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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The name that should not be mentioned

I spent this afternoon at the Technium OpTIC in St. Asaph looking at the innovative ways that North Wales Universities are working with educational institutions in London, Cambridge, and the United States and with the Welsh Assembly Government to turn intellectual and academic advances into commercial applications.

The first thing that strikes you as you approach the Technium is the huge curved solar panel that dominates most of the front of the building. It is the largest in Europe and can be seen at the right of the photo.

I then had a fascinating two and a half hours exploring the many exciting developments being worked on in the Technium, the most memorable of which was the development of digital holographics and the technology to grind lenses for the new European super telescope to be based in the Chilean Andes.

This account does not do justice to all I saw, including a million pound diamond cutting tool that can cut patterns into metal drums to within a few microns and a company developing flexible dye based solar panels.

Before this visit I spent the morning with North Wales GPs talking about health issues around the NHS reorganisation. One of the first things I established was that the name of the new North Wales LHB is very unpopular. The Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board is not a name we use around here I was told though the main objections are to the size of the new body and the fact that some unpopular cuts are already being made as they try to come to terms with a very large structural deficit.

One of the big issues of concern is the number of bed reductions in the area without any proper consultation. Eighty beds have gone in Wrexham and 50 in Rhyl whilst I am told that the LHB is looking for another 40 beds to close in an attempt to reduce their projected £17 million deficit this year. The new LHB will be seeking to cut their budget by 7% year on year over the next three years without compulsory redundancies.

The rationale for the lack of consultation is that these are management actions but they are having an impact on the service. Bed occupancy is running at 95-99% which means that there is no slack in the system to cope with crises and the risks of MRSA increases. I understand that a safer level is around 80% occupancy. There have also been ambulances queuing to off-load patients outside Ysbty Gwynedd in August, an unprecedented occurrence I am informed.

Some medical professionals in the North feel that those planning the future of the NHS have no experience of delivering medicine at the front line and that this is showing in their decisions. If there are going to be less beds then what is the strategy to put in place alternative provision and how much extra cash will be going into that. They do not know because they have not seen any evidence of such planning.

They believe that North Wales' demography needs a new approach based on a good network of low-tech Community Hospitals, properly financed and resourced to which GPs can refer patients who need care but should not be taking up acute beds in District General Hospitals. These hospitals could accomodate patients in need of terminal care, oncology, intraveneous care and respite near to their families. It would of course be expensive but maybe we should be looking at a long term strategy of investment towards these aims within projected budgets.

The Government's strategy has been to take the pressure off hospitals by investing in primary care and it is true that if they are given room and are listened to then GPs can be quite innovative. If we are going to extend primary care then we will need to increase the number of GPs. There has been no increase in Wales for 10 years yet in England there has been a 16% increase.
you really lucky guy peter, i'm not talking about all that LHB stuff but being showed around Technium, digital holographics and seeing the diamond cutting machine, must have been ace, i would have loved to have been there
The digital holgraphics are much more than just displays - this is the future of data storage when magnetic recording reaches its limits - are they looking at that as an application?
I was not told that was the intention. At present they are working with museums to make holographic images of rare and geographically scattered artefacts so that they can display them in one place and take them on tour.
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