Tag: Health

Chair’s blog: Inquiry into New Psychoactive Substances

DavidReesAM

I’m David Rees (@DavidReesAM), Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee.

In September 2014 the Committee started looking into the issue of new psychoactive substances (“NPS”). We have now finished our inquiry and have written a report (PDF, 1MB) making 14 recommendations to the Welsh Government. A shorter summary (PDF, 252KB) is also available.

What are New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)?

NPS are commonly marketed as safer and legal alternatives to illegal drugs, often made in laboratories and sold via the internet or in so-called “head shops” that exist on the high street. They are often referred to as “legal highs”. This marketing is misleading – their side effects can be as serious as those caused by illegal drugs, and they can be as addictive too. Often, they also contain traces of substances that are against the law to sell and take.

Why did we hold this inquiry?

We decided to look into this issue because the use of NPS has grown in Wales, and elsewhere, in recent years. In 2013, 60 deaths in England and Wales involved NPS, 15 per cent higher than the previous year. Members were concerned about the health and social harms caused by NPS, and wanted to shine a light on the steps that need to be taken to allow people to make more informed decisions about their use of NPS.

How did we gather people’s views for this inquiry?

We used a number of different ways to ask people what they think about NPS, including:

  • asking the public to fill in a survey, which 1072 people responded to from across Wales;
  • inviting representatives from key organisations to speak with Members in official meetings at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay;
  • holding focus groups in Merthyr Tydfil and Wrexham to hear directly from frontline staff, and Committee members visited the LOTS project, Forsythia Youth Club, DrugAid and the headquarters of DAN 24/7, Wales’ national substance misuse helpline.

We wrote a blogpost about these visits and have also have published pictures from Wrexham and Merthyr alongside some short videos so you can see what the Committee has been doing:

Health and Social Care Committee focus group on NPSHealth and Social Care Committee focus group

The Committee also used  storify to keep people updated on the inquiry’s progress.

What did people tell the Committee and what have we done about it?

What the Committee was told

  • More needs to be done to increase public awareness of the harms caused by using NPS;
  • the term “legal highs” is really unhelpful. It suggests that using these substances is a safe and legal thing to do. In reality, they are often really harmful and contain illegal substances;
  • the UK Government, which is responsible for drugs policy, should ban the supply of NPS, making “head shops” and market stalls that sell NPS illegal;
  • those using NPS should not be given a criminal record – that could make things even worse for users who are trying to get their lives back on track;
  • not enough is known about how many people are taking NPS and what harms they can cause.

What we said in our report

  • The current drugs education programme in schools should be reviewed urgently to make it better and more consistent across Wales, and to make sure it is delivered by people who are suitably trained and qualified;
  • a national training programme on NPS should be developed for all staff providing public services (e.g. doctors, nurses, police, social workers, prison officers etc);
  • the Welsh Government’s 2015 public awareness campaign on NPS should include targeted information for young people and emphasise that legal does not mean safe;
  • those working in this field, including the media, should stop using the term “legal highs” as it is very misleading;
  • the Welsh Government should encourage the UK Government to move as quickly as possible to implement the suggested ban on the supply of NPS.

To read all 14 of our recommendations please see our report (PDF, 1MB) or the shorter summary (PDF, 252KB) document.

What did the UK and Welsh Governments think about our report?

The Welsh Government’s response (PDF, 295KB) to our report accepts fully all of our recommendations. The UK Government Home Office (PDF, 69KB) has also written to the Committee to note that it welcomes our work and supports each of our 14 recommendations.

What happens next?

Our report will be debated by all Assembly Members on 13 May in the Siambr, the Assembly’s main debating chamber. This will be an opportunity to draw attention to this important topic, and to put questions to the Welsh Government’s Health Minister about what the Welsh Government will do to deliver our recommendations.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their experiences of NPS and their views about what needs to be done to raise public awareness of their harms. Although the Committee itself can only recommend changes rather than being able to make the changes itself, we will continue to put pressure on the Welsh Government and others to deliver the actions set out in our report.

