Travel: Copenhagen – A journey through fairytale streets where church bells tinkle and the car is not king

Denmark is almost as flat as the Netherlands and its capital city, Copenhagen, resembles Amsterdam with her abundant canals and bikes. For refreshingly, car is not king here. A third of Copenhageners cycle to work and the comparative lack of motor traffic means I could hear church bells toll while walking breezily along the cobbled streets that comprise the spacious pedestrian shopping district of Stroget. With the skyline mercifully devoid of high-rise constructions, I could also appreciate the variety of church steeples, from the Oriental to the Western.

I loved visiting Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady), with its expansive coffered nave and white, uncluttered interior adorned simply with statues of the 12 apostles. Presiding over the altar is the simple but imposing figure of Christ fronting a backdrop of gold as the one hint of colour.

The NH Collection Copenhagen ( is close to both the airport and metro station and within walking distance of the Opera, Royal Library and Nyhavn. It looks over one of the city’s main canals and is a listed building that still reflects modernism with its straight lines, flat roofs and simple, classy contemporary Danish design.

From here I walked along Christiania, a former military base and now commune, past bike rental and bric-a-brac shops along the canal with its houseboats to the bridge across to Nyhavn, a 17th-century canalside district lined with brightly coloured townhouses. Beautifully located on the waterfront is Kompasset ( Here, I sat outside amid the sights and sounds of the harbour, where shops’ awnings wavered and the sails and masts of moored boats flapped in breezy harmony like one resounding orchestra. With a choice of three or five set courses paired with wines, each offering was presented like a gift and the Montvillers Champagne tasted like a bouquet of flowers.

The Design Museum ( is housed in a magnificent 18th-century Rococo building that was formerly Denmark’s first public hospital. Beautifully styled and presented, the rooms of the museum surround a square garden lined with gorgeous linden trees.

Tucked away along a trendy shopping street in the city centre off Strogen, I came to 42 Raw Vegan ( Its comprehensive menu is based on a healthy raw diet which is offered with real creativity. I enjoyed a sea green poke bowl consisting of brown rice, broccoli, cabbage, radish, avocado, edamame, seaweed salad, goma and mango dressing. I then reached Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks and so full of wonder that it inspired Hans Christian Andersen and Walt Disney. On Tivoli Gardens’ western side is Nimb Brasserie ( Here the impressive and airy black and white interior was offset by vivid foliage and a breathtaking array of flowers arranged by the hotel’s own florist. I enjoyed the lemon sole meunière served with summer greens, new potatoes and bread sauce.

Helsingør, the second leg of my journey, lies only 40 minutes away by train. Once Denmark’s second-largest town, it’s reminiscent of fairytales such as Hansel and Gretel the Gingerbread Man with its yellow and terracotta painted houses.

At Café Olai (, a warm and accommodating husband and wife team attend with unflustered and consummate skill to the needs of the many Swedes who take the 20-minute ferry two miles across the Øresund to enjoy “smørrebrød”, the traditional Danish open rye-bread sandwiches. Here I too tucked into the delicious crispy salad consisting of hand-peeled cold-water prawns, eggs, cherry tomatoes, grilled asparagus, caviar and topped with homemade dressing.

North Zealand, nicknamed the Danish Riviera, is where Danes come for their summer holidays.

More bikes and boats than bucket and spade, there’s a joyful sense of multi-generation families collected around pontoons with diving boards and amongst the boats, the picnic tables and the villas with their private beaches.

I stayed at Hotel Villa Brinkly: a hidden gem sandwiched between the sea and a forest. Indeed the Egebæksvang Forest is perfect for a proper stroll or “forest bathing”, the simple and modern method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees. Meanwhile, the beach on the Øresund strait offers an uplifting vista across to Sweden.

The hotel is set on Strandvejen, the 40-kilometre beach road, which winds along the coast from Copenhagen to beyond Elsinore. It’s in the village of Skotterup, “the old Snekkersten” as the estate agents have it, and is full of former fishermen’s cottages that are now summer residences.

I couldn’t recommend it more highly: a quaint 19th-century, low-rise wooden boutique hotel with a homely style and even a magnificent personal chef.

I felt instantly becalmed by the neutral and serene colours and the peaceful vibe. Originally opened in 1933 for retired seafarers whose culture is reflected in the antiques and artefacts, this airy hotel has a real heart. The relaxed, calming vibe is the result of the loving care of its hosts, Annette and Erik.

