With warnings for severe weather in place across Wales, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, has urged people to stay safe and choose well during the cold weather.
Vaughan Gething said: "We are experiencing extreme weather conditions across Wales and people are urged to take care, keep warm and importantly check on older and vulnerable friends, neighbours and relatives.
"While extensive preparation has gone into winter planning across health and social care services and the additional demand this period brings, a spell of adverse and cold weather requires additional actions to be put in place so we are in the best position to deal with any extra pressures. This will ensure the most critical services continue to operate.
"It is likely that there will be some disruption to local services across Wales. Local health boards, GP surgeries and local authorities will be providing information on local services affected and I urge people to check their websites and social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.
"People can help to make a difference by using our health services sensibly. Only call 999 and attend A&E for serious illness or a genuine emergency. Please follow Welsh Ambulance on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.
"If people are unsure, they can check our Choose Well or the NHS Direct Wales websites for advice. Choosing well means you and your family will get the best treatment and also allows busy NHS services to help the people who need them the most.
"Once again I would like to give my utmost thanks to NHS and social services staff for their commitment and support during this challenging period. I have already heard of staff going above and beyond to ensure continued service. It is because of their professionalism that patients will continue to receive the care they need during this severe weather."
The severe winter weather is having an impact on our services, but staff are doing all they can to minimise disruption and ensure our sickest and most vulnerable patients continue to be well cared for.
Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend Region: Extra health staff have been brought in
ABMU is apologising for any inconvenience caused to patients whose appointments may be postponed, and has said it will do its best to reschedule these as soon as possible.
Patients whose appointments or surgery are postponed are being contacted directly.
Outpatient appointments across ABMU were going ahead as normal this morning. In addition, where it was possible, urgent outpatient appointments have been brought forward from this afternoon and tomorrow for these patients to be seen early.
All Friday all routine outpatient appointments will be postponed. However, urgent appointments are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis and where it is safe and possible, will go ahead.
Please note – radiotherapy, chemotherapy and renal dialysis appointments are NOT affected and will continue as normal.
Day case surgery has continued this morning. However, routine, non-urgent planned surgery is being postponed this afternoon and on Friday.
Urgent and cancer patients, and emergency surgery will continue.
What 's being done
Business continuity plan has been invoked, to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum. Accommodation has been identified at sites for key staff who may need to stay overnight. There's also been an increase in management presence to support clinical teams.
Extra staff have been brought in to increase resilience, and transport plans, include the use of 4x4s to assist staff who find it difficult to travel. So far staffing situation remains stable.
Health board Gold and Silver command structures are in place to identify and deal with any operational issues as they arise; and are involving key stakeholders and other agencies.
Hywel Dda Health Board: Cancelled Clinics
A small number of clinics have been postponed for Friday 2 March 2018, in anticipation of continued adverse weather.
With the adverse weather potentially continuing during the next few days there may be more cancellations and patients should ring the number on their appointment letter to check before attempting to attend clinics or by Outpatient Department Contact Centre on 0300 303964 (08:00-17:00). This number covers all sites.
The cancelled clinics are:
• Opthalmology, Crymych Health Care Centre, Pembrokeshire
• General Surgery, Mr Beasley, Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen
• Rheumatology, Withybush Hospital, Pembrokeshire
Steve Moore, Chief Executive at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: "We are still able to operate a number of elective and outpatient clinics, however a small number have had to be cancelled due to the adverse weather. If you have an appointment and you are unable to travel, please call 0300 303964 number to let us know. By calling this number we can also provide you with the latest information regarding your appointment.”
“Staff experiencing travel problems have been assisted in getting to work by utilising 4x4s helping us to continue as normal with as many services as possible. We'd like to thank all who have assisted staff and patients today with their travel and we urge everyone to keep safe and warm through this period.”
Heading out by car?
The RAC is issuing advice to motorists on getting prepared – and also releasing data that suggests drivers are not checking basic things on their car that could stop a breakdown, or even accident, as often as they should be.
Our most straightforward advice to drivers is to ask them to remember the word ‘FORCES@. Completing these checks can save a lot of time and hassle in the cold:
F – Fuel. Make sure you have enough for your journey. Every day, RAC patrols attend drivers who don’t have enough and run out at the side of the road
O – Oil. Check it’s topped up to the right level as it protects the engine, which is working particularly hard in the cold
R – Rubber. Check tyre tread and pressure, as well as windscreen wipers which do overtime on wet, gritted roads
C – Coolant. Check the level isn’t reducing. If it is, there could be a problem that a garage needs to investigate
E – Electrics. Ensure all your lights are working so you stay visible in inclement weather
S – Screenwash. Top it up neat to help keep the windscreen clear in freezing temperatures
Research conducted by the RAC* among 2,000 motorists found that more than a third (38%) said they check their car’s oil at best every two months with 7% saying they wait until a warning light comes on before they do anything – despite too little oil risking causing dangerous and expensive engine damage. Less than a quarter (24%) check their oil as often as the RAC recommends, which is at the least every two weeks and before long journeys.
