Edinburgh Marathon promotes free workshops

By Carolina Morais

Organisers of the Edinburgh Marathon today launched a series of free workshops ahead of the event which is expected to attract thousands of people next May.

People in Edinburgh showed up at the Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Center for tips on training plans, nutrition, goal setting, physiotherapy and a guided run along the canal.

Annette Drummond, one of the organisers, said she is “proud” of all the work that has been done by her team.

“We have been around for 13 years now and the event has expanded and grown so much,” she said.

“It started off as just a marathon and now it is a marathon festival over two days, bringing 30,000 people together to raise millions for charity and boost the local economy, all whilst keeping fit and helping people achieve their dreams.”

The Edinburgh Marathon 2015, scheduled for the 30 and 31 May, will be raising funds for Diabetes Scotland and has already received a £2,376 donation from a team of investment managers from the Business Growth Fund.

The race was the first in Scotland to be recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).

Ms Drummond said its popularity has been boosted not only for being “an IAAF rated event” but also “by the fact that Edinburgh is a beautiful city that people like to visit”.

“This is an international event”, the organiser said. “70 per cent of the marathon runners come from outwith Scotland.”

Free workshops in preparation for the main marathon will also be held in Glasgow on 30 October.

Work starts on new Scottish blood centre

By Madalina Dichiu

CONSTRUCTION started today on Scotland’s new national blood centre, part of the £4.5 billion project in Scotland.

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) received £43 million from the Scottish Government.

The National Centre of Excellence will be the hub for the processing, testing, supply, research and development for blood and human donor tissues and cells at Heriot-Watt Research Park in Edinburgh.

The facility will be completed by mid-2017 and more than 400 staff members are expected to move to the site.

It will consolidate and modernise services, which are currently carried out over a number of sites.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon marked the start of the development.

She said: “Currently projects worth around £750 million are in construction across Scotland. This government’s continued commitment to infrastructure investment is delivering quality services among the people who visited the new sites, creating jobs and helping to grow the economy.

“This new state-of-the-art centre will put Scotland ahead of the rest of the UK for its work researching and testing blood.

“It will also deliver investment and opportunities to the local community and will mean we can continue to provide sustainable, high quality and continually improving healthcare services to patients across Scotland.”

Mary Morgan, director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, said: “The development of this new facility has been years in the planning and it is very exciting to be on the threshold of the construction phase.

“Consolidating many of our services will mean we can continue to meet the growing blood transfusion needs of patients across the country while providing the highest quality working environment for our staff and on-going contribution to Scotland’s leading life-science research and development industry.”

Scotland’s Blood Transfusion Charity, Give Blood for Scotland, claims that only four per cent of people in Scotland give blood. The country has a constant need for blood donors, with more than 1,000 donors required every day to meet hospital demand. People need blood for many reasons – after trauma, general supply or to support cancer.


Judy Murray Launches Scottish Poppy Appeal

By Tom Crosby

JUDY MURRAY launched Poppy Scotland’s annual fundraising appeal today at Stirling Castle.

The event saw the beginning of a campaign of fundraising and remembrance that aims to beat last year’s total of £2.64 million.

Leigh James, a spokeswoman for Poppy Scotland, said Ms Murray was chosen to open the event due to her high profile.

She said that “every year needs to get off to a good start” and as Ms Murray is from a military family she has a deep connection with the campaign.

Both Ms Murry’s father and paternal grandfather served in the British Army, with her other grandfather a member of the RAF.

At yesterday’s launch Ms Murray was also joined by 11-year-old Megan Adams from Stirling. Miss Adams is a member of the Poppy Girls – five young Scottish girls chosen from 1,000 hopefuls to release a commemorative fundraising single for the appeal.

The Royal Navy was represented by her father, Lieutenant Billy Adams, who was there with his wife Cheryl, herself a naval veteran. Mr Adams recently returned from active duty off the coast of Somalia to surprise his daughter during a liveperformance, reducing her to tears.

Fields of remembrance will be open in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and Inverness’ Cavell Gardens from next Monday for one week. They will include hundreds of crosses sent in by members of the public each inscribed with personal messages.

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh airport control tower and The Hydro in Glasgow will be lit in red to commemorate the event.

The money raised will provide help and support to ex-servicemen and their families as well as funding the Royal British Legion’s personal recovery centres.

Poppy Scotland is taking donations via its ‘text to give’ service as well as online, by phone, post, or street collections.

Details of how to donate or volunteer can be found on its website.



New average speed cameras on the A9 road

by Arantxa Barrachina

A network of average speed cameras on the A9 between Inverness and Dunblane was installed today at 27 sites on the road at a cost of £2.5 million.

The installation of the cameras is the latest measure taken by the Scottish Government to improve safety on one of the most dangerous roads in the country.

The speed limit for HGVs using the A9 has also been raised from 40mph to 50mph as a pilot project.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said speed cameras would save lives on the road.

He added: “All the evidence we have had from other sites show reductions in fatalities. Surely everyone should welcome that.”