How to get involved and keep up-to date with our work

#SeneddWrexham blog: It’s been a busy week in Wrexham!

During the last week of March the National Assembly for Wales held its week-long #SeneddWrexham series of events. Here Lowri Lloyd Williams, the North Wales Outreach Manager runs through the week’s events.

National Assembly for Wales bus

Monday 23 March 2015

Launching #SeneddWrexham, we parked the Assembly bus in the town’s Queens Square, where we had a steady stream of visitors during the day.

Mr Pugh was our first visitor, who stopped by on his way to collect milk for his wife, to raise points around transport in the Wrexham area.  He was concerned about the road surfaces as well as the amount of roadworks on the A55 and its effect on the area. Parking charges was also a point Mr Pugh wanted to raise.

Other issues raised on the bus during the day included broadband speed, raising awareness of the Assembly’s work and health related matters, specifically breast cancer services.

Andrew Atkinson and Alex Jones from Wrexham Business Group also came on the bus to raise points about business rates. They left the following video regarding business rates in the town.

We were also visited on the bus by Dr Helen Paterson, Chief Executive of Wrexham Borough Council and John Gallenders, Chief Executive of AVOW (Association of Voluntary Organisations Wrexham) who encouraged their staff to get involved in #SeneddWrexham.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Day two of #SeneddWrexham and the Assembly bus was back in Queens Square, and the people of Wrexham were still making the most of our presence, and coming to see us with plenty of questions, comments and matters to raise.

Health again was a popular topic with waiting times, cross border services and free prescriptions among the matters raised. Members of the public who raised these were encouraged to contact their Assembly Members to discuss further and look at the work the National Assembly for Wales Health and Social Care committee have done recently.

We were delighted to be joined by Welsh Baccalaureate students from St Christopher’s School, Wrexham during the morning.  They were given a short presentation on the National Assembly for Wales and as part of the Votes@16 consultation we had an interesting debate around lowering the voting age to 16. You can find out more about the consultation here.  They also thought that young people should be given more opportunities to learn about politics and that Assembly Members should commit to having young people shadow them.

St. Christophers School

St Christophers School during their visit to the bus.

We were also visited by Lynn Morris and Yvonne McCarroll from Wrexham Tenants Group who wanted to learn about ways that tenants could get involved and have their say on issues that affect them.  As I work for the Outreach team in North Wales this gave me a really good new contact in the Wrexham area that I can contact when working with the Assembly’s Committees on future consultations.

While some of the team were on the Assembly bus, others were at The Wrexham Foyer talking with members of their Breakfast club.   They were interested to hear about who represents them and how they can have their voice heard. They also talked about the voting process and learned about how they can register to vote. Listen to Courtney and Amy talk about it here:

On Tuesday night we visited young people at The Vic in Wrexham to do a session on what the Assembly is, how many Assembly Members they have and what their job is. Other members of the team were with Dynamic Wrexham holding a similar interactive session.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

The Assembly’s presence in the center of town for #SeneddWrexham continued on Wednesday with the team setting up a pop-up stand at Contact Wrexham on Lord Street.  People took the opportunity to speak to Assembly staff as they visited Wrexham council for other matters.

We also had a presence at the Info Shop in Wrexham on Wednesday to get young people to complete the Vote@16? Consultation.  We met with some really interesting young people who have strong opinions about the topic.  We spent some time with Lacey, 22, from Wrexham, who is against lowering the voting age as there is not enough education for young people and so they don’t know who to vote for.    We also visited BAWSO during the morning to hold a session explaining the areas effecting their life that the Assembly is responsible for, who represents them and how they can raise issues with the Assembly.

BAWSO Session

Participants during the BAWSO session.

