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Struggling families can rest a little easier thanks to field hospital bed donations

Workmen loading up beds onto a van.

Charity really does begin at home when it comes to donating hundreds of beds no longer needed at Bay Field Hospital.

They will be used to help tackle bed poverty – the true extent of which is now emerging in the Swansea Bay area, with reports of children sleeping on floors, on sofas and even in the bath.

Main image above: Staff from removal company Britannia Robbins, which has donated its services free of charge, load up a consignment of beds for delivery to local families.

A consignment of beds is now on its way to a refugee camp in Moldova, ready for use by people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Others are also being distributed to families in Swansea Bay who will host Ukrainian refugees coming to the UK.

But the majority will be donated to local communities, including charity groups and individual families – many of whom are struggling more than ever because of the economic crisis.

Most of the beds at Bay can be reused in Swansea Bay’s main hospitals and by NHS patients in community settings.

However, just under 600 of them, bought at the outset of the pandemic with Welsh Government funding, were only ever intended for a short-term emergency situation.

They were never meant for permanent use, as they lack the motors and pedals required to raise and lower patients. But they are ideal for everyday domestic use and include mattresses and head and foot boards.

Thanks to the vaccination programme and other measures in place during the pandemic, none of the beds were needed. But they will still be put to good use to support health and well-being in the Swansea Bay area.

Amanda Davies, the health board’s Service Improvement Manager, said 250 of the beds were being transported to Moldova. The remaining 350 will be donated locally, most of them to families with children.

“One in three children in Wales lives in poverty – around 18,000 in the Swansea Bay area,” she said.

“We were aware of a significant issue with food poverty, but bed poverty is much bigger than we could have anticipated and is something very much under the radar.

“We have heard of local children sharing beds with family members, having to top and tail in beds, and sleeping on sofas or mattresses and cushions on floors.

“We’ve even heard about a child sleeping in a bath tub. That is just unbelievable and it is unacceptable that this is happening in the 21st Century.”

Amanda said that, if a child did not have a bed to sleep in, they would be tired in school and could not learn properly.

This affected their future life chances and widened the health inequalities gap within society.

“As a health board we have a moral and ethical obligation to help families in need,” Amanda said.

“If children are sleeping on floors they are more likely to be admitted into our hospitals with various health conditions.

“As a health board we are in a unique position to make a difference. We want to bring about a lasting positive change.

“Poverty can happen so easily, to so many people. It isn’t their fault, but they are embarrassed about it.

“So we want to talk about it, to get rid of that stigma, so more people feel they can come forward and ask for help.”

The health board is working with Swansea and Neath Port Talbot local authorities, schools, and the two councils for voluntary services in Swansea Bay, which are identifying potential families to receive the beds*.

“Our staff and local organisations have been very generous in donating new bedding,” Amanda added. “Our community dental team has also donated dental packs.

“So when a child receives a bed from us, they also have a new full set of bedding and a dental pack to accompany them.”

The beds destined for Moldova are being taken there by Communication Workers Humanitarian Aid – comprising mainly of Royal Mail workers who take aid abroad to people in crisis.

Three people inside a field hospital alongside beds and mattresses. “We are very appreciative to removal company Britannia Robbins, which is delivering beds free of charge to people and families who do not have their own transport,” Amanda added.

Pictured with some of the beds at Bay Field Hospital are (l-r); Sally Bloomfield, Bay Hospital Project Lead; Service Improvement Manager Amanda Davies; and Space Management and Commissioning Manager Tracey Elsey.

One of the charitable organisations to have received beds is Dewis. It provides specialist support to young people aged 16-25, in the Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend areas, especially those with complex needs, who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Director Pam Short said: As a small local charity, the donation of six beds from Bay Field Hospital enables us to further support the young people we work with.

“Increasing costs mean that moving on to independent living is more challenging, and benefits and grants don’t cover all costs in enabling a young person to furnish their home.

“Having a stock of beds means we can support young people at a point of transition or those who are moving on.

“We are grateful for this kind donation, and it will help us to make a difference to those we support.”

*Please note - the health board is unable to receive bed requests directly from families or individuals.

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