Covid: Call for long-term plan to help burnt-out nurses

A long-term plan is needed to help nurses cope with post-traumatic stress resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, union officials said.

Last year the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) ran a survey looking at its impact on front-line staff and how it had changed nurses’ lives.

Of 2,000 Welsh members who took part, 75.9% reported increased stress and 52% were worried about their mental health.

The Welsh Government said it recognised the pressures on NHS workers.

Nicky Hughes, associate director of nursing at RCN Wales, said: “The Welsh Government needs to set a long-term plan in place to deal with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues amongst nurses as a result of the pandemic.

“Nurses are exhausted, stressed and nearing burnout. Every day they tell us that they feel that they have nothing left to give and feel devalued.”

Almost a year on from the start of the pandemic nurses have had to find “ever more physical and emotional strength” to cope with Covid-19, said Ms Hughes.

The RCN told BBC Radio Cymru’s Dros Frecwast programme nurses needed “adequate psychological support”.

Mental health charity Mind Cymru agreed with the RCN that a “coherent long-term strategy” was needed to help front-line workers deal with the pandemic’s effect on their mental health.

“We urge Welsh Government to factor this in to their plans and take the necessary steps to give people the support they need,” said Simon Jones, Mind Cymru’s head of policy.

“Nursing staff and other healthcare professionals have played, and continue to play, a vital role in combatting the pandemic, often putting their own health and wellbeing at risk.

“Even before the outbreak, we heard from many healthcare professionals struggling with the mental health impact of things like long working hours without breaks, unsociable shift patterns, and dealing with traumatic events.”

A mental health support hotline for front-line NHS staff in Wales – Health for Health Professionals (HHP) Wales – has been set up by Cardiff University and has received Welsh Government funding.

The hotline’s director Prof Jonathan Bisson said he was “encouraged” by the Welsh Government’s investment in HHP Wales along with Traumatic Stress Wales, which helps people who have experienced traumatic events.

“These two initiatives are taking a long term strategic approach to support health workers exposed to traumatic events,” Prof Bisson said.

“HHP Wales offers access to mental health support for any member of NHS staff in Wales and has linked with Traumatic Stress Wales to provide evidence-based treatment to health workers who are experiencing post traumatic stress disorder as a result of traumatic experiences related to the pandemic and other causes.”

The Welsh Government called the “commitment and tireless hard work” of nurses across Wales “truly remarkable”.

A spokesman said: “We recognise the pressures the NHS workforce is experiencing and have worked closely with NHS employers and trade unions to create a comprehensive wellbeing package to help support them, which includes a dedicated and confidential Samaritans listening support helpline.

“We have also expanded our Health for Health Professionals Wales service which offers psychological and mental health support, as well as a number of free-to-access health and wellbeing support apps.”

RCN Wales said it was glad the Welsh Government was backing projects supporting health workers.

It said it encouraged the continued development of a “long-term strategy to deal with the lasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our nursing workforce.”

Blue envelope plan for Scottish jab dates delayed

A plan to deliver vaccination appointments in blue envelopes to people aged 70-79 has been delayed.

The first tranche of appointment letters will be delivered on Monday as planned – but in white envelopes.

Initially the Scottish government said the blue envelopes would be given priority by Royal Mail and would begin arriving on doorsteps on Monday.

But in a statement published late on Sunday evening the government said the envelopes were not ready in time.

The white envelopes will have a window and a black NHS logo on the right hand side.

The government added that the change has no impact on the vaccination programme timetable.

The envelopes are due to be sent out in Fife, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran, Lanarkshire, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Lothian as part of a new booking system.

Under the system, patients are scheduled in order of priority and more boards are expected to make use of the technology as the vaccination programme expands.

A Scottish government spokesman said on Sunday evening that the blue envelopes would be introduced “as quickly as possible”.

He added: “The blue envelopes we hoped to use were not ready in time for the first tranche of vaccine appointment invitations so distinctive NHS branded white envelopes are being used as a temporary measure.

“The absolute priority remains the roll out of vaccinations and this temporary change to the envelope colour has absolutely no impact to our timetable.

“We continue to strongly urge everyone in the 70-79 age group to check all their post in the coming weeks and take up the offer of the vaccine when it is received,” he added.

According to the Scottish government’s vaccine deployment plan, the 470,000 people aged in the 70 and 79 age bracket should receive their first dose by mid-February.

Some patients may receive a phone call from their local health board as part of the appointment process.

And all patients aged 75 to 79 in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will be invited via phone.

A Royal Mail spokesman said “clearly marked envelopes” would be used to make it easier for the postal service to identify and prioritise this mail during sorting and delivery process.

He added: “We are poised to make these letters even more noticeable in the coming weeks as we have agreed.

Meanwhile the Scottish government has said they are on track for all those aged 80 and over to have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week in February.

This age group are being contacted by telephone or another form of letter.

Ministers have faced criticism over the pace of the vaccine rollout, and accusations that Scotland is “lagging behind” England on the vaccine roll-out.