The sessions continued for the team on Wednesday afternoon with the team visiting Welsh Women’s Aid in Wrexham to hold two sessions on understanding and engaging with the Assembly.  It was really interesting session with plenty of discussion points raised. Here’s what Alison Hamlington had to say following the session:

Thursday 26 March 2015

#SeneddWrexham continued to pick up pace on Thursday with activities and events all over the town.

The Assembly was at Coleg Cambria all day where students streamed in to take part in the votes@16 consultation where we wanted to hear what 11-25 year olds think about lowering the voting age to 16. We had over 300 consultation questionnaires completed during the day.

Our website, ‘Your Assembly- your say, your way, will be updated regularly to let you know how the conversation’s developing.

In addition we had a filming station set up in the library of Coleg Cambria, where media students interviewed their peers about lowering the voting age to 16.  The students did all the filming themselves, and discussed other matters too including whether enough information about politics is given to young people and whether voting should be mandatory.  You can see these videos through the playlist

The students staged a ‘Your Assembly takeover’, where their content took over our website aimed at young people for the day. You can view photographs from the day in our Flickr Album.

Over in Glyndwr University during the afternoon, the Assembly’s Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM met with young people from Wrexham to discuss the Assembly’s Vote@16? national conversation. The event was delivered in partnership with Wrexham Senedd yr Ifanc.

We also managed to squeeze in another two understanding and engaging with staff from Wrexham Council and Caia Park Jigsaw group where we were joined by the Assembly’s Deputy Presiding Officer, David Melding AM.

The day ended with a #SeneddWrexham reception hosted by the Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM. It was a successful event with around 70 local people present where we celebrated the work of community champions in the Wrexham area.  To the sound of musicians from Coleg Cambria there was plenty of networking between politicians, leaders of civic and community leaders during the evening.

 

Friday 27 March 2015

The final day of #SeneddWrexham arrived and it was another busy day for the team.

Friday started with our education officers over in Rhosnesni High School where over 150 young people took part in the votes@16? consultation. This was followed by a session with the school council.

Deputy Presiding Officer David Melding AM joined in with the school council meeting where they discussed the issues they had tackled within the school during the past 12 months, including school uniform.

Rhosnesi High School

The school council having their say for votes@16.

After spending the morning on our pop-up stand at Glyndwr University, I spent the afternoon with a group from Hafal in Wrexham delivering the final understanding and engaging workshop of the week.  It was an interactive session with plenty of discussion and we were joined by Aled Roberts AM where he spoke about his role as an Assembly Member.

Hafal Group Presentation

The Hafal group following the presentation.

Meanwhile, over in Glyndwr University members of National Assembly for Wales and Cardiff University staff met with students and hyperlocal bloggers and journalists.  The event was part of the Presiding Officer’s Democratic Deficit initiative, to try and help community journalists around Wales to access information about the Assembly more easily.

The Presiding Officer has pledged to work towards addressing the ‘Democratic Deficit’ caused by large numbers of people in Wales consuming news and current affairs from UK broadcasters and media organisations which often ignore the different public policy landscape in Wales compared to England.

Journalists, including many from the Glyndwr journalism school, had the chance to interview the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM and the Deputy Presiding Officer, David Melding AM. They also attended a press conference style event with Dame Rosemary Butler AM.

We would like to thank everyone who engaged with us during the week for the lovely warm welcome that we had in Wrexham.

It’s was a fantastic week and I know we’ve all had a lot out of the work that we’ve done and hope that you have too.

You can view photographs from the week in our Flickr album .

If you’d like to learn more about the work of the Outreach team in North Wales, then you can contact the Assembly on 0300 200 6565 or contact@assembly.wales.

 

Sharing good practice in scrutiny (3)

Outreach Manager Kevin Davies explains…

Welcome to the third and final blog entry in this series. In my previous blogs I spoke about the challenges of getting a diverse range of people to contribute to committee scrutiny, and then spoke about the different types of things we do at the National Assembly. 

