Tag: Health

World Autism Awareness Day, 2 April 2019

Sarah Morgan

Our guest blog comes from Sarah A Morgan, Senior Branch Engagement Officer at the National Autistic Society – Wales, as we mark World Autism Awareness Week.

 

National Autistic Society Picture of fundraisers with caption World Autism Awareness Week is back

 

NAS Autism Friendly logo

As an Autism Friendly Award holder we are proud to mark World Autism Awareness Week. The Autism Friendly Award demonstrates our commitment to being an accessible venue for visitors who are on the autism spectrum.

 

 

Below are some of the things the Assembly does in order to achieve the accreditation, we have:

• a section on our website dedicated to visitors with autism. The section provides information links to specifically designed resources in different formats;

• designated quiet areas for people with autism to rest and de-stress;

• ensured relevant staff received disability confidence training, which includes a section on autism;

• identified Autism Champions from across the organisation, and

• established links with National Autistic Society and work closely with them to ensure we are an organisation that engages with everyone in Wales, including people with autism.

We like to think that we are a modern, accessible parliamentary body with which people from a diverse range of backgrounds can easily and meaningfully interact, because our facilities, services and information are accessible to all. However, don’t take our word for it, here is what Sarah from the NAS had to say about visiting the Senedd with a group of their volunteers and service users.

“I have been to the Senedd for many different occasions, on the last visit I attend a guided tour with a group of our clients. This tour was during Disability Access day and it was specifically designed to caterer for individuals who are autistic.

Knowing that the Senedd had achieved their NAS autism Friendly Award it was a chance to see if they were applying their best practice work in practice.

The tour was very easy to book and the website was very clear and descriptive of what may happen on the day. Soon arrival we knew we would have to go through security, but they were very helpful. Then going to reception, we found the staff were once again very helpful and friendly. Our experience was all very good and it was not long before the tour guide was there to assist.

The guide was so informative and had a knowledge of the specific requirements of the group. He tailored the tour to the needs of the individuals and made it very fun and Interactive. He was always checking on the group and adjusted things accordingly.

Everyone enjoyed the tour and it was a great success, I think we all took a lot away from the visit.

The Senedd really is doing a good job of helping everyone enjoy their experience. The staff seemed very aware of Autism and how they could help make the group enjoy their visit. It is always very pleasing to know that a business is autism Friendly, but it was great to experience this first hand.”

Picture of World Autism Day logo

Children’s Mental Health Week

Guest blog by Lynne Neagle AM. This article first appeared in the Western Mail.

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

In April it will be a year since the National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee published its Mind over Matter report, which called for a step change in the support available to children experiencing emotional and mental health issues in Wales.

The findings were stark.

Half of all mental health problems begin by the age of fourteen.

Three quarters of all mental health problems set in by a young person’s mid-twenties.

One in ten of our young people will experience a mental health problem.

Based on these figures, and the wealth of expert evidence we received, we concluded that if we failed to put our young people at the very centre of our strategy, mental ill health would continue to snowball.

To stem the flow, we concluded that a step change is needed in how we approach emotional and mental health in Wales. We need to equip our children and young people with the skills, confidence and tools to be emotionally resilient. We need a strategy that sees us intervene much earlier, addressing the seeds of distress before they take root.

We were deeply disappointed with the Welsh Government’s initial response to our recommendations. As a Committee we took the unprecedented step of rejecting the response, and called on the Ministers to reconsider their position.

The Welsh Government reacted by setting up a Ministerial Task and Finish Group – chaired jointly by the Ministers for Health and Education – to reconsider the robust and comprehensive evidence we presented and the recommendations to which we gave considerable and serious thought.

I sit on that Group as an independent observer with full rights of participation. I intend to hold a mirror up to the Group’s work, and to seek progress that meets the Committee’s ambitions and expectations in this area.

More recently the Welsh Government announced an additional £7.1 million to specifically address the issues raised in our Mind over Matter report.

The additional funding is of course welcome and we look forward to seeing how exactly it will be invested. As we approach the first anniversary of the report’s publication, I believe the time has come to inject pace into putting the resource and support needed in place to support us all to implement and deliver this change.

I also believe we need to guard against the ever-present danger of seeking to re-invent the wheel. What is clear is that the current approach isn’t effective enough. So to recommit and reinforce the services already in place isn’t the answer. We need a new approach.

So it will come as no surprise in Children’s Mental Health week to reaffirm that the Committee doesn’t intend to stop here. If young people are to be placed at the heart of our overall strategy for mental health, we need to continue our drive to ensure that best practice is shared, change and innovation are delivered, and our focus is shifted from the reactive to the preventative.

On that basis, we have requested a new response to each of our recommendations from the Welsh Government by next month. We do not intend to take our foot off the pedal on this and we are committed to following up on the place our children and young people are given in future emotional and mental health strategies, approaches and investments with a close and forensic eye.

