Support for injured cricket player Phil Hughes

By Greg Barrie

Cricket players past and present have sent messages of support to Phil Hughes following the Australian batsman’s serious head injury during a match in Sydney today.

Hughes is in a critical condition in hospital after being struck on the head by a fast-bowl at the Sydney Cricket Ground in a Sheffield Shield match.

The South-Australian batsman collapsed after a delivery from New South Wales bowler Sean Abbott missed his helmet and struck him on the head.

Hughes was stretchered off the field and taken to hospital, where he was put into an induced coma following surgery.

The world of cricket has offered its support to Phil Hughes throughout the day.

The sport’s governing body, the International Cricket Council, posted a message of support on Twitter, saying “Thoughts of the entire cricket community are with Philip Hughes now”.

Hughes’ fellow Australian batsman David Warner, who was fielding for New South Wales when the incident occurred , rode alongside Hughes when he was wheeled off the field.

He wrote on Twitter: “Thoughts are with my little mate Hughesy and his family. He is a fighter and a champion and he will get through this. Praying for you buddy.”

Avid England cricket fan Piers Morgan also took to Twitter to show support for the Australian. He wrote: “Awful news about Australian cricketer Phil Hughes – hit on the head by a bouncer today and very seriously ill. Praying for him.”

A number of England cricketers also wrote messages on social media, with James Anderson posting: “Awful news about Phil Hughes. Sickening to hear. Praying for him and his family.”

Cricket Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland offered his support to Hughes and all of the other players who took part in the match.

He said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Phil Hughes. We are also thinking of his family, team-mates and friends in the Australian cricket family.

“His welfare is our highest priority. We’re also naturally concerned about all of those involved in today’s game and will be giving them our utmost support.”

Hughes, who has played 26 Test matches for his country, was in contention for a recall to the Test side following reports that captain Michael Clarke might be ruled out of the opening match against India on 4 December.

He was taken to Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital by an ambulance, accompanied by the doctor who treated him on the field.

Hughes is the first batsman to a suffer life threatening head injury since the introduction of the helmet to the sport in the 1970s.

There have however been a number of incidents in which both batsmen and wicket-keepers were injured despite wearing helmets.

In August this year, England’s Stuart Broad suffered a broken nose when he struck a fast-paced bowl into the gap between the peak of his helmet and the grille.

The last Test batsman to suffer life-threatening injuries was Nari Contractor, the Indian captain hit on the head by Charlie Griffith during the 1961-62 series in the West Indies.

He survived after emergency brain surgery, but never played Test cricket again.

Indian batsman Raman Lamba was killed after being hit on the head while playing in Bangladesh in 1998, but was not wearing a helmet at the time.

 

New app to help modernise the health system

By Madalina Dichiu

Care Minister, Norman Lamb announced that the health system must be “modernised” and a new online application will be developed to help young people with mental health issues.

Experts say that the current situation is a “national disgrace” and the Government should spend more money on children and young people, while also stressing the importance of contact with therapists.

The Scottish Government says that the best approach to change the system is to be able to measure the things that matter most to the people using them. They are also reviewing health visits and school nursing services to ensure staff have the right training to identify and help parents, children and young people with mental health problems.

The Government has already developed an online service to provide guidance and training on child mental health for teachers, police, health professionals and other people working with children called MindEd. The research shows that mental health services are not meeting the needs of some groups of people. Only one in six older people with depression ever discusses it with their GP.

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said, “For far too long mental health has been in the shadows and many people have suffered in silence as a result. It is time to turn a corner on outdated attitudes and bring mental health issues out into the open. It is time that the whole of society started providing the care and support to those with mental health conditions in the same way that they would to those with a physical condition.”

Sarah Brennan Chief Executive of YoungMinds charity said: “It is a national disgrace that while three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental illness, only 6% of the NHS mental health budget is spent on children and young people. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that if we get it right for children and young people we will greatly reduce the burden of mental health for future generations.

“YoungMinds has been warning for several years about the dangers in cutting children and young people’s mental health early intervention services. Over the last few months we have seen the consequences of these cuts with reports of children and young people with mental illnesses ending up in police cells, being transferred hundreds of miles away or placed on inappropriate adult wards because there haven’t been the beds available.

“Local services providing much needed mental health services  should not have to operate in crisis-we have to get this right for children, young people and their families who are in desperate need of support.”

The NHS argues that many issues can be managed without the help of a GP by using the variety of sources now available, whether it’s through books, local organisations or online.

The charity Mind says: “Electronic media is increasingly being utilised as a medium to deliver psychological therapies. There are significant potential advantages to using this mode of delivery, including increased reach and improved access to psychological support and treatments.

“Some children and young people find interacting with electronic media a preferable first step to help and most are more used to such interaction than older generations.”