In this entry I’m going to talk about the planning process, which might not be as interesting as the previous blogs, but may be the most important piece in the puzzle. Without proper planning and discussion at an early enough stage, none of what I talked about in the first two blogs would be possible.

Planning and involving the right people at the right time is really important from the get go. A lot of preparation work can be done in advance to give staff internally time to plan, come up with ideas, speak with external experts and contact Assembly Members/Councillors to make sure they are getting the opportunity to shape the type of engagement activity, and in particular which audiences, they want to hear from. At the Assembly we have something called integrated teams (usually made up of a researcher, a committee clerk, legal advisor and communications staff), which basically means that the officials supporting each committee meet every week to discuss current inquiries and work, alongside what’s coming up in the coming weeks and months. It’s not unusual for these integrated teams  to discuss what is on the horizon in the next five to six months. Proper planning means   more flexibility and options at your disposal when it comes to engaging with different groups, organisations and individuals. It’s important that your Communications people are involved at the earliest stage possible to advise and help shape the work, rather that it being an afterthought, or asking them at the end of the process for support on publicising something they haven’t been able to help shape.

Advanced planning will also mean that those groups and organisations you want to help promote the  activity you are planning (be it  an event, survey, the opportunity to be interviewed etc) will have adequate time to do so. It’s important to use the expertise of external groups and organisations when trying to select the appropriate type of engagement method, based on your target audience.

Councils are in a unique position  as they deliver a wide variety of services to different groups of people, covering health, education, transport and the environment to name a few. The people delivering these services are a valuable source of information, and can help you consider  issues and sensitivities relevant to specific groups of people, based on their age, gender, levels of literacy, ethnic backgrounds and so on.

Case Study: Scrutiny of the Cancer Delivery Plan

The National Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee recently looked at how well the Welsh Government was implementing its Cancer Delivery Plan. The Committee wanted to hear directly from patients, so focus groups were arranged across Wales with patient groups, who were then invited to an event in Cardiff to discuss their experiences with Assembly Members. Key to this were the early meetings that the integrated team had do discuss ideas, seeking advice from MacMillan who helped us arrange the patient sessions at an early  stage. Without appropriate planning and those early discussions this  not have been possible, and the Committee would not have heard directly from patients throughout the process.

This is a video was shot after an event held as part of the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry into the implementation of the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan:

At the Assembly we have something called integrated teams (usually made up of a researcher, a committee clerk, legal advisor and communications staff), which means that the officials supporting each committee meet every week to discuss current inquiries and work, alongside what’s coming up in the coming weeks and months.

We usually discuss the following questions:

  • Who do you expect to tell you want they think in writing? (written evidence);
  • Who do you think you will be inviting into speak to the committee in official meetings? (oral evidence);
  • Who do you want to hear from that you don’t think will get in touch, and how can we get to them?

The answer to the third question tends to be the groups we target engagement activity towards. This work should not happen independently of Assembly Members/Councillors, they have to be involved in shaping the work you are undertaking. We have found it useful to have some ideas ready to discuss with them after meeting as an integrated team, and having spoken with people in the sector you would like to hear from. The engagement activity needs to resonate with committee members for it to influence the scrutiny process to its fullest effect.

When trying to find the answer to that third point, we aim to give service users the best opportunity possible to take part. In some cases, such as  the inquiry into the  Cancer Delivery Plan  mentioned above, we wanted to hear from service users – the patients – directly.. The term “service user” will differ depending on the issue you are scrutinising. Another one of the National Assembly’s committees, the Finance Committee, looked at the performance of Finance Wales, and wanted to hear directly from businesses who had worked with them, including  those who had had their applications for investment turned down. These are two very different ”service users” and shows how greatly the answer to the third question can change depending on the issue you are looking into.

Here are some pictures and videos form the event held as part of the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Finance Wales:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalassemblyforwales/sets/72157640037729084/

I hope you’ve found this blog series useful, and please get in touch if you want to talk about any of the things in this series in greater detail.