During the course of our inquiry last year we spoke to many children and young people about their experiences. Some of them were deeply upsetting. Some of them also demonstrated to us that, when the proper services are effective and in place, they can be of immense help to people struggling with their emotional or mental health. Thomas was one of the young people we spoke with.

As young people so often manage to do, he summed up our inquiry in one sentence.

“If I’d got these issues addressed a lot earlier, it wouldn’t have boiled over.”

We all have a responsibility – and an ability – to implement the changes that will enable young people like Thomas get the help they need earlier and avoid issues boiling over wherever possible. And those changes aren’t only for our children and young people, but for the adults they become, and the children they go on to have. It is incumbent on us to invest to save, to prevent rather than react, and to make the step change that is so urgently needed to build a population of emotionally resilient and mentally healthy people in Wales.

If we want sustainable services, a healthy population, and – most importantly of all – fewer individuals and families experiencing longer term challenges and hardships caused by mental ill health, young people must be at the heart of the strategy. Let’s remember Thomas’s words – if we get these issues addressed earlier, they need not always boil over.

Get the report

Perinatal mental health: one year on

Citizen Engagement Team, January 2019

What progress has been made?

This week, the Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee will hear from the Welsh Government’s Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething AM, about what work has been done in response to its inquiry last year into perinatal mental health services.

Perinatal mental health refers to the period from the start of pregnancy to the end of the first year after a baby is born. Perinatal mental health is about the emotional well-being of pregnant women and their children, their partners and families.

The Committee launched its report on the findings of the inquiry during Autumn last year, and promised to follow up on the progress the Welsh Government was making with the proposed changes, one year on.

As part of the Committee’s inquiry, the views of those with first-hand experience of the services offered for perinatal mental health in Wales were sought. Their honest, sometimes difficult, stories contributed to shaping the Committee’s recommendations to the Welsh Government.

What we heard

“We all live in different areas and the ways we had to try and get help were all different..”

In order for the Committee to hear a range of experiences of perinatal mental health issues, 30 people from across Wales participated in an event in Cardiff Bay. Those attending were a mixture of mothers, family members and staff working with those affected. They talked about their experiences – what they felt had worked, what they felt could be improved, and what changes they would like to see made to the support available.

“Consistency of care – a midwife with mental health training. A friendly face.”

The main issues identified included:

  • The lack of a Mother and Baby Unit in Wales
  • Importance of training for healthcare professionals
  • Inconsistencies in community perinatal mental health service provision
  • The need to ensure continuity of care
  • The need to de-stigmatise and normalise the mother’s experience of perinatal mental health conditions

A short video summarising the issues raised during the event can be seen here:

 

“The video is beautiful and emotional. Thank you. I’m glad I was able to share my experiences to make a difference.” 

The timing of the event, taking place early in the inquiry’s process, meant that Committee members could use the experiences and opinions of attendees to shape the inquiry, and to direct the questions towards issues raised by those with first-hand experience.

“Feeling that you were really listened to by the Assembly Members. It made you feel that what you have been through is important to others, but ultimately it makes you feel that something will change for the good. Exciting to know other people are passionate about the same things.”

The issues raised during the event were used during formal meetings with relevant representative bodies and the Welsh Government, and the experiences of a number of the attendees contributed to the Committee’s report:
Perinatal mental health in Wales (PDF, 4.7 MB)

What did the Committee recommend?

The Committee made a number of recommendations including more investment in specialist community services, the establishment of Mother and Baby Unit provision closer to home for people across Wales, and ensuring timely access to psychological support for pregnant and postnatal women and their partners.

This blog, published by the Assembly’s Research Service, summarises the Committee’s 27 recommendations, 23 of which were accepted, or accepted in principle, by the Welsh Government: Perinatal Mental Health

“This output makes the anxiety of talking out about my experiences worth it.  Even if not all recommendations were accepted, this is still more than we had last year or when I was ill.”

Assembly Members also referenced the issues raised by those with first-hand experience during the debate in Plenary on 31 January 2018 which you can watch here:
Plenary debate on Perinatal Mental Health report

What happens now?

In its report, the Committee asked the Welsh Government to provide an update on progress by the end of October 2018. You can see the full update from Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services here.

Those who had been part of the original inquiry were asked to comment on the update to inform the Committee’s meeting with the Minister for Health and Social Services this week (10 January 2019), where he will answer questions on the progress the Government has made.

You can watch this session live on Senedd TV, or catch up later.

 

Your opinions shape our work

We are your Assembly and we represent you. 

If you would like to know more about getting involved in the work of the Assembly, visit our website.

 

 

What’s in your medicine cabinet? The Public Accounts Committee inquiry into Medicines Management

Do you have concerns about the number of items on your repeat prescription?