Scottish Government and the Strategic Transport Project Review (STPR) already have an ambitious investment plan in transportation and infrastructure by 2030.

According to the STRP,  the new A9 dual carriageway will improve the connection between Perth and Inverness.

The project has an estimated budget, according to the STPR, of between £1.5 billion and £3bn, but the savings of the £50 million of the Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC) project would be invested in improvements to the A9.

The FRC is Scotland’s biggest transport infrastructure project, due to be completed in 2016, and it will replace the Forth Road Bridge, which has deteriorated due to traffic levels and weather conditions.

Laura Ferri, a civil engineer working on the FRC project, said: “The FRC project will provide a vital road link for maintaining the economies of Fife, the East coast of Scotland and Edinburgh.”

She added: “Improving connections and safety between the North and South of Scotland is very important. It will improve new accesses around locations.”

Health fears over Edinburgh exercise Levels

by Vanessa Kennedy

Less than a third of people in Edinburgh are doing the recommended half an hour of exercise a day, a new report has revealed.

An Edinburgh City Council report surveyed up to 4,000 people to ask how many days in the past week they had done 30 minutes of physical exercise which was enough to raise their breathing rate.

Less than a third of people met the recommended target of two-and-a half hours of moderate physical activity per week set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The organisation estimated that 3.2 million deaths per year could be attributed to low levels of physical activity.

The health body advises that active people are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Edinburgh University is set to start a pilot “Healthy University” project to address physical activity levels in inactive students who are doing less than the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity.

The head of the project, Helen Ryall, said the aim of the project is to “actively promote and deliver tangible health and wellbeing benefits for the University community through increasing the engagement of staff and students in health and wellbeing across the university”.

The programme will provide one-to-one support to students who are inactive, possibly suffering from mild to moderate depression or weight management issues.

Ms Ryall said: “We know that when students feel well they learn better, so this is a win-win for everybody.”



17 year old in critical condition after another ‘Mortal Kombat’ incident

By Martha Shardalow

Perhaps as proof that new club licensing laws are yet to solve the problem, last night a 16 year old boy was battling for his life in intensive care after taking what is understood to be the same lethal ecstasy tablet that killed 17 year old Regane Maccoll in Glasgow last month.

Partick Hill overlooking Glasgow. The city at the heart of recent ecstasy drug scares. Credit - Martha Shardalow

Partick Hill overlooking Glasgow: the city at the heart of recent ecstasy drug scares. Credit – Martha Shardalow

The 16 year old is said to be in a critical “but stable condition” in Monklands District General Hospital in Airdrie, after apparently consuming illegal drugs at a house party on Saturday night.

Tests have also been carried out on a 17-year-old boy also at the party in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, after both teenagers fell ill and were submitted to hospital.

Police Scotland have issued a statement confirming that they believe the drugs included ecstasy and “possibly” a Mortal Kombat tablet.

A spokeswoman for NHS Lanarkshire emphasised: “Anyone who has taken ecstasy – particularly the one described as Mortal Kombat, and who is feeling unwell, or who knows someone who has taken this type of drug in the past few hours, should attend or contact their local hospital for treatment and advice.”

This official stance has reminded people to avoid illegal drugs at all costs; a warning that users can never be certain of what precisely they are taking. This is especially directed at those taking ecstasy pills, which are often cut with multiple substances that are proving fatal.

The news comes after The Arches nightclub in Glasgow raised its minimum age admission to 21 last month. The venues decision came as a direct response to the “tragic events of 2nd February” when 17 year old Maccoll collapsed on the premises and later died in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Police later linked her death to the ecstasy-like ‘Mortal Kombat’ tablet – a distinctive red pill believed to be stamped with a dragon.

Today these warnings have been renewed with repeated vigour.

Pressure at The Arches - the venue which has now changed it license to over-21s only after 17 year old Regane's death on the premise.

Pressure at The Arches – the popular venue which changed its license to over-21s after 17 year old Regane’s tragic death.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Livingstone of Coatbridge police office, said: “We are continuing to work with our partner agencies, including health officials and medical staff, in connection with this investigation. At this time our priority is to ensure that everyone who was at the house party is safe and well, and officers are carrying out extensive enquiries to trace everyone involved.”

“Further to previous warnings, I would again strongly advise people to avoid illicit drugs as their exact content is unknown and can contain dangerous chemicals. Users must be aware of these dangers and understand the devastating effect they can have.”

Dr Neil Howie, NHS Lanarkshire consultant in emergency medicine, restated the weight of an immediate response to flag up symptoms. “Early warning signs include a feeling of agitation and distress and it is important that people are seen as early as possible.”

As another week arrives with ecstasy pill-related illness forming headlines, fresh debate on Scotland’s Drug Policy is taking place across multiple forums. A Thousand Flowers bloggers urge the government to adopt a new approach based on education, decriminalization and the introduction of drug testing kits in order to “help save lives and turn the tide on dodgy pills.”

As this incident surfaces, a teenager has been arrested in connection with alleged drug offences. He is expected to appear at Airdrie Sheriff Court today.

