News in brief: Criticism over ‘shocking’ decision not to offer free flu jabs to pharmacists
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is calling for pharmacists and pharmacy teams in Wales to be offered free flu jabs this winter.
The Scottish government has offered a free flu jab to pharmacists in Scotland but in Wales and England they are not currently categorised as an eligible patient group.
In Wales, the government’s flu vaccine guidelines say that NHS organisations should offer the vaccine to all employees involved in direct patient care, but that independent primary care providers -including community pharmacies and GP surgeries – should only offer it to frontline staff “as part of their occupational health responsibilities”.
Claire Anderson, president of the RPS, told the Pharmaceutical Journal it was “shocking that pharmacists in England and Wales, who have been on the frontline throughout this pandemic, are not eligible for free flu vaccinations to protect themselves and the public”.
“As we have seen over the past 18 months, pharmacists are not dispensable, and we are therefore calling on the NHS to offer free flu vaccinations to pharmacists and pharmacy teams in both England and Wales, as is the case in Scotland.”
A spokesperson for the Welsh government said that a free NHS flu vaccine is available to anyone in an at-risk group or aged over 50 years.
“The vaccination of pharmacy staff not in these groups is their employer’s occupational health responsibility. There are many benefits from ensuring pharmacy staff are protected from the effects of seasonal influenza,” they added.
The Welsh Government has made an additional funding package of £6.8m to health boards to extend the free vaccine programme this winter to people over 50 all those in secondary school in years 7-11.
The expansion of the programme means a free flu jab will be available on the NHS to well over 1.5m people in Wales this winter.
Covid outbreaks hit four hospitals in the north
Four hospitals in the north of Wales are tightening visiting restrictions following Covid-19 outbreaks.
More than 100 patients are being treated with or recovering from coronavirus at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Colwyn Bay Hospital and Llandudno Hospital.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board also confirmed that that some of the patients requiring treatment were infected with the Covid while in hospital
“A small number of these patients are confirmed hospital acquired infection and linked to the outbreak, Gill Harris, Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said.
“Due to the high community COVID-19 transmission rate we ask that when the public visit us for an appointment or treatment they wear one of our fluid resistant surgical masks which are available at entrances into our healthcare settings and use the available hand sanitiser as often as possible.
“Tighter visiting restrictions remain in place at the affected hospitals, this decision does not impact visiting guidelines for our maternity, paediatrics and neonatal services or wards at Ysbyty Gwynedd and Glan Clwyd Hospital,” she added.
Meanwhile Public Health Wales has confirmed 10 further deaths due to Covid and 2,485 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours.
Four of the newly recorded deaths were in the Hywel Dda health board area and Cwm Taf Morgannwg reported three further deaths. Aneurin Bevan, Betsi Cadwaladr and Swansea Bay health boards each reported one death since Tuesday’s report.
In the seven days up to 17 September, 17,371 people have tested positive for Covid in Wales, the highest weekly total since over 19,000 new cases were recorded in the week ending 20 December.
Neath Port Talbot has recorded 1,237 new cases in the last week and has the highest weekly case rate in the country and second highest in the UK at 863.1 per 100,000 people, up from 835.2 yesterday. The national rate has also risen, from 527.4 yesterday to 551.0.
Welsh laws to be simplified and made more accessible
Mick Antoniw, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General, has launched a new programme to improve the accessibility of Welsh law and increase the amount of legislation which is available bilingually.
As part of a long-term plan to create Codes of Welsh law, planning law will be simplified and modernised through a consolidation Bill, bringing together provisions from the multiple, heavily amended Acts that currently set out the main framework.
This will enable people using the planning system in Wales to refer to a single, fully bilingual act containing all the relevant law.
A consolidation Bill which will form a coherent body of historic environment law for Wales will also be brought forward.
The Government says owners of scheduled monuments or listed buildings currently face a complex challenge in understanding the relevant legislation, which has provisions that apply differently in England, Scotland and Wales. The consolidation Bill will result in clear, distinct and modernised legislation for Wales.
Existing legislation in other areas is also being reviewed with a view to identifying further consolidation projects during this Senedd term.
The programme will also increase the accessibility of law through digital solutions. This includes making improvements and adding content to the Cyfraith Cymru/Law Wales website, exploring the potential for using machine learning and artificial intelligence to make Welsh law more accessible, and improving the publication service offered by legislation.gov.uk so that Welsh law is available in up-to-date form in both Welsh and English on that site.
The government says it will also review its approach to developing bilingual legislation, to improve efficiency and ensure plain language is used.
The programme will also lay the foundations for creating Codes of Welsh law. This includes adopting a structure for Welsh law that improves its accessibility and organising and publishing consolidated Welsh law according to that structure. As projects to classify and consolidate law develop it will eventually be possible to begin codifying the law.
“This is an important programme that demonstrates our commitment to the law being available and understandable to everyone, Mr Antoniw said.
“Making the law more accessible will help people understand their legal rights and obligations, which is particularly important in the context of the cuts to legal aid that risk people being unable to access advice if they cannot pay for legal representation.
“The programme increases the amount of legislation which is available bilingually, while also facilitating better governance across the entire public sector by enabling those who work with Welsh law to find and interpret it more easily.”
Plans approved for new country park in the Rhondda
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Councillors have approved plans to officially make lakes and surrounding land in the Rhondda into a country park.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council cabinet approved recommendations that Cwm Clydach Countryside Park be made a country park at a meeting on Tuesday, September 21.
The report said the aim is that the the designation of the land as Cwm Clydach Country Park will provide the county borough with a new country park within the Rhondda Valley which will complement the existing Dare Valley Country Park in the Cynon Valley.
It also said the country park status will allow the council to erect brown tourist
destination signs to identify the area’s specific status and promote the area to visitors and the tourism service would promote the location as part of a wider offer to visitors of the park.
It will also allow the council and partners to apply for external grant funding to enhance opportunities for residents and visitors which will have a direct improvement on health and well-being of people using the country park, the report said.
The council has developed a working partnership with both Friends of Cwm Clydach Country Park and Cambrian Village Trust (CVT) in relation to the future developments of the land both at the proposed county park site and the new 3G sports pitch in Clydach Vale.
The country park designation will support both organisations that work in partnership with the council to further enhance and develop the land for both residents and visitors, the report said.
The 166 acre park is located on the site of the old Cambrian colliery, an area of outstanding natural beauty.
There are two lakes located on the site known locally as “top lake” and “bottom lake”, along with a number of small waterfalls.
Located to the east of the lakes is the Cambrian Lakeside Cafe Bar with recently resurfaced free public car parking area.
The land was reclaimed by the Welsh Development Agency, now Welsh Government in 1984 after the land was acquired by the authority from the National Coal Board and Coal Industries Ltd.
Part of that whole area has been redeveloped to provide commercial and industrial accommodation including the council’s civic centre and offices and these areas of the land will be excluded from any country park designation.
Coucillor Mark Norris who represents Clydach Vale on the council said it is a “great news story to improve the status of Clydach Vale.”
He said it would be only the second country park in RCT after Dare Valley and said it will be great to raise awareness of the countryside area.
He added that hopefully it’ll be a catalyst to attract outside funding into the area.
Councillor Maureen Webber said it would be a “great enhancement” and Councillor Andrew Morgan said it will help the community group look for further sources of funding.
Councillor Robert Bevan said: “it shows that community action can actually achieve.