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Have you experienced difficulties in getting the right medicine from a pharmacist? Have you had any problems while in hospital with incomplete drug charts meaning you got the wrong medicine?

These are some of the issues the Public Accounts Committee have been considering as part of their inquiry into Medicines Management.

With over £800 million spent on medicines and over 79.5 million medicines dispensed in Wales per year, NHS Wales uses medicine on a substantial scale. In the last 10 years there has been a 46% increase in the number of items dispensed, and in the face of this growing demand, Welsh Government is urging prudent prescribing, to optimise people’s medicines so that patients receive the best possible outcomes and so that the NHS gets value for money from medicines.

The Auditor General for Wales published a report on medicines management within primary and secondary care settings, on 15 December 2016. This looked at whether NHS Wales is managing medicines effectively, in primary care, in secondary care and at the interface between primary and secondary care. The report considered health bodies’ corporate arrangements for medicines management, such as strategic and workforce planning, the profile of medicines issues at Boards and committees, and arrangements for monitoring health bodies’ performance in relation to medicines.

The Auditor General concluded that:

  • There was scope to make prescribing safer and more cost effective within primary care;
  • There are medicine related safety risks and inefficiencies when people move in and out of hospital;
  • There are problems in hospitals with medicine storage, gaps in medicine information and frustration at delays in implementing electronic prescribing.

The Committee explored a number of these issues with the Welsh Government at our meeting in March 2017.

The Committee were concerned to find that it had taken so long to introduce electronic prescribing (this was first discussed in 2007, but is not likely to come in until 2023).

Another area the Committee felt could be improved was around developing a central system for very expensive medicines which are not run of the mill rather than each health board holding a store of the medicine.

Of particular concern to the Committee, was repeat prescriptions and whether all the medicines were being used or whether patients end up with stockpiles due to the difficulties of altering the prescription.  This is an issue as money is wasted every day through patients receiving medicines they do not really need and which may not be required. The Government explained to the Committee that this was a ‘tripartite thing’ with the patient, pharmacy and prescriber all having responsibility.

The Committee would be keen to hear your experiences around this, or any other part of medicine management –we would welcome hearing your experiences via twitter @SeneddPAC or by e-mail seneddpac@assembly.wales

Next steps:

The Committee will be taking evidence from Health Boards and Pharmacists to explore how well best practice is being shared and their response to some of the Committee’s concerns.

The full meeting held in March can be watched on Senedd TV and the transcript for the meeting along with all the written evidence received by the Committee to date can be access on the Public Accounts Committee page.  The June meeting will be available on Senedd TV.

What can Wales do to address loneliness and isolation?

Figures from Age Cymru show that 75,000 older people in Wales feel lonely or isolated. Almost half of those surveyed said the television or a pet was their main companion.

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The National Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee has begun an inquiry looking how this issue affects older people in Wales. It will look at what support is available for older people and what more can be done to tackle the issue. The Committee will also look at the extent to which initiatives to combat loneliness and isolation experienced by other groups may also help older people.

There is evidence to suggest that loneliness and isolation can have a significant impact on physical and mental health and may be a cause of depression, sleep issues, stress, and even heart problems.

It’s therefore possible that preventing loneliness and isolation could  reduce the demand and pressure on health and social care services.

Loneliness and isolation are not the same thing – each can be experienced without the other. A person may feel lonely in a crowded room, isolated in a rural community or even vice versa.

The problem of loneliness and isolation has already been recognised by the Minister for Social Services and Public Health as an important public health issue, while the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has made tackling the problem a priority.

The Welsh Government already has a set of indicators to check its progress towards the achieving its ‘well-being goals’ one of which is to monitor the ‘percentage of people who are lonely’.

The Committee will be looking at this complex subject and the  wide range of services which can have an impact on it such as health, social care and community services, transport and even internet access.

Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, Dai Lloyd AM:

“Isolation and loneliness can affect anyone,  employed or retired, living in a town, city or the countryside.

We already know the issues affect a high number of older people. Tackling the problem could  both help individuals feel better and could also  mean less demand on our health and social care services.

If you or someone you know is, or has been, affected by issues of loneliness or isolation, or you are involved in work to support them, then we would like to hear about your experiences and what ideas you think could help.”

If you would like to contribute to the inquiry you can find more information, including how, on the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee pages on the National Assembly’s website.

The Committee will be holding a Facebook Live session on 25/01 at 17.00 to talk more about the inquiry and invite people to take part.

You can also keep up to date with what the Committee are doing via their Twitter account – @SeneddHealth.

Public Health (Wales) Bill: Tattooing, body modification and intimate piercing

Article by Amy Clifton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service, In Brief blog.

On Tuesday, 8 December 2015 the Assembly will debate the Public Health (Wales) Bill in Plenary. The Health and Social Care Committee, tasked with scrutinising the legislative proposal, issued a Report on the Bill last week and made a number of recommendations and suggested amendments.

