Thursday 1 February 2024

Wellbeing support for health and social care sector staff, including Third Sector Organisations and volunteers

Sam Powell is Joint Workforce Experience and Wellbeing Manager working out of the Health, Care & Social Care Academy in Bronllys.



The Health, Care & Social Care Academy is part of a Wales-wide initiative to increase local access to education, training and development across the health and social care sector, specifically focusing on the workforce in Powys.


The Academy aims to support the health and social care sector to be among the top choices for people entering or returning to the jobs market in Powys.



Sam took up his post in March 2023. He supports the wellbeing and experience of health and social care sector staff across the Powys partnership, including Third Sector organisations and volunteers.


Sam says: “I contribute to the Joint Workforce Futures Strategic Framework by seeking to improve overall workforce engagement and wellbeing across the Partnership by collating, measuring, and analysing workforce experience data.


“This means we can share best practice across the partnership, helping staff and therefore improving the experience of service users.


“For example, in the summer of 2023, I conducted a Wellbeing Survey across the Partnership,  feeding the results back into the heads of organisations within the Regional Partnership to inform next steps and offering my own recommendations.

 

“In the coming months, I will be working in partnership with the various organisations - with the aim of continuing, creating and delivering wellbeing activities, benefits and resources for staff.”


Sam has also created the RPB Employee Experience Toolkit




“The Toolkit is designed to help individuals and teams explore what is on offer in terms of workplace experience and wellbeing,” he says.


“The kit includes a self-assessment tool for staff and teams at all levels to use to understand and improve their workplace experience. The aim is to prompt discussion about wellbeing, resources, and workplace culture.


“You can also contact me directly to request support using the Toolkit.”

Sam also supports cultural transformation and improved citizenship across the Partnership space.


He says: “I sit on various Wellbeing, Volunteering, Engagement, Community Spaces and Staff Voice groups. 


“And I offer a broad range of activities linked to the development of high-quality, high performing teams - alongside the provision of tailored support to teams identified as needing more dedicated assistance.”


Sam is keen to work with and support all partners, including Third Sector Organisations and volunteers. 


He says: “I am available to join team meetings – large or small - and help organise or run team events.  


“My experience in both teaching and coaching means I can create bespoke sessions.


“At a recent Development Day, I ran a session for PAVO staff where I passed on wellbeing tips and we practised mindfulness exercises together.



“Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or future, and can help manage stress.





“Playing with Lego can be a simple way to calm your mind and unwind.”


He continues: “I also provided ideas, contacts and in-person support at a wellbeing event for Powys County Council’s Children’s Services team, facilitating the sharing of expertise from across the partnership space.


“For example, staff shared their existing skills on the day, offering alternative therapies such as acupuncture and Reiki at the event.”

Sam leaves us with seven tips that can help improve your wellbeing at work:              

  • Use the resources available in your workplace – Occupational Health, Staff Benefits, Wellbeing protocols and pledges
  • Allow yourself time to focus on wellbeing -  take a break, go for a lunchtime walk, do a 1 Minute Guided Body Scan Meditation, and stay hydrated
  • Invest in yourself – eat healthily, exercise, read up on wellbeing, and know your personal triggers 
  • Look after your mental health with Wellbeing Apps like Finch, Headspace or Calm
  • Take time to reflect on your achievements, for example, start a folder of emails containing positive feedback or write praise down on Sticky Notes
  • Connect with work colleagues, friends, and family - go see them or simply pick up the phone
  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. You are not alone

To find out more about the support Sam can offer you and your teams, contact him via email at Sam.Powell@wales.nhs.uk. He is always available to give advice and provide contact details or resources. 



Saturday 2 December 2023

Grief Awareness Week 2023

National Grief Awareness Week takes place from December 2nd to December 8th.

The week is dedicated to raising awareness about grief, providing support to those who are grieving, and fostering a better understanding of the grieving process. It is a period for individuals, organisations, and communities to come together to acknowledge and address the various aspects of grief.