Sharing good practice in scrutiny (1)

Outreach Manager Kevin Davies explains…

On 12 February 2015 staff and councillors from Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Committee came to the Assembly to discuss how we at the National Assembly for Wales encourage more people to get involved in scrutiny.

I’ve just finished writing the first draft of this blog, which I wanted to keep as short and as concise as possible. I’ve failed miserably, so  I’ve decided to publish it as a 3 part series instead. In part one (this one) I’ll set the scene, talk about some of the challenges, and show you what we talked about with the crew from Swansea Council.

Setting the scene

The remit  of the National Assembly’s committees are very similar to those of local council’s scrutiny committees, to:

  •  look at different issues and subjects that the Welsh Government is responsible for, and at the end of the process …  make recommendations to the Welsh Government to put into action.

Here’s footage of one of the Health and Social Care Committee’s meetings for their inquiry looking at how the Welsh Government has implemented its Cancer Delivery Plan:

http://www.senedd.tv/Meeting/Index/e5ceef9b-454b-41f0-b2c8-2838228ec357

This process can be a lengthy one. National Assembly committees scrutinising (looking at, analysing, and suggesting improvements to ideas) laws the Welsh Government has put forward can take a number of months from start to finish.

Scrutiny for the National Assembly means:

  • making sure the Welsh Government is spending money in an effective way;
  • making sure the laws the Welsh Government want to introduce are good ones, and;
  • reviewing the Welsh Government’s policies.

The National Assembly wants to make sure the Welsh Government is doing its job properly, acting like a watchdog. This is exactly what council scrutiny committees do, but rather than looking at things on a Wales-wide basis as our committees do, your local council’s scrutiny committees look at the decisions made, and the money spent by council leaders in your local area.

This is a video of Eluned Parrott AM explaining the work of the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee:

Challenges

If you’re a council or a National Assembly scrutiny committee, you rely on the information you receive during the consultation period, which can come from individuals, groups and/or organisations, but sometimes we don’t hear from the variety of people we would like to. This could be because the information we put out is technical and people don’t understand the jargon used, because they don’t access information through  the National Assembly or council websites, twitter accounts, Facebook page, newsletters or any other means by which we try to communicate with our audiences. They don’t know that they have  opportunities to take part, or they don’t feel comfortable in taking part by writing to a committee.

Way back in 2013, the Wales Audit Office held their Scrutiny in the Spotlight event at the SWALEC stadium in Cardiff, September 2014 saw the first GovCamp Cymru event, and in November last year Dave McKenna (Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Manager) held a Twitter chat using  #scrusm. Both our  committees and Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Committee face the challenge of encouraging more people to take part in scrutiny activities, so Dave, Dyfrig (Wales Audit Office’ Good Practice Exchange) and I, having taken part in  the sessions mentioned above, decided to arrange a get together to talk about how we can try and tackle the issue.

Dave and I set an agenda which was split into two parts. The first was to discuss public engagement in scrutiny and more specifically:

  • how the National Assembly does it;
  • how the National Assembly plans it; and
  • what effect does it have?

The second part was based around talking about how we use online tools, apps, and other channels to communicate with the public.

Peter Black AM and Mike Hedges AM, both local Swansea Assembly Members, came along during the day to talk about their experiences in taking part in engagement activities for committee inquiries, how it influenced the scrutiny process and the recommendations committees make to Welsh Government ministers.

In the next blog entries I’ll talk in detail about the things we spoke about, and some of the examples cited during the day.

Health and Social Care Committee: inquiry into alcohol and substance misuse

The Health and Social Care Committee has launched an inquiry into alcohol and substance misuse in Wales.

What is the Committee’s inquiry about?

The Committee has recently been doing some work on new psychoactive substances (“NPS”) – better known as “legal highs”. It will be publishing a report in the new year setting out its conclusions and its recommendations to the Welsh Government.

