News in brief: Charities join calls for Welsh inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic
Leading respiratory charities Asthma UK & the British Lung Foundation Wales have backed calls for a Wales-specific inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The charities want an inquiry to examine not only the decisions the Welsh Government took during the pandemic but also the way healthcare services are delivered in the future.
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have both pressed for a Wales specific enquiry to be set up in recent months and accused the government of ducking scrutiny by opting instead to be part of the UK-wide inquiry, which is expected to get underway next year.
“Last week we saw the Welsh Government take its own decisions on how we in Wales should act to limit the spread of Covid-19 and keep each other safe. However, if the Welsh Government is able to forge its own path in terms of the rules we follow, it is vital that the decisions that same government have made are scrutinised in a Wales specific Covid-19 inquiry,” Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK, and British Lung Foundation Wales said.
“It is not only the way in which we are required by Welsh law to wear a mask on public transport which is worthy of consideration, but decisions relating to care and treatment for which the Welsh Government are also responsible.
“During the Pandemic, Welsh Ministers took decisions relating to the Welsh NHS and Care Sector, and while undoubtedly, they will have been impacted by decisions made by the UK Government, the nuance of such decisions would be lost in a UK wide inquiry into the pandemic response.
“The past 18 months has seen a greater awareness of devolved responsibility than ever before. Such accountability must be embraced rather than handed off to a government who do not take decisions in this field for the people of Wales.”
“Even before the pandemic many were struggling to get the help they needed to manage their condition and live fulfilling lives. Rural communities in particular were greatly affected, with services tending to be clustered together to aid delivery,” Mr Carter added.
“The Pandemic saw services overwhelmed. It is a testament both to clinical staff and decision makers that services were able to adapt to ensure care and treatment continued for many. Increased access to digital resources such as COPD and Asthma apps, and virtual GP appointments is to be welcomed, but we must balance these new innovations and ensure beneficiaries are not left excluded from in-person care when services restart.
“This includes increasing access to services such as pulmonary rehabilitation to improve their quality of life and ensuring people can be diagnosed appropriately in the first place.”
Covid cases increase in Wales but remain the lowest in the UK
The latest infection survey published by the Office for National Statistics has reported an increase in the number of people in Wales with Covid-19.
According to the ONS, in the week ending 6 August 14,100 people had the virus, an increase of 8.5% from the previous week when it was estimated that 13,000 people were infected.
Despite the rise in cases, the ONS says the overall trend picture in Wales is “uncertain” and confirms the percentage of people infected remains the lowest in the UK at 0.46%. just 0.03% up from the week ending 30 June.
Northern Ireland continues to have the highest infection rate in the UK at 1.88% of the population (34,400 people) and cases also remain high in England were the ONS estimates 726,700 people within the community population in England had Covid (1.33%).
Cases in Scotland are continuing to decline, falling 35% in the last week to 28,100, 0.53% of the population.
Meanwhile, today’s update from Public Health Wales has reported two further deaths due to Covid and 1,090 new positive tests for the virus.
The newly recorded deaths were in the Betsi Cadwaladr and Cardiff and Vale health boards areas and take the total number of deaths in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 5,634.
Rhondda Cynon Taf (94) recorded the highest number of new cases in the last 24 hours, followed by Cardiff (89) and Swansea (85).
The national case rate is 1442 per 100,000 people, up from 142.4 yesterday and the proportion of tests coming back positive has increased from 10.3 per 100,000 tests to 10.4%.
Denbighshire’s case rate remains the highest in the country at 274.8, down from 280.1 yesterday.
Tories blast government over ‘terrifying numbers’ numbers waiting for vital eye healthcare
The Welsh Conservatives have accused the government of “massive failures” across eye healthcare services after new figures revealed more than half of those in most desperate need of treatment, were not seen within their target time.
In June, only 47% of those classed as R1 in Wales, the category of patients most at risk of irreversible harm or significant adverse outcome if not treated promptly, were seen within their target time or 25% past that date and, five of seven health boards failed to see half of their patients within the target date.
The last time more than half of R1 patients were seen within their target time was June 2020, when 50.8% were seen within the targeted time frame.
“Loss of eyesight can mark the most frightening point in one’s life, so for this level of patients to be exposed to such risk is utterly unacceptable,” Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS, said.
“We are well beyond the point of mass hospitalisations for coronavirus, so hiding behind the pandemic will not work.
“Given the £1.3bn spent on temporary staff to fill NHS Wales’ 3,000 missing workers, I wouldn’t be surprised if shortages are again responsible for long waiting times that have made patients vulnerable to worsening conditions.
“The Welsh Government’s mismanagement of the health service has meant the Minister, once again, needs to urgently demonstrate she has a plan in place to rectify these terrifying numbers.”
Wool prices tipped to rise as Covid restriction ease
Sheep farmers in Wales should see “significantly” better price for wool this year compared to the last two years, according to Andrew Hogley, chief executive of British Wool, formerly the British Wool Marketing Board.
The onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020, following a sharp drop in demand for Welsh wool over the previous five years pushed many Welsh farmers to the brink, as auction prices fell from around £1 per kilo pre-Covid to just 50p and some farmers ended up either composting or burning fleeces as the global market collapsed.
Citing a strong recovery of auction prices and the re-opening of the hospitality sector after the Covid lockdown, Mr Hogley told the Farmers Guardian the outlook for this season was more positive.
“To date, we have received 600 tonnes of wool from farmers who did not send wool last year, so we are starting to see farmers return,” he said.
“As our biggest costs come from handling and collecting wool, we have also removed £1.5 million of operating costs by closing four grading depots to make our grading process as efficient as possible.”