These are undeniably testing times for Scotland’s recreational drug users and the appropriate way forward for UK drug policy remains uncertain.

Pace4Life Unveil Plans to ‘Recycle’ Pacemakers

© Christopher Gruver

© Christopher Gruver

By Lisa Moir

UK charity Pace4Life has unveiled controversial plans to ‘recycle’ life saving pacemakers for use in the developing world.

The charity, born in 2012, is working in partnership with the University of Michigan and their parallel organisation “My Heart, Your Heart” to research the reuse of the devices.

Pace4Life in conjunction with  The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) have recently announced the initiative to collect and reuse the pacemakers collected in the UK.

Director of Abbey Funeral Services and executive committee member of SAIF, Jo Parker said: “As a funeral director, I have to arrange for the removal of pacemakers from the deceased if the family asks for a cremation as pacemakers cannot be cremated due to the lithium in the battery.   These pacemakers are then sent away to be destroyed. Following a chance meeting with Lavan we have been working closely together on this project.  As a member of the executive committee for SAIF,  I have rolled this idea out to our 1,000 funeral home membership. Many Funeral Directors have signed up to Pace4Life and are coming on board.   I see no reason for this not to work as the choice is destroy or recycle/reuse, the families I have dealt with are more than happy for the latter.”

After the 30th of November 2013, all pacemakers removed by SAIF members will require a completed next of kin consent form. This will allow Pace4Life to begin testing and sterilisation of the units enabling those meeting requirements to be exported for use in the the developing world. Any units not making the grade of at least 70 percent battery will continue to be recycled for the precious metal contents, providing essential funds to the project.

The initiative has been met with trepidation by global leader in pacemakers Medtronic. In a statement, Medtronic said: “Medtronic does not support the reprocessing or reuse of its implantable cardiac devices. Our devices are designed for one-time use only to maintain a consistently high level of quality and reliability that ensure safety and efficacy for patients. The sterility or performance of the device cannot be guaranteed with reused devices. These devices are complex and we believe these practices have the potential to introduce unacceptable risks to patient safety and quality medical care.”

Despite the concerns of pacemaker manufacturers, the plans are greeted with much enthusiasm from those involved. Pace4Life founder, Lavan Balasundaram, said: “By partnering with the University of Michigan in the United States, leaders in the research into the reuse of pacemakers this programme is being carefully constructed to allay any fears and ensure the highest level of care and devices are provided.”

Given that over 35,000 pacemakers are implanted in the UK each year, the potential for saving lives in the developing world by reusing old devices could be huge. As it stands,  having a brand new pacemaker put in  costs over £6,000, putting the life saving device out of reach of patients from poorer backgrounds. In comparison, the estimated cost of a reused pacemaker is at £200.

There are no current official examples of pacemakers being reused.

Pace4Life are looking to kick off implantation of the recycled units by the end of March 2014.

British Medical Association Condemns Mixed Martial Arts


Georges St. Pierre defeats Johny Hendricks, Credit: Esther Lin

By Fraser Ryan

The British Medical Association has backed comments made by Headway Brain Injury Association Chief Executive Peter McCabe condemning the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association said:”The BMA is opposed to mixed martial arts, cage fighting and boxing. This opposition is based on medical evidence that reveals the risk, not only of acute injury, but also of chronic brain damage which is sustained by those who survive a career in where they receive repeated blows to the head. These types of sport are sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control. The BMA believes there are many other sports, such as athletics, swimming, judo and football, which require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury.”

Speaking on BBC News last week, Headway’s Peter McCabe labelled MMA a “brutal” sport. McCabe said:

“It’s extremely dangerous and we feel that every time somebody takes part in a bout they’re risking their health. In New York this sport is banned, why are we not adopting a similar law in this country, because ultimately this is what we’re talking about peoples’ lives, peoples health and potentially life long disability.”

The sport, which infuses several forms of martial arts, including boxing, Brazilian jiu jistsu, amateur wrestling and kickboxing, has been at the centre of controversy for several years now. The British Medical Association first took umbrage with the sport in 2007, calling for it to be completely banned in the UK.

However, doubt has been cast over the findings of the British Medical Association. Safe MMA, a non-profit organisation made up of volunteer medical professionals with no vested interest in the sport, have claimed that there is no concrete proof that MMA is as dangerous as the BMA makes out. A Safe MMA spokesperson said:

“MMA is currently sanctioned across most states in America. Since the sport was officially formed in the US under unified rules as recently as 2001, there is simply not the medical data yet to draw any scientific conclusions about the real risks of the sport in comparison to other sports (including horse riding, rugby, boxing, climbing.) It is Safe MMA’s position that until we have a clear understanding of the risks that professional MMA fighters face for acute and chronic brain injuries, it is not our recommendation to target the sport in the media as significantly worse than other sports practised across the UK. Mixed martial arts needs to be looked at in the context of combat sports in general in this country, since MMA is a fusion of martial arts; some of which fall under the Olympic umbrella.”