The Scottish Government published alarming statistics about mental health problems. Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. Only a quarter of people with a common mental health problem get treatment, mostly in the form of medication.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 9.6% of children and young people between the ages of 5 and 16 years in the UK have a mental health problem.

Farmers reassure public over bird flu fears

By Paul Hyland and Tom Crosby

Farmers have joined health and veterinary institutions in downplaying the dangers of a bird flu outbreak in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has urged farmers to be vigilant after the outbreak of bird flu in England.

The newly discovered H5 strain of avian influenza was found in East Yorkshire earlier this week, joining a glut of international cases in The Netherlands, Germany and South Korea.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has commented following the confirmation of a case of avian influenza on a duck breeding farm in Nafferton near Driffield.

He said: “The Scottish Government is closely monitoring the case of avian influenza on a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, and I note the immediate and robust response by the authorities in England to prevent any potential spread of infection.

“My officials have been liaising closely with the Defra who have made it clear the public health risk is very low – and that they have ruled out the H5N1 strain that is infectious for humans. Furthermore, the latest Food Standards Agency advice is that avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

“Although avian influenza has been confirmed in England only, I urge Scottish poultry producers to stay vigilant for any signs of disease – and my officials have this afternoon updated industry representatives and other key stakeholders with the latest information and veterinary advice.

A spokeswoman for the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland also described the risk as “pretty low” and that the disease didn’t “pose a risk to food safety.”

This was mirrored by The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) mirrored the FSA’s.

In a press release they said: “the risk to public health is very low and there is no risk to the food chain. We would also point out that the strain of flu has been identified as H5 avian flu and NOT the more serious H5N1, which has caused disease in some people.

Bob Carruth, Communications Director with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland said: “It tends to be with poultry flocks, whether their flocks are producing eggs, or whether their flocks are for the table, farmers tend to keep a very close eye on these birds anyway, so it’s just a matter of keeping a good look at the birds.

“If there are birds that are showing signs of being ill or groups of birds that suddenly stop laying eggs, that kind of thing, its to make sure you take the time to have these animals tested to see what the problem might be.”

He also noted that farmers were well equipped to deal with any potential outbreak.

He said: “Most poultry units have very good levels of bio security on the farm anyway so they are very careful about who they allow onto the farm. Those who do come onto the farm whether they are working with the birds or whether they are, say, bringing on supplies do tend to go through disinfection methods anyway so vehicles and boots will all be disinfected when people come onto the farm.

“What Scottish farmers will be doing is be watching very closely the situation in East Yorkshire. Obviously they are aware that there was cases in the Netherlands and a case in Germany..it’s maybe linked into migratory birds, there’s always a higher risk this time of year because it’s a time when birds are migrating.

“So we’ll wait and see the outcome of the testing in East Yorkshire, they are obviously doing monitoring within 3km… and in Scotland there is concern but we’ll wait and see what the outcome of that testing in Yorkshire is, and certainly we would ask Scottish poultry keepers to keep a very close eye on their birds in the next few days.”

Prof. Paul Digard of the Roslin Insitute, University of Edinburgh, specialises in research surrounding influenza viruses, said the risk was “very low, verging on none”.

With regards to the food chain, he said: “Even if it was a strain of virus that was risky for humans…even if it was H5N1, cooking makes it utterly safe.

“You will not catch bird flu from a boiled egg.”

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Sheila Voas, said:

“As always, all poultry keepers should continue their efforts to maintain high levels of biosecurity and monitor their birds for any signs of disease. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease, and so any suspicion should be reported immediately to the nearest Animal Health office.

“As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where five birds are found dead in the same location and at the same time. Members of the public are asked to report any such incidents by calling the Defra national helpline on 08459 33 55 77. Scottish Government advice is not to handle dead wild birds where possible.”

 

Affordable Contraceptive Announced

By Mariana Mercado

A new form of contraceptive injection will be available for women in developing countries.

The ready to use contraceptive injection will help women living in 69 of the poorest countries.

The news of the development of this new affordable contraception was released by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Dr. Chris Elias, President of Global Development Programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said: “When women are able to plan their families, they are more likely to survive pregnancy and child birth, to have healthier newborns and children, and to invest more in their families’ health and wellbeing.

“We are proud to be part of this innovative public-private collaboration that will help more women around the world — even in remote areas — plan their lives and their futures.”

The Sayana injection combines a long-acting, reversible contraceptive with an all-in-one prefilled single use, non-reusable injection system that eliminates the need to prepare a needle and syringe. The injection can easily be administered by health workers to women at home or in other convenient setting.

The drug will be sold for $1 (0.65p) per dose to qualified purchasers who can help enable the poorest women in these countries to have access to the contraceptive at reduced or no cost.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 222m women in developing countries would like to delay or stop conception, but are not currently using any form of contraception.

