Showing posts from June, 2017

Carmarthenshire Council need to listen

Column published in Llanelli Herald on June 9th “Change must be discussed with the public rather than announced to the public" Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said to me in the Senedd the other week after I’d raised Hywel Dda Health Board’s failure to engage with people before deciding that the surgeries in Burry Port should merge. The Health Board have not proved very good at taking people with them when they make changes, and neither has Carmarthenshire Council. There is a clear pattern of high-handed decision-making by the Council leadership as we have seen in the way they changed the status of Llangennech school, have chosen to dig up Llanerch field to build a new school, and are pushing ahead with developments in Parc Howard. Of course, it’s a good thing that the Council has taken the park off the asset transfer register and is willing to invest in its future. That it is only right given the investment the Council has put into Carmarthen Museum (£1.5 Million) a

Ending zero-hours contracts in the care sector

Column in the Llanelli Herald on 14th June 2017 Care services are a vital source of relief and respite to many, and support thousands of people to continue living independently in their own home. But the services are under immense strain - not least because the workers employed within them are pressured into trying to do too much for too little, and aren’t being given the respect and stability they deserve.   Anyone who has an elderly relative, or knows someone who relies on these services, knows that these terrible working conditions can often impact on the quality of care given. Rushed visits as care workers are pressured to fit too many visits in one day, with not enough time allowed for travel between the visits; and high turnovers of staff, which can be disorienting (particularly for older people), and which can impact on continuity of care that complex conditions so require. This week, the Welsh Labour Government has committed to act. Ministers have launched a public

Cutting corners to raise school standards

Published in Llanelli Herald on 2nd June 2017 About 40% of my working week is taken up sitting on two committees - the Public Accounts Committee (which examines the value for money offered by public bodies in Wales) and the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee (that focuses on Wales’ arts, media and historical institutions, as well the Welsh language). They’re a crucial part of the functioning of the Assembly - holding our national government to account, scrutinising expenditure and examining legislation -  but it’s work that largely goes unnoticed. Partly this is because the work can be highly technical (sometimes my weekly briefings are more than 200 pages long); and partly because we just don’t do a very good job of publicising it. Recently, however, a series of questions I asked the Welsh Government Director of Education caught the attention of the BBC. And with good reason. Right now, students (and their parents) across Wales are facing a nail-bitin

Kidwelly’s woes should make us all stop and think

Published in Llanelli Herald on 26th May 2017 Last Friday, I held a public meeting in Kidwelly on the parking and speeding issues faced by the town. Though the meeting was not particularly well publicised over 50 people came out on Friday night to explain how much of an impact speeding cars and inconsiderate parking is having on their lives. For example, people mounting their cars on pavements obviously doesn’t seem like a big deal to the driver but to parents with a pushchair or wheelchair users, this simple act of thoughtlessness can force them out into the road and into potentially dangerous confrontations with oncoming traffic. Cars whose drivers choose to speed through the town is also a concern, particularly for those tackling the school run. With two kids of my own, I know how difficult it can be to juggle the multiple demands of the daily commute without having to contend with self-centred motorists. Split seconds can be the difference between mundanity and trage

Keeping patients in the dark in Burry Port

Published in Llanelli Herald on 19th May 2017 Hywel Dda Health Board have made the decision to close Harbour View surgery in Burry port in the light of the decision by Dr Lodha to retir Doctors retire all the time and this should not have come as a huge surprise. But rather explaining to the patients of the surgery back in February what the options were for them when this single-GP practice hands back their contract to the Health Board, some patients have only just had letters telling them the surgery is to close in July and they are being ‘dispersed’ to Doctors as far afield as Kidwelly, Trimsaran, and Pontyates. The problem is that nearby Doctors surgeries are ful Needless to say there is huge local concern and on Tuesday night 250 patients attended a public meeting called by Nia Griffith and I, along with local County Councillors John James and Amanda Fox. But despite our best efforts the Health Board would not attend to listen to people’s concerns and explain t

Improving Llanelli station

Published in Llanelli Herald on 5th May 2017 This week, Arriva Trains teamed up with a voluntary group, the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, to announce they will be trialling extended opening hours of the ticket office at Llanelli Train Station. Ticket offices aren’t just about being able to purchase tickets - we’re used to using ticketing machines on platforms. It’s about local knowledge, someone we can go to for advice and help, a sense of station security and an ability to join-up public transport provision. From speaking to local passengers about what they want out of the station, it’s obvious to me that the facilities simply aren’t open for long enough - the fact that the station is closed on a Sunday is far from ideal. So I’m glad that throughout May the booking office on Great Western Crescent will open from 6.15am  to 5pm Monday to Saturday, and between 11am and 5pm on Sundays. Currently, the ticket office closes at 12.40pm Monday to Friday, 1.30pm on Satu

Raising our game to help families with autism

Published in Llanelli Herald on 28th April 2017 It is estimated that Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. It affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all autistic people share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people are able to live relatively independent lives but others may need a lifetime of specialist support. The Welsh Labour Government has just announced an additional £7 million investment into the new national autism service for Wales, which will provide lifetime support for children and adults. The Integrated Autism Service offers help with emotional and behavioural issues, support to access leisure and improved diagnostic assessment. It was set up last March and will be rolled across Wales by next year thanks to a total of £13 million of investme

More Doctors for Llanelli

Column published in the Llanelli Herald on April 7th 2017 We had good news this week about an increase in the number of GPs that are being trained. As family Doctors retire, and more and more opt to work part-time, many local surgeries have been struggling. Welsh Labour Health Secretary Vaughan Gething launched an incentive scheme to offer £20,000 to trainee Doctors who sign up to areas that have shortages. This week we heard that the scheme has helped bring a 16% increase in the number of trainee GPs. The campaign has focused on marketing Wales as an attractive place for GPs and their families, to train, work and live by highlighting the benefits and opportunities offered by a medical career in Wales. Developments like the new ‘Front of House’ model at Prince Philip Hospital and the planned ‘Wellness Centre’ at Delta Lakes complement this message by offering opportunities for Doctors to research and develop while they practice as GPs. As well as highlightin