We spoke to Abbie Lycett, Mid and North Powys Mind Bereavement Support Service Coordinator and Supported Self Help Practitioner, about support the service offers to people living in Powys.

Abbie says: “Bereavement is the experience of losing someone important to us. It is characterised by grief, which is the process and range of emotions we go through as we gradually adjust to the loss.

“Losing someone important to us can be emotionally devastating - whether that be a partner, family member, friend or pet.

“It is natural to go through a range of physical and emotional processes as we gradually come to terms with the loss.”

Bereavement affects everyone in different ways, and it's possible to experience any range of emotions.



“There is no right or wrong way to feel and there is no time limit on grief,” Abbie continues.

“And this varies hugely from person to person. The time spent in a period of bereavement will be different for everybody.

“There is a traditional model of grief, portraying grieving as ‘stages’ that we go through: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

“Sometimes people think that going through the stages means our grief gets less over time.

“Grief counsellor Dr Lois Tonkin created a different model proposing we can and do grow around our grief, with new experiences and life adjustments.

“Some people find this helpful as it means we are not expected to ‘lose’ our sense of loss over time but to assimilate our bereavement into our lives.”


MIND has put together a list of things that can help following a bereavement:

  • Look after yourself – take time out to sleep, rest, think, and be with people you are close to

  • Talk about your feelings and what has happened

  • Try to keep your life as normal as possible after the acute grief

  • Tell people what you need

  • Children experience similar feelings so let them talk about their emotions and express themselves creatively

  • It helps your child to go back to school. Let them keep up with their other activities and let their teacher know what has happened.

  • Accidents are more common after severe stress so be careful



Mid and North Powys Mind also offer a free 1-2-1 Service to support adults, young people and children across Powys to process their feelings of loss and grief.

A volunteer Bereavement Supporter who has experienced loss and undergone extensive training works alongside you on a one-to-one basis, listening and helping you work through your grief in your own way.

Each session lasts roughly an hour and support continues for an average of 6 sessions.

Sessions can be face-to-face and/or via telephone/Zoom, depending on what works for you.

Anything you say is kept in the strictest confidence unless someone’s safety is at risk.



Abbie says: “I also volunteer as a bereavement supporter. I support people in person and via the telephone.

“I have found that working alongside people who have gone through loss themselves is useful as it provides a neutral person.

“Sometimes it is easier to express yourself to somebody who does not know anything about you or the person you have lost.

“It gives them a confidential space to speak their thoughts and feelings aloud with someone who is not judgemental and treats them with unconditional positive regard.

“Sometimes it can empower people to decide what is important to them and how they can adjust to the changes in their lives that bereavement can bring.”

Mid and North Powys Mind also have two bereavement support groups. The ‘Bereavement CafĂ©’ meets in All Saints Church in Newtown on the first Friday of every month at 6.30pm.

‘Support after Suicide’ is a group specifically for people bereaved by suicide. They meet on the first Tuesday of every month in different venues across Powys. You can find more details here: https://www.facebook.com/SupportAfterSuicidePowys

Mid and North Powys Mind also give talks about bereavement to community groups and schools.

If you would like any further information and/or support, please contact Abbie via email bereavement@mnpmind.org.uk or phone 07496870039.




Thursday 9 November 2023

Lingen Davies Cancer Champions

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Every year around 19,500 people in Wales are diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer survival in Wales is improving, with 58.5% of people surviving their cancer for five years or more. But there is more to be done to accelerate progress so that 3 in 4 people survive their cancer by 2034.

Early diagnosis of cancer focuses on detecting symptomatic patients as early as possible so they have the best chance for successful treatment. When cancer care is delayed or inaccessible there is a lower chance of survival and increased problems associated with treatment.


Lingen Davies Cancer Champions empower and encourage people in their community to take up cancer screening invitations, spot early signs and symptoms and seek help.

They also feedback any common barriers to early reporting and uptake of cancer screening identified in communities. Concerns are documented and passed on with the aim of enhancing future provision of services.