During this inquiry, the Committee has been hearing about the effect that NPS can have on people. Members know that alcohol and substance misuse can also have really serious effects on people, and want to build on their current work on NPS by looking into the issues of alcohol and substance misuse in Wales.

As part of the inquiry, Members want to know about:

  • the effect that alcohol and substance misuse has on people in Wales;
  • how well these issues are currently being tackled; and
  • whether the right local services are in place across Wales to help people and make sure that they know about the possible harms.

The Committee’s Chair, David Rees AM, said: “Alcohol and substance misuse can have devastating effects on individuals, their families and their communities. We want to know what it is that makes people use drugs or alcohol, and whether the right national approach and local services are in place to raise awareness and to give people help when they need it”.

How can you tell us what you think?

To inform the inquiry, the Committee wants to hear from people from across Wales.

Sharing your views with the Committee will help Members to make sure that they can take into account how alcohol and substance misuse affects real people in Wales on a daily basis.

There are three ways that you can contribute to the inquiry:

  • write to or email the Committee with your views on the inquiry terms of reference.

All responses must be received by 9 January 2015.

What happens then?

The Committee will then consider all of the written responses it receives, and arrange formal oral evidence sessions with key organisations and the Deputy Minister for Health.

Once it has taken evidence, the Committee will then write and publish a report which makes recommendations to the Welsh Government.

Where can you find out more information?

If you would like more information about the inquiry:

If you or somebody you know has been affected by alcohol or substance misuse, or if you would like more information, you can contact DAN 24/7 for advice. DAN 24/7 is a free and confidential helpline for anyone in Wales wanting further information or help relating to drugs and or alcohol.
Freephone: 0808 808 2234
or text DAN to: 81066
www.dan247.org.uk

Health and Social Care Committee – work for the autumn term 2014

The Health and Social Care Committee is having a busy term this autumn with a number of important projects underway. These include work on new psychoactive substances (known as legal highs); the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010; and follow-up inquiries on areas of health and social care that affect the people of Wales.

The Committee’s consultation on new psychoactive substances (legal highs) closed last week. This important issue has been widely reported in the media over recent months, and the inquiry has sought the thoughts and opinions of the people of Wales. To inform the inquiry, the Committee visited parts of north and south Wales to talk to both former users and service providers on the impact and effect of these substances.

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The Committee’s Chair, David Rees AM, said: “It has been of great benefit to us as a Committee to have this opportunity to speak with people who work on the front-line, and who are familiar with the issues surrounding the use of these substances. We are now looking forward to hearing more evidence on this important issue in November before bringing forward recommendations in the new year”.

The Committee will be taking oral (or spoken) evidence on Thursday 6 November and Wednesday 12 November, and the issues raised during the course of the inquiry will be put to the Minister for Health and Social Services on Wednesday 26 November. More information about how to watch the Committee’s meetings is included below.

More information on the inquiry into new psychoactive substances (“legal highs”)

The Committee published its report on its inquiry into progress made to date on implementing the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan on 16 October. During the inquiry the Committee held focus groups with cancer patients and others with direct experience of cancer services in Wales. The report summarises the evidence the Committee heard, and set out its findings and recommendations to the Welsh Government. The report has been published on the Committee’s webpage, and anyone interested in finding out more can also follow the inquiry’s Storify.

storify_HSC

More information on the inquiry into progress made to date on implementing the Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan

The Committee is committed to following up on the recommendations that it makes following its inquiries to see what developments and progress have been made. This term the Committee has held a scrutiny session with the Minister for Health and Social Services and the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Wales to follow up on its inquiry on the contribution of community pharmacy to health services. The Committee reported on its original inquiry in May 2012, and now intends to write to the Minister with further recommendations.

More information on the follow-up inquiry on the contribution of community pharmacy to health services

The Committee will also be following up its inquiry into still births in Wales. The Committee reported on this one day inquiry in February 2013, and recently wrote to the Minister for Health and Social Services to request a progress update. The Minister’s response states that, despite the progress made on the engagement of clinical staff, further work remains to be done to fully implement all the Committee’s recommendations. The Committee will soon be writing to everyone that gave evidence in the original inquiry.