They say vaccines are not being supplied to GPs’ surgeries fast enough.

And they point to the latest official figures which show that 13% of over 80s in Scotland had their first dose by Sunday 17 January, while 56.3% of same age group had been vaccinated in England.

Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that a week on the figure had reached about 40%.

Meanwhile the UK government Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Andrew Marr on Sunday that 75% of over 80s and three quarters of UK care homes had received a first Covid vaccine in England.

About 95% of care home residents have received their first dose, Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish government briefing on Friday.

She said the over 80s roll-out has been slower because the Scottish government has “very deliberately” concentrated on vaccinating care home residents first, which is “more time consuming and labour intensive”.

This was designed to target the most vulnerable and was in line with the priority list compiled by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises on vaccine rollout across the UK, she said.

Skewen flooding: Villagers warned not to return to homes

Residents have been urged to stay away from homes flooded after a “blow out” at a mine shaft following reports some had returned against advice.

Eighty people had to be evacuated from Skewen, Neath Port Talbot, on Thursday and the Coal Authority is investigating the cause of the flooding.

On Sunday First Minister Mark Drakeford visited the village.

Specialists said mine shafts in the area were stable, but villagers were told it was not safe to return home.

Neath Port Talbot Council tweeted on Sunday afternoon that some evacuated residents had ignored the warnings.

It said: “We are getting reports that some residents who have been evacuated are returning to their homes.

“Investigations are ongoing at the site, including safety checks by utility companies. They have asked us to reiterate the request for residents to stay away and that it is not safe to return today or tomorrow.”

It is not known how many residents were thought to have returned to their flooded homes or how long they were there for.

Bigger equipment is being brought in to “understand in detail what has caused the blow out”, according to Coal Authority chief executive Lisa Pinney.

The Coal Authority, which manages the effects of past mining on communities, said it believed the “blow out” was likely to have been caused by a blockage underground which caused water to back up before breaking out.

Council leader Rob Jones warned residents it was unlikely that they could return home by Monday.

Ms Pinney said a hand-drilling crew “determined the precise location and extension of the collapsed mine shaft” on Saturday.

“This now allows us to bring in larger equipment to investigate the wider mine workings and drainage channels in the area around it, so we can understand in detail what has caused the blow out,” she said.

“We have checked all recorded shafts in the immediate area and found them all to be safe.

“We will be checking over a wider area in the days ahead.”

During his visit to the village Mr Drakeford was shown the sinkhole which had opened up on Thursday, leading to the flooding.

On Friday the Welsh Government confirmed financial support would be made available to people affected by the floods, up to £1,000 per household.

Mr Drakeford said on Sunday: “Particularly for families who have no insurance, this is a devastating event.

“They will know that the Welsh Government is there to help and we will do that through the local authority which has been here very visibly, helping people in the last couple of days.”

Robert Rowland: Former Brexit MEP dies in Bahamas diving accident

A former Brexit Party MEP has died in a diving accident near his home in the Bahamas, it has been reported.

Robert Rowland, 54, represented the south east of England at the European Parliament from July 2019 until December 2020.

Nigel Farage paid tribute to the “larger than life character” and “enthusiastic” Brexit supporter.

He announced the death of his former colleague in a statement on Sunday.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force said it had “received reports of a drowning incident” on Saturday and was “conducting inquires”.

Mr Farage said: “It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of Robert Rowland, after a diving accident near his home in the Bahamas.

“Following a successful career in the City, Robert was an enthusiastic Brexit Party MEP and larger than life character.”

He said he wished to extend his “sincerest condolences” to Mr Rowland’s family, including his wife and four children.

Former Brexit Party MEP David Bull said he was “beyond devastated,” adding: “Robert was a wonderful friend and colleague.”

Felixstowe seal released from fishing net

A seal which was trapped in a fishing net has been saved by a member of the public who managed to cut the netting.

The mammal was seen struggling on the shore in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on Saturday morning.

Jo Collins from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said someone spotted the seal and managed to set it free on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m so relieved as the outcome could have been a lot different,” she said.

On Saturday morning, volunteers from the marine charity tried help the seal but it had gone too far back out to sea.

Volunteers continued looking for the seal until it was “spotted by a member of the public”, who called the RSPCA, Ms Collins said.

Whilst waiting for assistance, the seal looked like it was about to go back into the sea, so a woman covered it in blanket and was able to cut the nets.

“It is always best to get the experts involved but I am so pleased we had the right result in the end,” Ms Collins added.

West Midlands snow shuts six Covid testing centres

Six coronavirus testing centres have been forced to close due to heavy snow in the West Midlands.

The weather is also causing travel disruption, with treacherous conditions reported on some of the region’s roads.

A severe weather warning for snow remains in place until midnight, with another warning for ice issued by the Met Office until Monday morning.

Workers for an aid charity have been despatched to support emergency workers and those affected by recent flooding.