Helen Davies, Powys Cancer Champions Coordinator, recruits, trains and supports volunteers to become Cancer Champions and have sensitive conversations about the importance of early cancer diagnosis with friends, family, colleagues and clients.

Newtown-based Helen said: “Spotting cancer early saves lives. Treatment is usually less complex and outcomes are better.

“By working with volunteer Cancer Champions who are trusted members of existing communities and who can have informed conversations about cancer screening as part of their everyday lives, we hope to increase screening awareness and uptake.

“We have already trained Cancer Champions from a variety of groups such as Kaleidoscope, The Rural Crime team and Celf Able as well as individuals.”

We discussed four common barriers to accessing screening and services.

1. Myths

Numerous myths circulate about the causes of cancer. Mobile phone use, eating burnt food, and using plastic bottles to name a few. But no evidence exists of any of these factors increasing your risk of cancer.

It is vital people use reliable sources of information. Cancer Research UK explain the truth about these myths and more here.

Helen says: “Understanding the truth is crucial. Cancer Champions learn about up to date research aiming to dispel myths and provide accurate information.”

2. Embarrassment

Cancer symptoms often go unchecked due to embarrassment. People wrongly feel ashamed discussing some of the signs - but it can be life-saving.

Macmillan Cancer Support advises signs and symptoms to look out for include: bowel changes; problems peeing; penis and testicle problems; breast, chest or nipple changes; vulva and vagina problems.

You can find Macmillan's full list of signs and symptoms here.

Helen says: “Cancer Champions aim to break down barriers by empowering people to have difficult conversations.”

3. Misconceptions

Cancer screening is a vital part of the detection process for everyone - whether they have symptoms or not.

“Many people do not understand cancer screening is for people without symptoms and can spot cancer before any signs are noticeable,” Helen says.

“For example, according to Cancer Research UK almost all women diagnosed with breast cancer survive the disease for 5 years or more if diagnosed at the earliest stage.”

Currently people living in Powys are offered screening for bowel, breast and cervical cancer.

People aged 51-74 automatically receive a free NHS bowel screening test kit every two years. The kit is designed to measure how much blood is in your poo and can be completed at home. Once you have sent your test back, your results will be with you within two weeks.


Women aged from 50 up to 70 are invited for breast screening every 3 years. Screening involves taking mammograms - x-rays of the breast. Women aged 70 and over will not be invited for screening, but can contact Breast Test Wales and ask for an appointment.

Women and people with a cervix aged between 25 and 64 are able to have cervical screening in Wales. The test looks for high-risk types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause cell changes on the cervix. Finding cell changes can prevent cervical cancer from developing.

You can find more information here.

Helen says: “Education around this is a key part of a Cancer Champion’s mission to help to raise awareness and encourage more early diagnoses.”

4. Practical issues

There may be practical barriers to the uptake of cancer screening, such as language, cultural, and mobility issues, and other personal barriers like the inability to leave dependents.

Helen says: ‘‘I am recruiting Cancer Champions from as many diverse backgrounds as possible to highlight where barriers might be and ensure information is collected from these groups so that steps can be taken to address issues where possible.

“By training and supporting Cancer Champions from different communities, we are gaining valuable insights into some of the reasons people don't take up cancer screening invitations.

“We are keen to share our findings and knowledge with other cancer service providers, such as Powys Teaching Health Board and Public Health Wales, to identify gaps and opportunities to address local needs so together we are raising awareness and understanding about the life-saving impact and importance of cancer screening.”



The Lingen Davies Cancer Champions initiative launched in Powys in March 2023.

Cancer Champion training is available to anyone living in Powys as well as statutory, voluntary or community organisations.



The team can also attend community events and venues with their health promotion bus or gazebo, or indoor venues with their cancer awareness stand.

For more information visit: www.cancerchampions.co.uk

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Staying well and warm this winter

The mental and physical health impacts of a cold home can be far-reaching and long-lasting - for example, it can increase the risk of respiratory conditions like asthma attacks or worsen chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - and with winter fast approaching it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when dealing with your home energy. 

