Senedd roundup: PPE prioritised as 60% of healthcare workers test positive for Coronavirus
Owen Donovan, Senedd Home
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said that securing personal protective equipment is a “bigger priority” than challenges on testing at the Welsh Government press briefing on Tuesday.
His comments come just 24 hours after the government announced they were scrapping testing targets.
Public Health Wales has confirmed that so far 11,000 tests have been carried out on Welsh NHS staff of which 60% have been positive for COVID-19.
The minister said the figures were not surprising and observed health workers were facing a disproportionate risk compared to the rest of the population which reinforces the importance of personal protective equipment.
Mr Gething confirmed there was sufficient stock in Wales for the coming days but warned of the possibility of a critical shortage as reported in England at the weekend: “We are working incredibly hard to establish new international and domestic supply lines for PPE as well as using established wholesale suppliers to make sure frontline workers have the kit they need.”
“For example, we are expecting weekly bulk deliveries of masks sourced directly by NHS Wales and through joint orders placed with the Scottish and Northern Irish governments.
“We are also buying from Chinese suppliers and there is a system of mutual aid in place in case of emergencies, in particular with NHS Scotland”.
Mr Gething revealed the two items of PPE in greatest demand are fluid-resistant gowns and masks but said he was confident there are enough of these at the moment and that the NHS in Wales was not facing the same problem on gown shortage as experienced in some parts of England. “We have not reached the stage where we need to enact the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) alert about fluid-resistant gowns, which affected some parts of the NHS in England over the weekend.
“We are continuing to make regular (PPE) deliveries to health boards and to local authorities for onward distribution to social care.”
There is enough stock of all items to last for “a few days,” he said, but there were “very real concerns” about the issue in government.
Public Health Wales confirmed another 25 people have died after testing positive for Coronavirus in Wales over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 609. 304 new cases were also confirmed, bringing the total number of known Covid-19 cases to 7,850.
Carl Sargeant inquiry called off
The independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the sacking of Labour AM Carl Sargeant has been called off.
Mr Sargeant was removed from the cabinet by then first minister Carwyn Jones in November 2017 over allegations of inappropriate behaviour with women. He took his own life just days later.
The Welsh Government will also pay the outstanding legal costs of the Sargeant family, following the inquest into the late AM’s death.
Mr Jones had called an inquiry and appointed barrister Paul Bowen to chair it, following the death of Mr Sargeant but the family took legal action. A High Court judge subsequently ruled it was unlawful that Carwyn Jones had a decision making role in the shaping of the review.
In a statement the current First Minister Mark Drakeford explained that he asked the chairman of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, Sir Brendan Barber, to see if a way forward could be found following the inquest.
Sir Brendan then recommended the investigation should not proceed, and that the Welsh Government should meet the outstanding legal costs of the Sargeant family.
Mr Drakeford said: “I know that all parties involved now share a wish to bring an end to the public controversy in relation to the tragic death of Carl, allowing us all to remember him as the valued husband, father, colleague and friend that he was.”
Investigation launched into “shielding” letters data breach
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched an investigation as up to 13,000 letters – asking the most at-risk groups to stay at home for 12-weeks during the coronavirus pandemic – were sent to the wrong addresses.
The mistake has since been rectified and the Welsh Government blamed a data processing error by the NHS Wales Informatics Service.
Opposition AMs called the breach “potentially disastrous” and “unacceptable”.
The ICO said: “People have a right to expect their personal information to be protected. We’ll bear in mind the current crisis when assessing breach reports such as this, taking an appropriately proportionate approach.”
Wales to roll out once-a-month injection for heroin addicts to help protect NHS staff
Wales will become the first part of the UK to make a new once-a-month injection for recovering heroin addicts routinely available.
The new service will replace daily oral medication services, helping to relieve pressure on pharmacy and NHS services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Former heroin users currently receiving a daily oral medication, normally through their community pharmacy, will be screened for their suitability for have the injection of slow-release buprenorphine.
The injection will also be available within prisons in Wales.
Distant learning guidelines for teachers issued
The Welsh Government has issued new guidance to teachers and headteachers on how to deliver lessons distantly during the continuing pandemic lockdown.
This week marks what would have been the start of the 2019-20 summer term. While some schools remain open for the children of key workers – as well as children deemed to be vulnerable – it’s unclear when schools will reopen to all students.
The Stay Safe, Stay Learning document (pdf) says the safety of pupils and the education workforce – as well as the continuity of learning in some form or another – were amongst the top priorities.
English-medium and Welsh-medium pupils will have the same entitlement to support and Welsh-medium pupils living in households whose first language isn’t Welsh will be given particular attention.
More detailed guidance will be issued to headteachers and teachers next week (w/c 27th April 2020), to prepare for a switch from classroom teaching to distance learning via platforms such as Hwb.
Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) said: “Leaders and teachers have stepped up during this crisis and have demonstrated agility and leadership; remote teaching will require a further adjustment to teaching and different way of working.”
New consultation on regional development launched
The Welsh Government has launched a new consultation exercise to gather views on how regional development should happen after the Brexit process is completed (still scheduled for the end of 2020).
The survey asks several questions on whether regional investment should be made by a single body, whether regional investment should support cultural schemes as well as views on investment in low carbon technologies.
The survey at yoursay.wales has, however, been subject to criticism on social media for the excessively wordy propositions which – with a few exceptions – people are simply asked to agree or disagree with.