The Committee will also be holding a number of scrutiny sessions over this term, including a session with the Chief Medical Officer on Wednesday 22 October, and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales on 26 November. It will also be receiving a briefing on the implementation of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 on 20 November.

If you would like to book a seat to view any Committee meeting, contact the Booking Team on 0845 010 5500 / 01492 523 200 or assembly.bookings@wales.gov.uk. You can also watch the Committee’s meetings through the Assembly’s broadcasting channel Senedd.tv.

If you’d like to keep up to date with this Committee’s work, why not follow its progress on its Twitter feed? Follow @SeneddHealth for all the latest information.

Health and Social Care Committee – visits and focus group discussions for the inquiry into new psychoactive substances.

On Thursday 2 October, Members of the Health and Social Care Committee divided in order to hold two simultaneous visits in north and south Wales. The purpose of the visits was to discuss the Committee’s inquiry into new psychoactive substances (also known as ‘legal highs’) with service users and service providers.

Darren Millar AM, Janet Finch-Saunders AM and the Chair of the Committee, David Rees AM, travelled to Wrexham.

The day started with a visit to the LOTS (Life on the street) project, which is a project established by the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW). Members spoke with people who have been affected by new psychoactive substances, talking about the impact their use has had on them, how easy they are to obtain, and the ways in which the Welsh Government and others could help tackle the problem.

After visiting the LOTS project, Members met with staff at Dan 24/7, Wales’ publicly funded drug and alcohol helpline. Discussions were held about the number and type of calls the helpline takes every day, and the way the helpline is currently being promoted to the people of Wales.

The last discussion of the day took place at Glyndwr University. Here, Members met with focus groups of front line staff from the NHS, the police force, charities and various other organisations currently dealing with the impact of new psychoactive substances. These discussions lasted an hour and were followed by Assembly Members feeding back the main points from their tables for all attendees to hear.

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The main points for discussion at the focus group discussions included:

  • Is the availability and capacity of services to provide support to users of new psychoactive substances adequate, and how could these services be improved?
  • What different factors and approaches need to be considered when dealing with the use of new psychoactive substances in the rural / urban setting?
  • Is the level of coordination, both within Wales and between the Welsh and UK Governments in tackling the issue of the use of new psychoactive substances sufficient, and what needs to be done to improve these partnerships?
  • What different levers should be utilised in order to tackle new psychoactive substances, for example legislation, enforcement activity (trading standards) etc.?

In south Wales John Griffiths AM, Kirsty Williams AM, Lynne Neagle AM, Gwyn Price AM and Lindsay Whittle AM visited Drugaid Cymru in Caerphilly to discuss issues around new psychoactive substances with staff and service users. Later, Members visited a group of young people who have been involved in a filming project – called Choices – through the Fixers and Forsythia Youth Project in Merthyr Tydfil. This film explores the effects of using new psychoactive substances on young people and their families; you can watch it here:

As was the case in Wrexham, the day in Merthyr ended with focus group discussions. You can see pictures from the Merthyr focus groups here:

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You can watch video clips from Assembly Members and event attendees here:

 

The Committee has extended the deadline for the submission of written evidence until Friday 17 October 2014. For more information about how to submit evidence please visit our website:

http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?id=135&RPID=1004326724&cp=yes

The Committee will now take oral evidence from various organisations and individuals as well as the Minister for Health and Social Care in the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. These sessions are due to take place on 6, 12 and 26 November. You can watch the sessions on senedd.tv or you can reserve a space in the public gallery by contacting the Assembly’s booking line. The Committee will then consider its findings and write a report, which will include recommendations to the Welsh Government.

Once the report is published you will be able to view it here: http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?id=135&RPID=1504375700&cp=yes.