With that in mind, Kate Lewis - Severn Wye Energy Advocate for South Powys - gave us her top tips for reducing energy use to help you stay well and warm this winter.

1. Keep the heat in and the cold out

Heat you’ve generated - and paid for - will always try to find a way to escape, so insulation is one of the best ways of saving energy. Draft-proof your home wherever you can feel cold spots. Check that your loft is properly insulated. You might be eligible for insulation, heat pump and solar panel grants – sometimes even a new boiler - and we can point you in the right direction.

 

2. Programme your heating 

 

Waking up to a warm house is the healthiest way to start your day, and programming your heating to suit your lifestyle works out cheaper in the long run. If you have a programmable thermostat, use it. If you’re not sure how to do this, you should be able to find manuals for most thermostats online, or ask an energy advisor to help.

3. Monitor your thermostat 


You’ll know the right temperature for you depending on your needs but, in general, living areas should be kept at 21C with the rest of the house comfortable at 18C. At night when you’re in bed, the heating can be turned off. However, turning down your heating by just one degree could cut your heating bill by up to 10%. And avoid using plug in heaters - they're expensive to run. 


4. Turn things off 


Get into the habit of turning off appliances and lighting when not in use. Turn lights off when you leave the room or during the day. And don’t leave appliances like bathroom extractor fans on for long periods as they use a lot of energy. 

 

5. Electric showers and kettles use huge amounts of energy


Use a mug to measure out what you need when you fill the kettle and aim to keep showers to four minutes or less. Try using an egg timer or showering to your favourite song that you know doesn’t last long – definitely not Bohemian Rhapsody – it lasts for at least 6 minutes!



6. Use low-energy lightbulbs 

Replacing your lightbulbs with low-energy equivalents can make a huge difference to your energy bill. LEDs can use 90% less energy than standard lightbulbs. 

7. Shrink your bills, not your clothes

Ninety percent of a washing machine’s energy is spent heating the water, so wash your clothes at 30–40°C instead. A longer but cooler wash is considerably cheaper than a shorter but hotter one - and this will help your clothes last longer.

8. Batch cook

Ovens use a lot of energy so plan ahead and batch cook to make the most of the energy you are paying for. Microwaves are more efficient for reheating leftovers than the oven. If you have an air fryer or slow-cooker, use them – they are so much cheaper than ovens.

9. Use the dishwasher if you have one

If you have one, use the dishwasher rather than washing up by hand - but always put in a full load. If you don’t have a dishwasher, use a washing up bowl and don’t keep the hot water tap running.

 

10. Get smart 


Smart meters are offered free of charge by most energy companies. You can use them to watch what you are using in real time, helping you manage and control spending. Smart meters also stop estimated bills. 



11.
Speak to an Energy Advocate

A team of three community-based Severn Wye Energy Advocates offer free confidential support for anyone living in Powys, including energy-saving advice and help with fuel debt and large energy bills. Additionally, they can help you understand your energy bill, talk to energy providers on your behalf and assist accessing grant funding for energy-saving improvements. They can also check you are receiving all the support you’re entitled to, for example, Winter Fuel payment, Pensioner Cost of Living payment, Warm Home Discount and Cold Weather Payment, and signpost you to making the connections you need to keep you Warm and Well now and in the future.

Powys Energy Advocates also hold regular drop-ins, work with local support services and attend community events. Check out the Severn Wye November Newsletter for all the latest information.

To arrange a one-to-one call with an Energy Advocate in your area, email advocate@severnwye.org.uk, visit severnwye.org.uk/powys, or contact your own local energy advocate via the above link.

Powys Advocacy support is funded by the Energy Redress Scheme until October 2024.

Severn Wye Energy Agency, a non-profit company and registered charity, operates throughout Wales and its English border counties supporting communities, residents and businesses to create a sustainable, affordable, low carbon future.