When it comes to tyres, a car’s only contact with the road, things are no better. Fifty-eight per cent check the condition of their vehicle’s tyres – including tread levels – at least once a month, with the RAC advising rubber is looked at least this often and possibly even more frequently in case of damage from potholes, and prior to long road trips. But 37% do it at best once every two months, and at worst less than once a year. Tyres that are damaged or are low on tread can make driving extremely unsafe, especially on icy and snowy roads.
It is a similar picture with tyre pressure – unless a car is fitted with a pressure monitoring system, tyres should be checked every fortnight and before long journeys. But only a third of respondents (32%) checked them that often, with a similar number (29%) doing it once a month and a fifth (18%) leaving it until at best every three months, and at worst less than once a year. Correctly inflated tyres can reduce the chance of a blow-out and significantly improves fuel efficiency.
RAC patrol of the year Chris Burgess said: “While there are no hard-and-fast rules on exactly how often drivers should check basic things like oil, windscreen wipers and tyres, our research suggests a sizeable proportion are chancing it and hoping their car won’t fail them – which is a worry given the current sub-zero temperatures.
“The prolonged cold snap now gripping the country means that the risks of vehicles breaking down increases significantly. During the snowy conditions in December we saw breakdown volumes increase by around a fifth (20%) in some parts of the country so it really does pay to make sure your car is prepared before setting out.
“Checking things like tyres, oil, coolant and wipers takes little time – and can often be simple and reasonably cheap to sort out. The risks of not checking things and getting them fixed or topped up is potentially disastrous – at worst, you could be risking an accident or breakdown in freezing conditions, and at best you’re storing up problems that could prove to be very expensive in the long run.
“While some drivers might think we suggest overly frequent checks of things like oil, coolant and tyres, it is definitely a case of being ‘better safe than sorry’. By erring on the side of caution and keeping a close eye on the condition of your car, you are much less likely to run into problems.
“In the current very cold weather we also ask drivers to think about friends and family who drive, and to pass on the message that taking just a little bit of time to check over things on their car can make the difference between a safe and trouble-free journey and a cold wait at the side of the road.”
Advice for animal owners
Owners should use waterproof rugs to give their horses added protection from the cold and wet weather.
If it is particularly wet and muddy, it is important to regularly check hooves, for problems such as abscesses and loose shoes, and legs, for any signs of mud fever. Owners should ensure horses have access to a dry resting area, out of the mud.
When riding in the winter, beware of getting your horse sweated up as they can easily catch a chill. Always wear reflective clothing when riding on the roads.
Make arrangements with a reliable and experienced person to take care of your horse or livestock in case of an emergency, such as being cut off by bad weather.
Farmers and smallholders should give extra consideration to young animals and whether they need extra protection from the cold weather. For more information, visit our website.
Cold weather: Wildlife
Birds can struggle to find food during the winter months so, to help them stay strong over this period, householders can leave out extra food for them.
You can feed them suitable seeds and grains, like oats and sunflower seeds; cooked pasta or rice; boiled potatoes, cheese, or uncooked unsalted bacon rind; raisins and sultanas; net-free fat or suet balls; apples, pears and soft fruits; insects such as mealworms or waxworms. Only feed peanuts if unsalted, fresh and sold for human consumption or by a reputable feed shop, and make sure to either chop them up or put them out in good quality mesh feeders.
Keep bird baths free of ice, leave out bowls of clean water, and keep any feeders and water bowls clean.
Make sure you check carefully any wood or leaf piles for wild animals such as hedgehogs, frogs and mice, before lighting any fires or bonfires. If you find wild animals in hibernation, be sure to leave them be.
Remember - if you see an animal outside in the cold that looks like it is suffering, take a note of the location, the time and date and call the RSPCA on the emergency line 0300 1234 999.
RSPCA scientific officer Llewelyn Lowen said: "As the weather turns colder it is important to think about what we can do to help our animal friends.
"Every year, between one and two thousand wild animals are brought into RSPCA wildlife centres in December, January and February suffering from dehydration, hunger and cold.
"A few little changes to your everyday routine can really make a difference to animals. For example, a little bit of extra food left out for a hungry bird may be the help it needs to last through a spate of frosty weather or, if you have rabbits kept outside, you will need to provide them with lots of extra bedding and their home should be placed in a sheltered position, facing away from the prevailing wind and rain."
In an emergency, contact us on our 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.