The real magic takes place within the charming dining room with its chandelier and tasteful French furniture. This is where Annette serves dinner. A gourmet chef, she focuses keenly on local produce and her food is outstanding. Dishes are light and spoiling, and the chef is personally on hand to talk you through each one. It has to be experienced.

As does her husband Erik who offers his time and very British sense of humour to all and sundry. The peaceful setting is equally perfect for a solo traveller. Non-guests need to book the restaurant in advance.

I went on a shortish bike ride down to Humlebæk to the Louisiana Art Gallery ( It’s very good value at DKK 145 (around £17) and is a full day out. I loved the American Alex da Corte’s current exhibition with his installations and videos showing his fascination with consumerism and human behaviour.

I had lunch across the road at Gamle Humlebaek Kro ( Dating from 1682, this former staging post along the Strandveje is nicknamed “the nobleman’s highway”. Steeped in antiques and history, the restaurant is very popular with locals, which is always a good sign. I sat outdoors among the green gingham tablecloths to enjoy a delicious clay pot with herring and tart red lingonberries.

Back from the coast, streets of identikit bungalows provide homes that are rigorously neat, minimalist and full of designer touches possessing a Danish aesthetic that’s heavily influenced by the German Bauhaus school. They use plenty of natural materials like leather and wood and lamps, with natural shapes like fir cones, are typically placed in the middle of rooms.

Open from March to October, which encompasses the full Danish holiday season, is Café Vitus. Set in a modest hut and overlooking Snekkersten harbour, it’s where local celebrities gather in a low-key environment, seemingly anonymous among the pink hydrangeas and outside the simple shed-cum-chalet that belies the artistry of the food.

Here I enjoyed the freshest of shrimp and avocado salad before a deliciously naughty treat of hot chocolate with cream. A hidden gem.


Travel Facts:

Adam stayed at the Hotel Villa Brinkly, rooms start from £172 per night.

Easyjet fly direct from Edinburgh to Copenhagen, prices start from £42.

Obituary: Dr John Dall, esteemed pioneer in geriatric medicine

Died: June 17, 2022.

DR John Dall, who has died after a brief illness, worked in the NHS in and around Glasgow for 40 years. His influence, however, extended far beyond the west of Scotland.

He was a pioneer of geriatric medicine and made major contributions to the care of elderly patients throughout the UK, Europe and Canada.

He was the driving force behind the building and commissioning of the Victoria Geriatric Unit in Mansionhouse Road, which opened in 1971.

The unit was noteworthy for having assessment and rehabilitation wards, continuing care beds for older patients with complex medical and nursing needs, a day hospital, an outpatient clinic, an X-ray department and well-staffed departments of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy.

This was the vanguard of a much more active and interventional approach to illness in old age than had hitherto been considered appropriate. The aim was to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate elderly patients with a view to returning them, if possible, to independent living.

The unit thrived and became a powerful magnet for young doctors who then became consultants elsewhere in Scotland and throughout the UK. International visitors came in large numbers to learn about the Glasgow geriatric method and returned home to develop comprehensive medical services for elderly patients in their own countries.

John’s organisational and negotiating skills led to him being recruited by the Canadian government to advise on the development of geriatric services. He spent a year as a visiting professor in Ottawa (1982-83) and continued to visit, and advise, for a number of years. This helped to build on strong medical ties between Scotland and Canada.

John Dall, known as “Buster” to his friends, was born in 1929. The middle of three brothers, he attended school in the south side of Glasgow. At 16 he decided he wanted to study medicine but the headmaster, not believing that John was sufficiently academic for a medical career, and declined to support

his application.

In high dudgeon, John’s mother took him for a meeting with the headmaster of Hutchesons’ Grammar School. It is unclear whether the headmaster was most impressed by the young John’s abilities or by his mother’s determination, but he was accepted for the school, completed a sixth form, and entered medicine at Glasgow University, from which he graduated in 1953.

Three years as a junior officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps followed before he returned to Glasgow to continue his medical career.

He had a clear understanding of the importance of clinical leadership, aligned with effective committee working, in improving services for patients.

He was elected president of the British Geriatric Society at a time of major expansion of the speciality. He made important contributions to the International Society of Gerontology and served as secretary, then president, of its clinical section.

John’s achievements were recognised by a number of awards and accolades including the Order of St John, an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa, and the Order of the British Empire.

One meeting, however, earned him a stern rebuke. Having enquired about costs for a national meeting at the usual UK conference venues, he negotiated an excellent deal to hold the meeting in Penina, on the Algarve coast.

