Senedd Bites #54: Call for universal free eye tests & more

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Opticians body calls for universal free eye tests

Optometry Wales has called on the Welsh Government to make eye tests universally fee after concerns patients were putting themselves at risk by choosing to use online apps over a full eye test, which checks for conditions other than eyesight like diabetes.

Chief Executive, Sali Davis, told BBC Wales: “They (apps) give a fairly accurate refraction but they won’t screen for conditions. We’re interested in what’s going on at the back of the eyes but the patients can’t afford to pay for the tests.”

Scotland currently pays optometrists up to £60 per free eye test (which are available to anyone resident in Scotland), but the Welsh Government pays £21. The Welsh Government said: “The fees we pay are discussed every year with Optometry Wales. We acknowledge the importance of regular eye examinations and are the first government in the world to have an implementation plan for eye care, which includes encouraging more people to have regular tests.”

Independent review finds “serious failings” in timber deal

An independent review into widely-criticised timber deals undertaken by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) found “serious failing” including poor contract monitoring, insufficient financial oversight and ignoring concerns raised by staff.

The organisation has had its accounts qualified by the Wales Audit Office for three years in a row, but NRW said they took the investigation very seriously and have put a plan in place. Opposition AMs demanded a full investigation by the Welsh Government.

Marine energy “losing ground” in Wales

Wales’ potential to supply renewable energy from tidal and wave power has been undermined by an end to ring-fenced industry subsidies according to the Marine Energy Council.

The body said 10 companies have either left the UK or halted projects, despite Wales being expected to be a key player in the UK industry – which is estimated could be worth £76billion across the UK by 2050.

The Chief Executive of Minesto – a Swedish-owned marine energy company working on Anglesey – told BBC Wales: “If you look at the potential of tidal energy for Wales, this is the new coal industry, with the significant difference it is going to last forever.”

Fundraising effort started for Rhodri Morgan statue

Friends and former colleagues of the former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, have started a campaign to raise £150,000 to build a statue in his honour near the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay. Rhodri Morgan died in May 2017 and served as First Minister of Wales from 2000-2009.

Rhodri Morgan’s brother, Prof. Prys Morgan, told BBC Wales the statue would be “in an absolutely superb position”.

“No need to stockpile drugs” ahead of Brexit

The Welsh Government’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer has told the public that there’s no need to stockpile drugs and medicines ahead of Brexit, despite concerns over supply in the event of a “No Deal”.

The Chief Officer told BBC Wales, “Stockpiling is unnecessary and could compromise the plans being implemented by the UK government, reducing the availability of medicines for patients in other areas of Wales or the UK.”