helping the charity achieve its aim that, if we all act now, by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live, and live well.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM continues his support by joining over 20 AMs across the country as a Breast Cancer Now Ambassador, advocating breast cancer issues and support for the charity’s research both in Anglesey and nationally.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM, said:
“Breast cancer is still the most common form of cancer in the UK. Each year around 11,500 women and 80 men lose their lives to the disease. That’s why I’m so passionate about encouraging everyone in Anglesey to take part in wear it pink day on Friday 19 October.

“Wear it pink is great way to come together with friends and family to have fun whilst raising money for Breast Cancer Now’s vital research. As you can see from my photograph, all it takes is an additional splash of pink to your normal outfit!

“As a Breast Cancer Now Ambassador I am proud to raise awareness of the impact of the disease locally, and to support and advocate for Breast Cancer Now’s research. Breast cancer affects so many people in Anglesey, so I hope that everybody will get involved this October and support this very important cause.”

Joining the politicians in Cardiff was Welsh rock star, Jules Peters, along with her husband Mike. Jules, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2016, hopes that people across Wales and the rest of the UK will join her to take part in the fundraising event,

Jules Peters, of Welsh rock band The Alarm, said:

‘“Having been through breast cancer myself, I’m thrilled to be supporting wear it pink this year, with my husband Mike – it is a great fundraising event which brings together families, friends and work colleagues, to help fund research into this terrible disease, whilst having fun.

“I am incredibly passionate about raising awareness of the disease, and sharing my experiences to help other women, who are having to face a diagnosis like I did. That’s why I’m asking people across Wales to join me by dressing up in pink on 19 October. We must put a stop to this dreadful disease, and the only way to do so is by continuing to fund vital research.”

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“We are really grateful for the enthusiasm and support shown by the AMs in Cardiff. Everyone looked fabulous in their pink accessories and showed just how easy it is to add a touch of pink to your everyday outfit. We hope that by wearing pink, Rhun will encourage his constituents in Anglesey to get involved and fundraise in their homes, schools or workplaces, and help us to continue to fund world-class research into this devastating disease.

“Wear it pink is a fantastic opportunity for communities across the UK to come together, have fun and show their support to this very important cause. By simply wearing something pink and donating what you can, you are helping raise much-needed funds to stop breast cancer taking the lives of those we love. Together we can take one step forward to help reach our goal that, by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live, and live well.”

To take part in wear it pink this October, please visit wearitpink.org/2018AM for further details, fundraising ideas and how to register for your free fundraising pack.

“Let’s beat the flu” says Anglesey Assembly Member.

Having visited his local GP for his injection, Plaid Cymru’s Anglesey Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth is urging constituents to go and get their annual flu jabs.

Every year in Wales, over 750,000 people are vaccinated against flu, and Mr ap Iorwerth is encouraging his constituents who should be vaccinated to make an appointment with their GP or their community pharmacy ahead of the winter months.

In a normal winter thousands of people will be affected by flu-related illnesses in the UK, therefore it is very important that people particularly at risk from flu make an appointment to be vaccinated every year.

After having his vaccination, Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“I’ve just had my annual flu jab, now I’m urging you to go and do the same. If you have are over 55, or you suffer from any chronic illnesses or are pregnant, it is very important that you arrange to have a flu jab.

“Flu can lead to serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia which may need hospital treatment. Children from 2 years of age should have the nasal spray flu vaccine, which is the best flu vaccine for children.

“Book an appointment with your GP or pharmacist to get your flu vaccination – it takes a minute, lasts a year and could save a life.”

Anglesey AM continues to push for National Research Vessel

Anglesey’s Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth has again called for Welsh Government to act to secure the future of the Prince Madog Research Vessel joint-owned at present by Bangor University and P&O Maritime.

An agreement is in place between Bangor University and P&O regarding the future of the vessel until 2021, but what future the Prince Madog has beyond that time is unclear at present, which led to Mr ap Iorwerth proposing the vessel be adopted as Wales’ National Research Vessel following the conclusion of the current agreement.