You can keep up to date with the Committee’s inquiry by following @seneddhealth on twitter or visiting the inquiry’s Storify page. Both will provide regular updates on progress.

Health and Social Care Committee – Inquiry into the availability of bariatric services

Patients, nurses, doctors, dieticians, psychologists and GPs recently met with Assembly Members at an event in Cwmbran to discuss the availability of bariatric (a branch of medicine that deals with the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity) services in Wales, as part of an inquiry which is being held by the National Assembly for Wales’ Health and Social Care Committee: http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=8523

The event, which was held at the Best Western Parkway Hotel in Cwmbran, was broken into two sections; four group discussions took place at the same time, followed by a feedback session at the end.

Participants were split into four groups to get a balance of viewpoints on each table. These group discussions were facilitated by Kirsty Williams AM, Elin Jones AM, Lynne Neagle AM and Rebecca Evans AM and focused on five main questions:

– What improvements, if any, could be made to the provision of – and patients’ access to – multidisciplinary teams, and weight management clinics, in Wales?

– Do you think current criteria identifying those who are eligible for bariatric surgery are adequate and appropriate?

– How is a patient’s suitability for bariatric surgery assessed by all relevant clinicians involved in his/her care? What, if any, problems are encountered?

– With regard to the treatment of patients with weight issues, is the level of training, information and support provided to health professionals adequate?

– What effect does weight management intervention or lack thereof, have on the lives of patients?

The group discussions lasted for around an hour, followed by a 45 minute feedback session where a representative from each of the four focus groups fed back what the participants on their tables had said.

A nurse (Nia Eyre), a dietician (Sioned Quirke) and a patient (Pam Bland) all took part in the event, and were part of the same group discussion. To see what they thought of taking part in the event, what they raised in their group, and what they think the Committee should recommend to the Welsh Government, see the video playlist below

A note of the main discussion points from the event was written (Agenda item 5c):
http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/documents/g1986/Public%20reports%20pack%20Wednesday%2026-Mar-2014%2010.30%20Health%20and%20Social%20Care%20Committee.pdf?T=10, which fed into the Committee’s scrutiny of the Minister about bariatric services on 26 March. You can watch this session online on www.Senedd.tv.

The Committee hopes to produce a report with recommendations to the Welsh Government in May. The conclusions of the focus groups’ discussions will help inform the report and recommendations. You will be able to see the full report here when it has been completed: http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=8523

All Assembly health news in one place

This week we are trialling a Twitter feed called @seneddhealth which will aggregate all news relating health which is happening at the Assembly. It will feature items such as Plenary debates, inquiries, legislation, consultation responses, research papers, Welsh Government announcements, events in the Senedd and any other health news. The stream will also monitor and retweet relevant news and information from external sources such as charities, health organisations and NGOs.

The idea of the trial is to offer subject-specific streams of information for people and organisations which are interested in particular subjects. It also attempts to demonstrate the scope and depth of the Assembly’s work.

The trial will run until the end of the week so take a look and send any feedback to assemblywales@wales.gov.uk. Suggestions for tweets, channels and organisations to monitor are also welcome.

Awareness of mental ill health

Did you know that one in four people experience mental health problems at some point in their lives? Ninety per cent of those people face stigma and discrimination as a result.

Discrimination against people with mental health issues is not uncommon in Wales. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s research report ‘Who Do You See?’ found that 37 per cent of people surveyed would be unhappy if a close relative married someone with a mental health condition. Only 40 per cent of people surveyed thought that people with mental health conditions are suitable to be primary school teachers.

The campaign Time to Change Wales aim to end discrimination against people with mental ill health and to get us all talking about mental health. Click here for some common myths and facts about mental ill health.

David Crapaz-Keay personally experienced mental ill health.

Mental health charity Mind has come up with ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ which we can all do in work. Each of the tips are designed to help you make your workplace mentally healthier. Try them out today!