Safe MMA say they will continue to work with promotions and fighters to ensure as safe an environment as possible. Safe MMA’s spokesperson said:

“We are putting effort into practically making the sport safer in partnership with sport promoters and competitors; and building an evidence base for the risks and benefits of the sport, which we believe should be the focus at this time. Safe MMA was set up was to establish exactly how often and severely Traumatic Brain Injuries as well as other injuries occurs in the sport.”

Drug Discovery Institute announced by Alzheimer’s Research UK

By Alicia Simpson

image source: reuters

The Drug Discovery Institute will develop new treatments for dementia (image source: reuters)


Alzheimer’s Research UK  announced a first of its kind in Europe this week with the launch of a Drug Discovery Institute to develop new treatments for dementia.

With the G8 Dementia Summit one month away, the UK’s leading dementia research charity will fund the new institute to address a gap it says the pharmaceutical industry has failed to fill. It will unite the divide between academic research, which provides much of the fundamental insight into neurodegenerative disease, and the development of new treatments.

The charity has today called  for the UK’s foremost universities to apply to host the Institute. Its work will be guided by Alzheimer’s Research UK and leading drug discovery experts from the dementia field, and is set to have its lead scientists in place by next year.

The Director of Research for Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Eric Karran, is launching the Drug Discovery Institute. Dr Karran said: “We currently have no treatments that act against the disease processes that cause dementia; this Institute will change that. The Institute will be the first of its kind in Europe, and will follow successful models established in other disease areas like cancer. As the population ages, numbers of people living with dementia will grow; the need for treatments that can improve quality of life or slow or stop diseases like Alzheimer’s cannot be overstated.”

Finding medicines for complex diseases such as this solicits an amalgamation of clinical expertise, pioneering basic science and patient involvement. The new Drug Discovery Institute will aim to combine all three by setting up its home with a leading academic group that has close access to clinical research units and hospitals.

Dr Karran said: “The Drug Discovery Institute is the missing link between the UK’s considerable expertise in fundamental science, and industry who can turn discoveries into benefits for people with dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK is in a unique position to bring the academic and industrial sectors together in the interests of tackling our greatest medical challenge and it is the right time to launch this drive.”

Dementia currently affects at least 35.6 million people worldwide, and the numbers are projected to almost double every 20 years, according to the World Health Organization. 60,000 deaths a year are also directly attributable to dementia.

Professor Bart de Strooper was awarded the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in 2007 for his contribution to dementia research. De Strooper said: “The Drug Discovery Institute is exactly the kind of long-term thinking that we need to develop effective new treatments for people with dementia. Dementia researchers from across Europe and beyond will be watching its progress with anticipation.”

Dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion a year, which is more than both cancer and heart disease combined. It is hoped that the launch of the Drug Discovery Institute will enable reductions to the economic cost, as well as the huge personal cost, of dementia.

Rosemary Goddard is the Alzheimer’s Research UK champion. Her husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s seven years ago. Goddard said: “I’m delighted to see Alzheimer’s Research UK taking the lead in this search for more effective drugs. With the population living longer, dementia is hanging over us all like the sword of Damocles, and I have to hope that research will defeat this dreadful condition.”

Brazil to produce low cost vaccines for developing countries

Brazil’ s top state funded research foundation is to start producing low cost combined rubella-measles vaccines for export to developing countries, particularly to Africa.

A $1m partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is going to support the venture, Brasilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha announced on Monday at a medical science conference.

The country has set its plan to invest in biochemical expertise to join China and India as producer of vaccines for export which are more affordable than the pharmaceutical industry ones.

Low cost Rubella – Measles vaccines are now produced just by India. The Brazilian version is expected to cost around $0.50 per dose and it is to hit the market by 2017, at a rate of 30m doses produced a year, reducing the current chronic shortage.

Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation started producing combined vaccines in 2003 for the country’ s immunization program but the high prices made them unaffordable to developing countries. The Melinda and Bill Gates foundation investment will allow to lower the price and bring further investments in the area which will fuel an export – targeted expansion. For this reason, the government plans to build a brand new plant and create new jobs.

The Gates foundation will now sponsor clinical trials and might contribute further, a spokesman said.

Measles and rubella are virus-caused diseases which kills thousands of people a year, especially children. They are particularly dangerous during pregnancy, causing the foetus development retards or even death.”More than 150 000 people die every year all over the world, victims of measles. The production of this vaccine will allow us to access the global market. We’ll start with this vaccine which will open us the doors to other kinds of vaccines produced here in the country” Minister Padilha stated at the meeting, explaining the plan to further investments.

Laura Girasole

african children waiting for a vaccination

african children waiting for a vaccination

NHS urges famillies to get MMR vaccinations

NHS Lothian

Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh (Photo: Tom Freeman)

In light of the measles epidemic in Wales and the threat of imminent spread to the rest of Britain, NHS Lothian has highlighted the importance of MMR vaccinations. In a press release from the NHS, families are urged to ensure that they are protected from measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

Gareth Colfer-Williams, 25, died on Thursday at his home in Swansea, the city at the centre of an epidemic of the disease. Further investigations are being undertaken by the Swansea coroner to establish the cause of death. However, the risk is still high for those who have not had the two MMR vaccinations.