The Anglesey Assembly Member led a short debate in the Assembly in Cardiff on the future of the research vessel before the summer recess, with Welsh Government officials having recently met with Bangor University and P&O as a result.

Welsh Government officials will now be considering the feasibility of the Prince Madog being used for some future research, however Mr ap Iorwerth said that the vessel should be central to Welsh Government’s plans for marine research.

“In a short debate in the Assembly before the summer, I proposed that Welsh Government secure the future of the Prince Madog by acquiring it to become Wales’ National Research Vessel when Bangor University’s contract with P&O concludes in 2021.

“By doing this, Bangor University, and indeed all universities and marine research bodies in Wales – as well as Welsh Government – would have access to a state-of-the-art vessel with which they could conduct vital research that would be of huge benefit to the future of our nation.

“It is not just a matter of finding benefits to the local area, although that is of course very important to me as the representative for Ynys Môn, but I truly believe that there could be a national benefit to securing the continuation of the Prince Madog Research Vessel.

“With foresight and ambition, Welsh Government could make the Prince Madog central to marine research work off the coast of Wales rather than something that could be used occasionally. Research into what resources we have off our coastline is vital to Wales’ economic and environmental future.”

Statement on Plaid Cymru Leadership

Today, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM issued this statement on video for party members as well as in writing to the party’s AMs, MPs and Coucnil Leaders.

“A few weeks ago, Leanne invited a debate on the leadership of Plaid Cymru – the party of Wales, a debate that could lead to reaffirming her leadership or starting a new chapter in the history of the party.

“Since then there’s been much discussion about the merits of such a debate. Supporters and members of the party from all parts of Wales – from the south Wales valleys to the north and mid-Wales, from the west to Cardiff – have encouraged me to allow my name to go forward. That encouragement has come from people at all elected levels, but mainly from ordinary party members, including some who, I’m quite sure, will back Leanne!

“And that’s the point – this should be a constructive debate, a positive one that can energise the party and the country, and it’s in THAT spirit that I am accepting the nominations. And in the spirit of real excitement and passion about the future of our country.

“So let’s discuss different visions, different styles, and different ideas. My commitment is to Wales, and to a fairer and more prosperous future for the country. Plaid Cymru HAS to lead the way to that new, confident Wales, and over the coming weeks we can discuss openly and democratically how best to deliver the most effective and most exciting leadership for the party and the nation.

“Thank you, and I look forward to it.”

Update from Dŵr Cymru – water in Llanddona

I’ve just come off the phone with Dŵr Cymru Chief Executive Chris Jones to discuss the latest in relation to the properties without water in Anglesey. Many of you have been in touch, and I have been in constant contact with Dŵr Cymru. I now understand that there are around 200 properties still affected – a figure that is, of course, still worrying, but I had the opportunity to discuss Dŵr Cymru’s response and the work being done to restore the supply.

First of all, it is very important for me that the most vulnerable people get all the support, and I urge you to phone 0800 052 0130 to report any special needs that you or your family member or neighbours have. I’ve been given a commitment that all possible help will be given.

I also understand that bottled water is going to continue to be distributed in Llanddona and Llangoed to the people who have no water.

The big question is obviously ‘when will the supply be back?’. Well, it’s certainly hoped that properties will be reconnected by tonight. The system itself is now ‘pressurized’ again, but some specific properties on sub-networks are still without water due to ‘air blocks’ in the system, or perhaps because water is still leaking from some pipes. It is hoped that all water supplies will be back by tonight, but Dŵr Cymru are nervous about giving a concrete promise in case problems take a little longer to sort out in certain properties.

Please keep in touch with my office on e-mail rhun.apiorwerth@assembly.wales or 01248 723599 if there are any specific issues that you would like to discuss.

I am grateful to the local Plaid Cymru Councilors in the Seiriol ward for their work for their constituents in this area which has suffered.