 



Wednesday 28 June 2023

NHS 75 - Three Decades of Service.

This month the NHS turns 75. Vic Deakin from Powys Vic began her working relationship with the NHS as a student in 1988, in this blog Vic tells us what it's been like working with the NHS for over three decades.

Where and when did you first start work for the NHS?

I am an experienced Occupational Therapist with a career spanning over three decades in the National Health Service (NHS). I began my journey as a student in 1988, with placements in various healthcare settings such as neuro and rheumatology wards in Sheffield, Rotherham community services, Kings Way Mental Health hospital, and Burton on Trent general surgery.

Can you tell us about your first role?

After qualifying in 1991, I started my career as a Basic Grade Occupational Therapist. My rotation included working in medical and neuro wards, older people's mental health, acute psychiatry, and community rehabilitation. It was during my time in community rehab services that I developed a deep passion for occupational therapy and its integral role in empowering individuals within the community.

Had you always wanted to work in healthcare?

My interest in healthcare initially sparked through volunteering at the local hospital as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. It was during this time that I encountered an Occupational Therapist who inspired me to pursue a career in the field. Prior to that, I had aspirations of working in hotel services/management.


Life after moving to Powys

Have you had different roles in the NHS since then?

Throughout my career, I have held various roles within the NHS. I worked as a clinical specialist for neuro services in Chesterfield and later moved to Powys in 1994 after marrying a farmer. Within Powys Teaching Health Board, I have taken on roles such as Occupational Therapist Team Lead, Head of Service, and currently serve as the Head of Therapies and Professional Head of Occupational Therapy.


Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?

In my current role, I have the privilege of managing all therapy and Health Scientists within the community service group in Powys Teaching Health Board. It has been a fulfilling learning experience as I gain a deeper understanding of each service's unique contribution to the NHS, while also overseeing specialist services like Lymphedema. Additionally, I provide professional leadership to all occupational therapists in Powys, collaborating with exceptional practitioners in children, adult, and mental health services.

What do you think the benefits of the NHS are?

The benefits of the NHS lie in its commitment to providing the best healthcare services, continually seeking transformation and improvement. Throughout my journey, I have encountered countless inspiring patients and dedicated colleagues who have left a lasting impact on me. From the gentleman who brought a smile to my face on my first day by misplacing his false teeth to the patient who taught me patchwork as part of her desire to return to teaching, these encounters remind me of the human connections forged in healthcare.


Lessons learned from patients.


Do you have any particular  memories or feel good stories that stand out for you? 

The NHS's invaluable aspects lie in its extensive community and its aspiration to deliver equitable healthcare for all. Witnessing the successes of patients and staff alike has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working for the NHS. However, navigating budgetary challenges can also pose significant hurdles.

Are there any aspects of the NHS that you feel are invaluable?

Imagining life without the NHS is unimaginable for me. The comprehensive and accessible healthcare services provided by the NHS are essential, and without it, many individuals would face significant barriers to healthcare, limiting their well-being and quality of life.

What are the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of working for the NHS?

The NHS's invaluable aspects lie in its extensive community and its aspiration to deliver equitable healthcare for all. Witnessing the successes of patients and staff alike has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working for the NHS. However, navigating budgetary challenges can also pose significant hurdles.

Can you imagine what life would be like without the NHS?

Imagining life without the NHS is unimaginable for me. The comprehensive and accessible healthcare services provided by the NHS are essential, and without it, many individuals would face significant barriers to healthcare, limiting their well-being and quality of life.

If you could wave a magic wand what would you give to the NHS? 

If I had a magic wand, I would grant the NHS unwavering commitment and support to ensure its continued existence and effectiveness for the next 75 years. The NHS's ability to evolve, adapt, and provide exceptional care relies on long-term dedication and resources.

Vic Deakin - three decades of service with NHS. 

Overall, my journey in the NHS has been filled with incredible experiences, remarkable individuals, and a profound sense of purpose in improving lives originally through occupational therapy and now through the wider therapy and health sciences services.