NHS Lothian has admitted that a significant number of Lothian’s teenagers and young adults are considered at risk from measles, mumps and rubella, as they may not have completed or started the course of the vaccine as a child. NHS Lothian is now offering the MMR vaccine to teenagers in schools and through their GPs.

Professor Alison McCallum, the Director of Public Health and Health Policy at NHS Lothian, said:

“Measles, Mumps, and Rubella are preventable by two doses of the MMR vaccine and I would urge all parents to ensure that their children are fully protected from these three diseases. We are now offering the MMR vaccination as part of the school immunisation programme and hope more of our young people will take up the opportunity to protect themselves.”

She said it is now crucial that the course of the vaccine was finished, or in some cases, that young people began the course. Professor McCallum added: “We hope that parents and young people realise that it is never too late to be protected against these diseases.”

Measles is a very infectious virus that causes a fever, cough and rash but can also cause serious problems including blindness and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Mumps can also cause fever along with painful swollen glands in the face and neck and can result in permanent deafness. Rubella is a milder infection but if caught during pregnancy it can cause serious damage to the unborn child.

For an updated timeline on the MMR autism fraud story from journalist Brian Deer, go to: http://briandeer.com/solved/bmj-wakefield-timeline.htm

Splashback causing waves for Leith Councillors

Source: Greener Leith

Leith local election candidates faced the voters last night at the Leith Links hustings.  On the menu were crucial issues for the port  including the biomass proposal and the tram project. 

Leith Waterworld was also discussed and the closure of the family-friendly pool last January has not deterred campaigners, Splashback, from trying to reopen it. 

Edinburgh Napier News spoke to Johnny Gailey, one of the Splashback leaders.   


Councillors pedalling fast to fight pollution

Gordon MacKenzie speaks to Spokes supporters at the 2012 local election hustings.

It’s campaign time  and on May the 3rd  voters will  choose the future of the city transport. 

 Transport had been in the spotlight in recent years due to the troubled tram project.  Now Edinburgh faces another challenge with European Union strict standards on air pollution.  The Green party have highlighted the deadline for the city to reach acceptable air pollution levels by 2015.  If the council do not meet these targets the taxpayer will face a heavy financial penalty.  

Spokes is an Edinburgh charity organisation that focuses on bicycle transport but also green issues.  A hustings was held on Thursday  29th  March to question the councillors responsible for this important issue.

Chronic pain patients left waiting

An FOI request made by the Scottish Labour Party has revealed that some patients suffering from chronic pain are waiting for more than 6 months before their first appointment.

The findings have revealed that 1,866 patients are waiting for their first appointment, whilst over 1,000 people are awaiting a follow-up appointment.

The worst waiting times exist in NHS Shetland, where patients may have to wait up to 33 weeks before they see someone. Next on the list was NHS Grampian, with a 30 week wait, and third was NHS Lothian, with waits of up to 22 weeks.
Scottish Labour have previously put in several other requests to the Scottish NHS. In August last year they revealed that NHS Dumfries and Galloway had spent £162,835 on voluntary redundancy deals. 6 people took up the offer in 2010-2011, which the local authority offered as a way of cutting long-term front line costs. The FOI request stated that voluntary redundancies had increased by 4x as much in the last four years.

The party also revealed that the Scottish Government had spent £600,000 of taxpayers money on sending Scottish patients to Bath for treatment, rather than sending them to hospitals within Scotland.

The Shadow Secretary for Health, Jackie Baillie MSP, stated that “forcing patients who are suffering from [...] excruciating painful conditions to endure long, gruelling waits and arduous journeys for treatment is grossly unfair and unacceptable [...] I fear efforts to help treat people living in chronic pain are being hampered by the SNP government cutting over 4,500 and the budget of our NHS by £319 million.

“We believe that there is a serious gap in care for sufferers of chronic pain in Scotland and it doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds sending Scottish patients on journeys of hundreds of miles to seek treatment in England.”

The findings revealed that only two Scottish Health Boards had set up a Managed Clinical Network (MCN). Ms Baillie states that Labour would “put in place funding to ensure that there are managed clinical networks for chronic pain in every health board across Scotland”. A press release on the party’s website describes an MCN as “an innovative and widely-supported way of treating patients that aims to breakdown existing structures” so that “the right treatment gets to the right patient at the right time”.

Sandra Mair, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for NHS Lothian, disputed the findings. In a statement released to Edinburgh Napier News, she described the waiting time “for a second appointment with a consultant in Lothian [as] less than 12 weeks with the majority of those being check – ups to determine how treatment is progressing. Patients are prioritised according to their needs.”

“NHS Lothian is committed to continuing our good work in the area of chronic pain management and we are continually looking at ways of further improving our service.”


