News in brief: New study reveals medical and mental health impact on those shielding from Covid in Wales
A new study published by Public Health Wales has identified marked declines in the level of hospital care received by people on the shielding list during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic and reveals those instructed to shield had a higher risk of experiencing poorer mental health than the general population.
The study was based on more than 127,000 clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people who were advised to shield from March to September last year because they were at high risk of developing serious illness if they contracted Covid-19.
The most common underlying conditions of those shielding were respiratory (37 per cent), followed by immunosuppression (27 per cent) and cancer (21 per cent) but despite the overall levels of health care usually being much higher amongst the CEV population, people shielding recorded the greatest declines in emergency health care compared to 2019.
According to the study, emergency department attendances decreased by 24 per cent amongst the CEV population and 20 per cent amongst the general population, while emergency hospital admissions decreased by 26 per cent amongst the CEV population and 13 per cent amongst the general population.
Meanwhile, planned hospital admissions declined by approximately a third (32%) amongst the CEV and general population, and planned outpatient care by 27% amongst the CEV and 31% amongst the general population.
The report observes: “There are many complex factors which are likely to contribute to trends in care for the CEV population. Whilst the CEV population have much greater underlying health needs, COVID-19 disrupted the management of underlying health conditions, but it may also have contributed to patients potentially delaying planned care, if able, to a time when they felt less at risk.”
Over the six months covered by the report, researchers also found that 1 in 50 of the CEV population had a clinical record of depression and/or anxiety, and of them nearly 1 in 5 had no previous history of mental ill health.
Alisha Davies, Lead for Networked Data Lab Wales and Head of Research & Development in Public Health Wales said: “These are important findings to help the health care response supporting those who have been shielding over the past year. Given such a significant change in hospital care and evidence of the inverse care law, insights from this study and others are needed to provide more in depth understanding of the CEV and general populations’ unmet needs.
“Such information can help inform effective, efficient and equitable delivery of future care, towards protect against a longer-term burden of poor physical and mental health following the pandemic.”
Covid case rates in Wales fall for the 11th day in a row
The Covid case rate in Wales has fallen for the 11th day in a row, according to the latest figures released by Public Health Wales.
Over the 48 hours up to 9am yesterday morning, one further death due to Covid was reported along with 1,106 new positive tests for the virus.
The newly recorded death was in the Hywel Dda health board area and takes the total number of deaths in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 5,616.
The weekly national case rate is down 4.6 since yesterday’s report, to 144 per 100,000 people and the positive test rate is also down from 10.4% per 100,000 tests to 10.1%.
The fall in cases in Denbighshire was also maintained over the weekend, but the case rate remains the highest in Wales at 385.6, down from 405.5 yesterday. The Wales-high positivity rate has also gone down, from 17.1% to 16.2%.
Government rules out vaccine incentives
The Welsh Government says young people in Wales will not be offered incentives to get a Covid vaccine.
On Sunday the UK Government announced tie-ins with businesses including Uber, Bolt and Deliveroo, who will be offering discounts and incentives to customers who get a Covid-19 vaccine.
Highlighting the higher take-up among under 30s in Wales, where 75% have already taken up the offer of a jab, a government spokesperson said, “We are not considering offering such incentives in Wales”.
“We’d like to encourage anyone who is yet to take up the offer to please book an appointment as soon as possible,” They added.
According to the latest government figures 67% of people aged 18-29 in England have currently received a first dose of vaccine.
Company run by councillors in dispute over ownership of tourist information screens
A town council and a charity previously run by councillors are currently involved in a legal dispute over media screens worth thousands of pounds.
Porthcawl Town Council (PTC) is in an ownership dispute with Credu Charity Ltd regarding five touchscreens that were supposed to be installed throughout the town for tourist information.
Credu Charity Ltd is a now-liquidated company whose director and secretary were two councillors for PTC and Bridgend County Borough Council – Michael and Norah Clarke.
The charity had promised to deliver a £5.5 million maritime development in Porthcawl and invoiced the council for services including grass cutting, refurbishing public toilets, an outdoor cinema event, and maintaining an underpass.
Finance experts Auditing Solutions Ltd recently published a report revealing the council gave contracts worth more than £50,000 to Credu in 2020/21 without following proper procedures.
They found “major failings” and evidence of “unacceptable practices” in the way the council complied with legal, financial and democratic processes.
A report by auditors states the council and Credu’s liquidators are involved in “an ongoing dispute… concerning the ownership of five media screens”.
The large touchscreens were a joint project between PTC and Credu consisting of interactive touch screens with tourist information available covering Porthcawl and surrounding area.
It is understood the total value of the screens is around £30,000. Anyonymous sources told the Local Democracy Reporting service the council approved the project in 2018/19 and each of the screens cost £5,000.
The report by Auditing Solutions states one screen “has been installed at the Porthcawl Information Kiosk, and the remaining four… are in storage at the suppliers”.
It adds: “The receiver claims that the media screens are the property of the Credu Charity in liquidation, however, the council made no formal resolution to donate the media screens to the Credu Charity.
“As the Invoice for the Media Screens is in the name of the council, and the council paid for the screens in full, the council should make all possible efforts to recover its property and the items should be placed on the council’s asset register.
“The council should make all possible efforts to assert ownership of the media screens which it purchased and recover its property.”
The town council is currently under investigation by South Wales Police and Audit Wales.
Stuart Pollard, director of Auditing Solutions, said he is “unable to comment further” on the report.
He added: “It is not our practice to enter into discussions with individual members of the public or individual councillors on the issues identified in our reports, or any other matters of concern that they may have: the correct line of enquiry is to address issues to the external auditors, which in this case is Audit Wales.
“Further, due to the ongoing investigations by both Audit Wales and the South Wales Police, as detailed on the Porthcawl Town Council website, no further communications may be entered into.”
Rachel Lai, joint liquidator of Credu Charity Ltd and director at accountancy firm Menzies LLP, said: “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on confidential client matters.”