Testing centres at Castle Vale Stadium, the Arcadian Centre and Maypole Youth Centre have been closed for the rest of today, said Birmingham City Council.

Facilities in Moat Street, Coventry and The Place in Oakengates in Shropshire have also closed, along with one in Lichfield, Staffordshire, local MP Michael Fabricant said.

Multiple road crashes have been reported and people are being warned to travel only if their journey is essential.

A stretch of the M6 in Warwickshire was reduced to single lane traffic as snow covered the carriageway and emergency workers had to attend an overturned vehicle on the M54 in Staffordshire.

Coventry-based charity Langar Aid said it had despatched volunteers to Bewdley in Worcestershire to help feed emergency workers and residents affected by recent floods.

The River Severn breached temporary barriers on Friday night, affecting homes.

Temperatures are set to drop overnight and some places in the Midlands could fall as low as -10C (14F), said the Met Office.

The severe warning for ice is in place from 18:00 GMT on Sunday until 11:00 GMT on Monday.

Asos joins race for Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge

Asos has joined the race to buy Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge out of administration.

However, the online retailer only wants to buy the brands and not their shops, suggesting any deal would cost jobs.

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which also owns Burton and Dorothy Perkins, fell into administration last November putting 13,000 jobs at risk.

Asos, which according to Sky News is now frontrunner to buy the three brands in question, declined to comment.

It comes after a consortium including fashion chain Next dropped its bid to buy Topshop and Topman last week because it could not meet the price tag.

Others interested in some or all of Arcadia include Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, a consortium including JD Sports, and the online retailer Boohoo.

In addition, the Issa brothers, who recently bought supermarket chain Asda, and Chinese fast fashion giant Shein are said to have made bids for Topshop.

Asos has seen strong sales in the pandemic and is already one of the biggest wholesalers for Topshop, Topman, Burton and Miss Selfridge.

Administrators from Deloitte requested that final bids be submitted last Monday, with the auction expected to conclude at the end of January.

Sir Philip Green is under pressure to use his own money to plug an estimated £350m hole in Arcadia’s pension fund, which has about 10,000 members.

Last year the retail tycoon had an estimated fortune of £930m, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Arcadia employed about 13,000 people and had 444 shops at the time of its collapse.

Keon Lincoln murder probe: Three more arrested

Three more teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of murdering a 15-year-old who was attacked by a group of youths.

Keon Lincoln was “set upon” at about 15:30 GMT on Thursday on Linwood Road in Handsworth, Birmingham, and died later in hospital, police said.

A post mortem examination has revealed Keon died from a gunshot and stab wounds.

Detectives have been granted extra time to question a 14-year-old boy arrested on Friday morning.

Another 14-year-old boy arrested later on Friday has been released under investigation.

A boy, also aged 14, was arrested from his home in Birmingham on Saturday night, the force said.

Two other boys aged 15 and 16 were arrested from an address in Walsall in the early hours of Sunday.

Det Ch Insp Alastair Orencas, who is leading the murder inquiry, described the arrests as “significant”.

“We are gathering a substantial amount of evidence which will take time to analyse, but we must be thorough to get justice for Keon’s family.

“They have been fully updated with the latest developments.”

Snow in the UK: Wintry weather in pictures

Heavy snow has fallen across much of the UK, bringing with it a flurry of opportunities to take wintry photographs.

The Met Office has yellow weather warnings for much of the Midlands and southern England, western and northern parts of Scotland, most of Northern Ireland and much of Wales – where 10 to 15cm of snow is expected in some areas.

By mid-morning large parts of the UK had snow. The wintry showers are due to die out later across most of the country.

All pictures subject to copyright.

David Warburton MPs six stone weight loss secrets revealed

An MP who was previously classed obese has described how he managed to lose six stone in less than a year.

David Warburton, Conservative MP for Somerton and Frome, said he “got a bit obsessed” using a home gym during the first coronavirus lockdown in March.

He is now a healthy weight after using a second hand treadmill and weights.

Mr Warburton has been praised by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock for his efforts.

The 55-year-old told BBC Politics West he had been “overwhelmed” by requests for help from constituents during the first coronavirus lockdown.

But he said he used a home gym in his spare room and music as a respite that took him “away from the phone and the messages”.

“The weight loss was an accidental thing and then I got a bit obsessed with the gym, which drove my wife mad.

“It’s certainly been very effective. I have lost all the weight I put on as an MP and I’m very glad to be able to be back in shape”, he said.

Mr Warburton said his body mass index – which uses people’s height and weight to work out whether their weight is healthy – has dropped from 40, which is obese, to 23, which is healthy.

Prime minister Boris Johnson admitted he had been “too fat” when he fell seriously ill with coronavirus in April but had hired a personal trainer and lost weight.

And Mr Warburton said people must take their weight seriously.

He said: “In this world of Covid it’s incredibly important. We hear that people with a BMI over 30 are supposed to have a 37% greater risk of dying from Covid than those who are not obese.”