Video: Scotland’s health improves due to smoking ban

Six years have passed since the implementation of the Scottish smoking ban and new evidence suggests the nation is healthier as a result of the change in legislation.

The ban was introduced to protect people from the dangers of passive smoking in public areas. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has revealed that it has proved a success among both smokers and non-smokers with 83 per cent of adults supporting the ban and an 86 per cent reduction in second hand smoke in bars.

Speaking about the ban, Sheila Duffy Chief Executive of ASH Scotland outlined the benefits of the ban.

“Six years on we can clearly see how Scotland’s smoke-free law is benefiting people. The law was opposed by the tobacco industry who sought to delay and derail it, much as they are doing with the current legislation. Tobacco smoke is a toxic substance and poses a threat to health, particularly to children’s health. We need to continue to strive for people’s right to breathe clean air.”

A study carried out earlier this month by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, showed that complications in pregnancy have fallen as a result of the ban. It was found that there had been a decrease in the number of babies being born prematurely and a reduction of infants being born underweight.

Dr Jill Pell who led the research team said:

“These reductions occurred both in mothers who smoked and those who had never smoked. While survival rates for pre-term deliveries have improved over the years, infants are still at risk of developing long-term health problems so any intervention that can reduce the risk of pre-term delivery has the potential to produce important public health benefits.”

Gene linked to life threatening flu

A lack or low content of the protein IFITM3 due to genetic mutation can change a harmless flu into a life-threatening disease. This information was announced in a collaborative study which included contributions from Edinburgh University and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute among others.

While most people recover well from a flu, some have to be hospitalized with life-threatening symptoms.”We had little idea why this small number of people was so severely affected,” says Professor Tim Walsh from the Critical Care Medicine Department at the University of Edinburgh. Previous studies showed that protein IFITM3 plays a crucial role in blocking the growth of influenza viruses. The protein, which sits in the membrane, is suspected to hinder viruses from entering cells and subsequently their replication.

The initial study was done on mice lacking the IFITM3 gene and showed that these mice were more likely to express severe symptoms of flu when exposed to the viruses. A subsequent screening of patients who had been admitted to hospital with severe flu revealed a mutation in the IFITM3 gene in some of the patients.

“Our research is important for people who have this variant as we predict their immune defences could be weakened to some virus infections. Ultimately as we learn more about the genetics of susceptibility to viruses, these people can take informed precautions, such as vaccinations to prevent infection,” says Professor Paul Kellam from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Relating the genetic composition of a person to their susceptibility to viral infections will help scientists find the best cure for patients.

Nurse suspended over child abuse claims

An experienced nurse has been suspended from her post after being charged with committing sexual offences against a minor.

Rhona Sharman, 50, has been suspended from her position as a staff nurse in West Lothian by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The ban is expected to last 18 months while the accused faces the criminal charges.

The nurse has been charged with taking indecent photographs of a child, causing an older child to be present while engaging in sexual activity, communicating indecently with an older child and causing an older child to participate in sexual activity.

According to the NMC the offences are alleged to have taken place between August and October last year and involve a child aged between 13 and 16.

Douglas Sharman, 46, is also facing two charges of intercourse with an older child, causing an older child to participate in sexual activity, causing an older child to be present while engaging in sexual activity, communicating indecently with an older child and taking indecent photographs of a child.

Since being charged by Strathclyde Police on October 28, Ms Sharman has not carried out any clinical duties.

Internal investigation

The NMC investigating committee ruled that it was in the public interest to suspend the nurse until the council had completed its investigation into the allegations.

A statement from the panel said: “This is one of those rare cases where public interest alone necessitates an interim suspension order as an appropriate response. The panel is of the view that the allegations, if proven, suggest that you demonstrated poor judgement.

Your position as a registered nurse requires you to maintain certain standards including that you must always act lawfully, whether those laws relate to your professional practice or personal life, and that you must uphold the reputation of your profession.

“The panel considered that the reputation of the profession would be damaged if an order were not in place… the alleged behaviour would fall well below the public’s expectation of the behaviour of a registered nurse.”

They noted that the alleged incidents had taken place outside work.

Chris Dickson, Ms Sharman’s lawyer, said the accused denied the allegations made against her.

Cameron pledges boost to dementia care and research

David Cameron is expected to pledge to double funding for dementia research by 2015 to £66 million.

It is hoped that this funding increase will ensure that the UK will become “the world leader for dementia research and care”. With the figure of dementia sufferers set to rise to 1 million within the next decade the cost of health and social care related to the disease is already at £23 billion per year. This figure surpasses the cost of cancer, stroke and heat disease treatment. Mr. Cameron is also expected to lay out plans to ensure that the NHS can deal with the ever increasing numbers.

The Prime minister will say that current understanding and awareness of the disease is “shockingly low” and that the government must tackle in the same way that cancer was tackled in the ’70s and AIDS in the ’80s.

Mr. Cameron will call Dementia, “One of the greatest challenges of our time is what I’d call the quiet crisis, one that steals lives and tears at the hearts of families, but that relative to its impact is hardly acknowledged.

