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10th March 2016

University and Life-Science in South West Wales

Firstly I’d like to wish you a belated happy St David’s Day!

Now St David lived an austere existence promoting the virtues of a simple diet and monastic life. These are not terms often associated with university life today. More commonly associations are with images of excess, but this week’s article tells a rather different university story.

Whilst St David was famed for the care and compassion he showed towards his fellow man and woman, these days we have become more used to public services filling the caring-compassionate role. Over the past 30 years, primary care development has been central to the strategies of the World Health Organisation and governments everywhere, in modernising public health services.

In practice this means bringing care closer and more conveniently to where people live, including diagnostics, screening, vaccinations or routine treatments and procedures. Like the rest of the UK, Wales had a health service model focused upon large centralised district hospitals during the second half of the 20th century. Whilst we still need the specialist centralised services that only leading hospitals can provide, the key to promoting community health lies in unlocking the knowledge, resources and expertise previously contained at a district level.

Of course this is easier said than done. As we all know from TV and newspapers, GP services are under particular strain meaning that people struggle to get a timely appointment or to be seen out of hours. Treatment facilities often still remain within the hospital confines rather than available at local GP practices. As a result people migrate to Accident and Emergency services in order to be seen causing problems at that point in the system. The knock-on effect is felt at every point, preventing access to care and discharge back to community based services.

The Welsh Government is familiar with these problems and is working with regions to develop initiatives which avoid these bottle-necks. Strategies of this kind have to start with the current level of service and expertise available, in order to progress towards an improved model of service. This requires developing strategic alliances and partnerships which can deliver real change.

One such collaboration in South West Wales is the ARCH project (A Regional Collaboration for Health), which brings together Swansea University, and two Health Boards. Announced at the Welsh Government BioWales life science conference, an ARCH academy based at Swansea University, which is central to the city of Swansea, will deliver;

  • Memory clinic and dementia care;
  • Cardiac screening;
  • Respiratory clinics;
  • Psychological therapies;
  • Audiology services;
  • Osteopathy clinic;
  • Training programmes for a range of health professionals;
  • Research and clinical practice expertise.

Professor Ceri Phillips, head of the College of Human and Health science at the University said “this unique approach assists primary care through taking referrals in order to ease pressure on GP’s and Accident and Emergency Departments. We are aiming to improve health and well-being across the region, through a range of treatment options and alternative ways for patients to manage their care and avoid delays in obtaining diagnosis and assessment.”

In addition, the project provides a focus for research and investment into the life science sector in South West Wales, providing research and business opportunities which can develop community resilience and provide employment.

I feel certain somehow that St David would approve.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Nic Bowler

Welsh Care and Social Services Inspectorate Specialist

Dr Nicholas Bowler is a researcher and consultant to government-level [Welsh Government Review of Secure Services, 2009] – specialising in QA/compliance focused projects. He has interests in clinically relevant training, service development and research. He enjoys working with clients to support them in identifying problems and initiating projects to improve practice.

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