At the start of the consultation, the Assembly’s Outreach team conducted a national survey to ask the people of Wales what they thought of the Welsh Government proposals relating to e-cigarettes, special procedures and intimate piercing.

Much of the attention surrounding the Public Health (Wales) Bill has focused on e-cigarettes. However another interesting area of the Bill concerns special procedures and intimate piercing (Parts 3 and 4 of the Bill).

Special procedures

The Bill as drafted would create a mandatory licensing scheme for practitioners and businesses carrying out special procedures in Wales. The special procedures currently included are acupuncture, electrolysis, body piercing and tattooing, although the Bill would also allow Welsh Ministers to amend this list through secondary legislation.

Many stakeholders indicated in their evidence to the Committee that there is currently a significant lack of quality control within the tattoo and piercing industries. The Committee heard alarming reports that many procedures are being done by people with little, if any, knowledge of anatomy, infection control or healing processes.

Stakeholders also highlighted additional procedures they believe should be included the Bill. These included body modification (scarification, dermal implants, branding and tongue splitting), injection of liquid into the body (botox or dermal fillers), and laser treatments (tattoo removal or hair removal).

The Assembly Outreach team made a short video, interviewing practitioners across Wales:

Tattoo artists in the video express particular concern about branding, scarification, ‘extreme body modification’ (such as tongue splitting and penis splitting) and dermal implants. They explain that scarification (where a section of the skin is removed to leave a scar) is often performed dangerously.

The tattooists also say that branding is being done with blowtorches and bent coat hangers, and adapted soldering irons, and describe concerns about dermal implants, such as inserting horns and stars under the skin:

Inserting foreign objects into your body is not a good thing without some sort of legislative weight behind it to say, ‘That’s unsafe’, or, ‘Is the material safe?’ or ‘Has it been checked?’; ‘Is it sterile? Have you autoclaved it before you put it in there? Where did you get it from? Has this come out of a five-penny ball machine round the corner?’

Intimate piercing

The Bill proposes to set an age restriction of 16 years old for intimate piercing. It defines the intimate body parts as the anus, breast, buttock, natal cleft, penis, perineum, pubic mound, scrotum and vulva.

Whilst there is support for the principle of an age restriction, many stakeholders believe that 18 would be a more appropriate minimum age limit for intimate areas. For example, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) believes that 18 would be a more appropriate age restriction, as this is in line with the minimum age for tattooing, and reflects the level of maturity needed to make such decisions. Stakeholders also reasoned that an individual aged 16 is still growing and therefore the risk of damage to skin is greater. It was also noted that intimate body piercings require a higher standard of aftercare than tattoos, as they are potentially more susceptible to infection.

Dr Ncube supports a higher age limit, noting that there are long term implications with genital piercing. He gave a case study example of a father with a genital piercing, who was playing with his daughter, and his daughter accidentally kicked him.

The trauma that was caused by the genital piercing resulted in the formation of gangrene in his penis. It’s a condition called Fournier’s condition. Because of that, the scarring that occurred was profound. So, genital piercing is attended with considerable risks, and it’s not just the piercing alone that is important, but it’s the long-term implications of it.

There was also a strong message from stakeholders, including Public Health Wales, that tongue piercing should be included in this part of the Bill, with witnesses describing a high risk of complications, harm and infection.

Plenary debate

You can watch the debate on the Public Health (Wales) Bill live on senedd.tv or catch-up at a later date. For more information on the work of the Committee, visit their website on www.assembly.wales/seneddhealth

The National Assembly for Wales becomes a Slate Ambassador

Here at the National Assembly for Wales, we are always looking at new ways of sharing information in exciting and innovative ways. This year, we started using a product called Slate (made by Adobe) to give summary versions of reports produced by our committees.

Our Slates have been extremely successful – so much so that Adobe have made us a Slate Ambassador!

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What is Slate?

Slate is a platform that allows organisations to create and share interactive reports, information and presentations. It has accessible user interfaces and cross platform compatibility, the Assembly has used Slate to share the extensive and complex work of Assembly committees in an informative and easily navigated format.

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Slate success

Following the recent inquiry into Alcohol and Substance Misuse in Wales, the Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee wanted to share their findings. The Assembly used Slate to create a summary of the committee’s work. Using eye catching imagery and informative content, a cross platform report with a friendly user interface was created.

“We have been blown away by the amazing things people like (The National Assembly for Wales) are doing with the tool”   – The Slate Web Team

Slate has now been used to present the findings of a number of Assembly committees including the Finance Committee enquiry into whether the Ombudsman should have more powers and the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee enquiry into how poverty can be reduced in Wales.

Find out more about the work of Committees at the National Assembly for Wales