“Dementia is simply a terrible disease. And it is a scandal that we as a country haven’t kept pace with it.”

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has also revealed that a new screening programme will be launched in an effort to catch the disease in its early stages. GPs will offer patients routine memory tests, as well as existing tests for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes said the plans were “an unprecedented step towards making the UK a world leader in dementia”. Hughes added, “Doubling funding for research, tackling diagnosis and calling for a radical shift in the way we talk, think and act on dementia will help to transform lives.”

Kirsty Jardine, Awareness Manager for Alzheimer’s Scotland spoke to us about the implications of Cameron’s announcement in Scotland. Click below to listen to the full interview.


Scotland Dementia Stats

  • In Scotland around 7 thousand people are a diagnosed with dementia every year.
  • Dementia is most common in older people, but can affect people in their 40s or 50s or even younger. Approximately 2,500 people with dementia are under the age of 65.
  • Scotland’s population is aging, which will have a significant impact on the number of people with dementia.

10,000 to participate in Lung Cancer trial

Ten thousand smokers will participate in a new lung cancer screening trial, according to Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer.

Sir Harry Burns announced the trial will test the cost-effectiveness of EarlyCDT lung, a simple blood test used to detect the disease in its earliest stages.  Current screening methods only detect advanced lung cancer.

The trial will involve people who have smoked the equivalent of 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years.

Half the participants will receive the EarlyCDT test, while half will not be screened.  At the end of the trial, the clinical outcomes and the overall cost of care for both groups will be compared.

Sir Harry Burns said: “The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be treated successfully, and currently 85 percent of patients with lung cancer remain undiagnosed until the disease has reached an advanced stage. . . By testing those at greatest risk of developing lung cancer, and diagnosing it at its earliest possible stage, we stand a better chance of being able to treat the cancer successfully.”

According to government statistics one in five deaths in Scotland are smoking-related.  Illness associated with smoking costs NHS Scotland over 400 million annually.

EarlyCDT-Lung testing has been used in the United States for two years.  According to Oncimmune, the pharamecutical firm that developed the test, it is “performing commercially as expected” there.

Burns hopes that use of new testing procedures will help NHS Scotland increase early detection of Lung cancer by 25%.

Archbishop makes controversial claims to cut abortion rates

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has made controversial claims that women should be shown scans of their unborn child before proceeding with an abortion.

The leader of Scotland’s Catholic Church said he thinks the NHS should introduce the measure which is currently used in America in order to reduce terminations in Scotland. In the US currently, there are seven states which require women to receive ultra sound scans and descriptions of the foetus before proceeding with an abortion.

Anti-abortion campaigners are in agreement with Cardinal O’Brien saying that if these procedures are in place they may help persuade women not to go through with the abortion after seeing their unborn baby and how developed they are. Approximately 200,000 abortions are carried out in Scotland every year.

These comments come on the 15th anniversary of the Glasgow-based Cardinal Winning pro-life initiative which offers help for women facing crisis pregnancies. Sister Roseann Rweddy who runs the initiative said that around 120 babies are alive today because their mothers availed of their service.

A Marie Stope International Spokesperson said that the comments made by Cardinal O’Brien are deeply worrying.

“We believe the Catholic Church in Scotland’s desire for women to be forced to have ­- and look at – a scan of the foetus before being granted an abortion is deeply worrying.  This is something we’ve increasingly seen in the US over the previous year, and in several states this has in fact passed into law.

We do not want to see a situation like this in UK, where a woman’s right to choose and access this procedure is gradually eroded.  Women invariably know whether it is the right time in their life to have a child, and the decision to choose to terminate a pregnancy must be theirs to make without any further barriers being introduced.”

What do you think?

Daylight-saving time on the proof

Every year we turn our clocks forward by an hour at the last weekend in March. This year the change to daylight-saving time, or summer time as many people call it, took place yesterday, on March the 25th.

Summer time will reduce energy costs by aligning the time we spend awake and working with daylight. Since it’s introduction in 1916 the clock change has caused many debates and has resulted in many research studies. Research teams have proposed health risks due to the change in clock time twice a year, saying it has similar repercussions to jetlag, shift work and sleep deprivation.

Imre Janszky from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm in Sweden has found in a second study that the hour of clock change in the end of March has a short-term influence on the risk of suffering from an acute heart attack (also known as acute myocardial infarction). With an international team of scientists, he found that the sleep deprivation caused by the one hour of time difference resulted in a 4% increase in people admitted to the coronary care units in Sweden over a period of approximately one week. “The sleep-wake cycle appears to require several days to adjust to the official time after the shift,” he states.

The daylight-saving adjustment has also been criticized for not having a significant impact on energy consumption. Dr Simon I Hill and his team from the University of Cambridge   found that “having BST year-round would lead to energy savings on the order of at least 0.3% in the months in which the UK currently has GMT” (winter time).