Michael Anderson, Chief Executive Officer at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation said: “Far too many women die or are harmed because of unwanted pregnancies,”

“This important partnership expands the choice of affordable contraceptives. We believe this will further support CIFF’s mission of enabling more women and children to survive and thrive.”

The contraceptive program saw over 75000 Sayana Press units distributed to health facilities in the introduction countries, and aproximately 2500 health care providers have been trained on the administration of the contraceptive.

Since the introduction of the program in Burkina Faso in July, a study revealed that over 5700 women are using the injection, 1659 of these women are new users of family planning.
Justine Greening, International Development Secretary for the Department for International Development (DFID) said:“Access to modern, safe and reliable family planning methods is vital in helping women to control their lives and their futures. Without the ability to choose when they have children and how many they have, too often women lose the opportunity to participate fully in their economies and societies.”

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the U.S. agency for International Development (USAI) said: “USAID has invested in Sayana Press for many years, and we are thrilled that these efforts have finally come to fruition. This public-private collaboration will now help more women access injectable contraceptives. Expanding contraceptive choice is crucial to helping women plan and space their pregnancies, which we believe contributes to the health and economic wellbeing of families and communities across the globe.”

The drug is expected to be regularly available in all 69 of the developing countries by 2020.

 

 

Scottish drinks industry backs drink-drive limit proposals

By Lauren Beehan

The Scottish drinks industry has welcomed the reduction in the drink-driving limit, which will be voted on by the Scottish Parliament today.

Under the new laws, the maximum blood alcohol level for drivers will be reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, meaning that a single pint of beer could put them over the limit from December 5th.

Representatives from the drinks industry have encouraged customers to be aware of the new limit and to make their plans accordingly.

Neil Williams of the British Beer & Pub Association said: “It is vital that everyone in Scotland knows about the change, as the pub is at the heart of all our Christmas celebrations. Enjoy the pub during the holiday season, but be prepared, such as having a designated driver, so you can get in the party spirit knowing you can have a safe journey home.”

Industry think-tank, the Portman Group, also supports the changes, saying that that drink producers have a role to play in the campaign against drink-driving.

A spokesperson from the group said that producers will focus now on “running responsible drink driving campaigns and education programmes to encourage people to nominate a designated driver and to never drink and drive.”

The Scottish government has launched an awareness campaign to inform drivers of both the change to the limit and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Don’t Risk It campaign includes advertisements on television, radio and online videos, as well as interactive social media with games showing the influence of alcohol on reaction speeds.

Advertisements will also be shown in northern England, where the limit remains at 80mg per 100ml, to ensure that drivers who cross the border are aware of the different laws.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who proposed the change, said: “With the approval of Parliament, the new drink drive limit will come into force on December 5, making our roads safer and saving lives.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is informed about the new lower level.

“A persistent minority of people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking – that is unacceptable, it is putting lives at risk and it must stop. Our advice is simple, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all. Alcohol at any level impairs driving.

“This new law will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and hopefully reduce drink drive arrests and prosecutions, as we have already seen in the Republic of Ireland, where drivers adjusted their behaviour to take account of the lower limit.”

A similar reduction was implemented in the Republic of Ireland in 2011, where drink-driving convictions fell by 3,000 in the space of two years.

Alcohol is a factor in 1 in 10 fatal road accidents in Scotland, with drink-driving causing over 400 accidents each year.

There were 4,730 people convicted of drink-driving in Scotland between March 2012 and March 2013, the last full year for which statistics are available.

Michael McDonnell, Director of Road Safety Scotland, said: “It’s almost 50 years since the current limit was introduced and that we still lose an average of 20 lives a year is a disgrace.

“Evidence from across the world demonstrates that the best results in tackling drink-driving are achieved by lowering the limit, or increasing enforcement, or both. We know, too, that a combination of high-profile enforcement, coupled with a heavyweight media campaign is the most efficient use of resources, and we are working closely with the Police Scotland and other partners to ensure that people know about the change to the limit and have no excuse.

“It’s not about catching more drink-drivers, but about preventing people from doing it in the first place. Ultimately, most of us have too much to lose, so it’s just not worth the risk.”

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, Head of Roads Policing for Police Scotland warned that people should not drink at all if they intend to get behind the wheel.

He said: “An average of 20 die on Scotland’s roads each year and last year a further 90 were seriously injured and 340 slightly injured as a result of drink driving related collisions.

“The new lower limit will reduce those numbers and the evidence from across Europe where the lower limit applies suggests we will see reductions in drink driving and blood alcohol counts.

“However even at the new limit you are three times more likely to die in a crash than if you had taken no alcohol. It is clear, when it comes to drinking and driving, that the simple ‘the best advice is none’ message is the right one.

“On the lead up to 5 December, police patrols will positively engage with as many road users as possible to provide real-time education to those who may be putting themselves and others at risk, influence behaviour in the future and prevent collisions on Scotland’s roads.”

 

 

 

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

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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.”

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