This is one of the reasons for the proposed Daylight Saving Bill in the UK which received ministerial backing last autumn for a trial period of three years. The switch to the GMT+1 timezone would help aligning waking hours with daylight hours in Britain.The daylight-saving time has reportedly been found to reduce the risk of accidents. In January, however, the bill was brought to a halt due to a lack of time in the parliament and the Scottish Government has been reported to object  because of the longer duration of darkness in the morning.

The recent change of the clock is expected to raise the discussion again.

Major fire at Astley Ainslie hospital

73 patients were forced to evacuate from Astley Ainslie hospital when a fire raged through the building yesterday evening.

Fire crews received a call at 5.19pm, and seven appliances were sent from four stations across Edinburgh to tackle the blaze.

[Read more...]

Murray to take on Falla in Miami

By: Pamela Paterson

British Number One Andy Murray will be hoping to forget his early exit from the Indian Wells Masters when he takes on world number 71 Alejandro Falla in the second round of the Miami Masters later on today.

Murray lost to Guillermo Garcia Lopez in the first round of the championship in California earlier this month and will be aiming to avoid making the same mistakes when he takes on Falla.

Murray has won 14 of his 17 matches this year. He has beaten the 28-year-old Colombian during both of their previous matches.

Murray is aiming for his 23rd career title, and with his new coach Ivan Lendl, hopes to achieve his first grand slam win this year. He is currently ranked fourth in the world, behind Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

Earlier this week Murray called for tennis players and other athletes to be given regular heart tests, after footballer Fabrice Muamba’s suffered a cardiac arrest on Saturday. The Bolton player collapsed during his team’s match against Tottenham in the FA Cup quarter-final, but is now showing signs of recovery.Murray believes that players in every sport should have screenings in order to be able to compete.

He told MSN Sport, “This has happened too many times. Here in the States it’s happened in high school and college basketball games and, of course, it’s happened a few times in football. With all the pressure and stress of modern sport you have no idea how much you are pushing yourself on the pitch or court, I think it’s something that’s just got to be done.”

The Scot added that he has been having regular heart checks for years. “I’ve been doing my tests for three years now so I have heart scans, heart monitors and other tests,’ Murray said. “I started when these things seemed to be happening more often. It’s clear to me that all the teams should be checked. I’m not sure if they do, but I know in tennis we don’t.”

Murray also showed another side to his character while taking part in the latest advert for tennis racket company, Head. In it, he demonstrates his skills at several other jobs, when asked at a press conference what his profession would be if he wasn’t a tennis player.



“Hibernation” Could Help Stroke Recovery

A technique which cools the human body, inducing a kind of hibernation, is to be used to see if it will help the recovery of stroke victims. The technique, which recuduces body temperature from 36.8C to between 34C and 35C has already been used to treat brain injury after cardiac arrest or birth defects.

Inducing hypothermia by use of cooling pads and intravenous fluids, the procedure has been successful in small-scale trials, but the process by which it helps is not yet fully known. Theories suggest that when cooled, the brain requires less oxygen, so giving doctors more time to help prevent damage.

The clinical trials are being run by Friedrich-Alexander-University in Germany in collaberation the University of Edinburgh and are likely to last until 2016 or 2017 . They will involve around 1500 people across Europe, with 200 from the UK.

It is hoped that if these trials are successful, the chances of a complete recovery from a stroke will be increased from 1 in 13 to 1 in 10. Currently there are few treatments available for stroke victims.

Dr Malcolm Macleod, head of experimental neuroscience at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh commented that  “every day 1,000 Europeans die from stroke – that’s one every 90 seconds – and about twice that number survive but are disabled. Our estimates are that hypothermia might improve the outcome for more than 40,000 Europeans every year.”

Currently in Scotland a third of all strokes are fatal and although survival rates have improved over the last decade they are the third highest killer after cancer and coronary heart disease.

Possible Junk Food Advert Ban

Scotland’s Public Health Minister, Michael Matheson,  has introduced a pre-9pm ban on the television advertising of foods which are high in fat, sugar and salt content.

Matheson has also written to Westminster Health Secretary Andrew Lansley asking whether he would support a move to introduce this ban across the UK.

“We want to introduce a pre-watershed ban and are looking to the UK Government to support such a move which would carry the additional benefit of encouraging our partners in the food industry to reformulate their produce to lower salt, fat and sugar content,” said Matheson.

The ban would restrict the viewing of junk food and sugary snacks and affect a wide range of corporations such as Pizza Hut, Mars, Cadbury, KFC and McDonalds.

With the highest obesity rate in the UK, the new proposal is intended to combat Scotland’s obesity problem. Particularly Scotland’s childhood obesity which is a concern for heath experts with 1 in 5 primary school children being considered overweight. Currently there is a ban on advertising junk food during children programs, how ever Matheson is seeking tighter regulations and further actions.

“Broadcast advertising influences the choices made by children and can shape their attitudes to food as they grow into adulthood.  Tackling obesity and encouraging people to make healthier life choices is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of our nation,” continued Matheson.

Even if Westminster refuses to join with the ban, the Scottish Government with still mover to introduce the ban within the country.

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