It was highly successful. On returning to the UK, however, he was summoned to the Department of Health. Its concern was not about the venue, or about the costs but about the consequences for the NHS had there been an accident involving the chartered aircraft carrying around 50 per cent of the UK’s geriatric specialists. The message was that geriatricians, like royalty, should not all travel together on the same aircraft.

Predeceased by Lilian, his wife of more than 60 years, John leaves two daughters (one of whom is a doctor), four grandchildren (three of whom are doctors) and four great grand-children. Independent to the end, he had attended a golf club lunch two days before he died and had booked his flights to join his daughters and their families on a birthday celebration visit in Portugal.


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Agenda: How we can all help to save lives

DESPITE the tireless work of mental health professionals and suicide prevention charities, 723 people in Scotland died by suicide in 2021.

Organisations are severely overstretched, and the reality is that friends, family and colleagues are often the first – and sometimes only – port of call for those struggling with mental health.

Increasing waiting times for NHS mental health support and a stark lack of access to GPs and wider support services mean backlogs are growing, leading to misdiagnosis and growing frustrations. As a result, more and more individuals are falling through the cracks of a system struggling to cope.

The correlation between suicide and deprivation is no secret, with suicide rates in the nation’s most deprived areas nearly three times higher than in more affluent areas.

What raises further concern is that three-quarters (75.04 per cent) of people who died by suicide in 2021 were male (565 males, 188 females), whilst the highest age demographic for both males and females were those aged between 45 and 54.

In the face of the cost of living crisis and increasing financial pressures, how can we adapt to equip people with the skills and confidence they need to support someone facing mental health challenges?

These issues make the availability of training courses tailored to mental health support even more salient. At St Andrew’s First Aid, we work with young people through our Ready for Life programme which focuses on teaching them how to identify and reach out to people showing signs of poor mental health. The course is specifically designed for secondary schools, with particular attention focused on those in areas of deprivation.

Connecting with young people, particularly during adolescence, may not only help them to spot somebody in distress but ultimately provide them with the knowledge to help save a life.

Organisations have a responsibility to invest in mental health training and to seek opinions from employees where valuable improvements can be made. There is also a need to adapt to the evolving challenges that people face in their lives and to demonstrate how they are responding to them.

While suicide is a complex problem with no simple solution, the human instinct to help others remains strong. In the last year, we have delivered more than 100 mental health first aid training courses to more than 1,000 people, giving them the skills to help themselves and others in times of need.

In a society beset by mental health worries and loneliness, we need ordinary citizens more than ever. We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing suicidal thoughts or those bereaved by suicide. Of course, mental health first aid training is not a cure-all.

Many people experience anxiety and depression as a natural result of circumstances out with their control. However, the skills provided can help to alleviate some of the pressures to establish a community of skilled mental health first aiders who can provide support to those at their most vulnerable.

This World Suicide Prevention Day, we can all encourage understanding about the issue of mental health, reach out to those who are struggling, and share experiences.

Stuart Callison is Chief Executive of St Andrew’s First Aid

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Knoydart: Cyclist Lee Craigie on her love for Inverie

Inverie, Knoydart.

Why do you go there?

Knoydart is known as the UK’s last wilderness. To reach Inverie you’ve had a proper adventure because the only way to get there is to walk – or push your bike – for two days. You can catch the wee passenger ferry from Mallaig, but that’s not in the spirit of things; you need to graft to get there.

Inverie is a tiny community: there is a shop, a cafe, a bunkhouse and a campsite. The pub is the heart. You pop out of the hills and there’s this amazing pub – the world’s most remote pub – right on the shore of Loch Nevis. Sitting there looking out at the views and drinking a beer, miles from the nearest road, is special.

How often do you go?

At least twice a year. Probably the nicest time to go is the shoulder seasons – spring and autumn – when the colours are changing. Sometimes I’m not there for very long, maybe only a weekend, but it is always worth it.

How did you discover it?

It is one of those mythical places that everyone in the outdoors world talks about, “Oh, you went to Knoydart, did you have a pint at the pub at Inverie?”

HeraldScotland: Lee Craigie (centre) with fellow members of The Adventure Syndicate. Picture: Wattie CheungLee Craigie (centre) with fellow members of The Adventure Syndicate. Picture: Wattie Cheung

What’s your favourite memory?

I have been to Knoydart with friends and with my dog, but probably the most memorable was when I went solo. There was a storm and I packrafted over from Skye to the mainland. It was a full-on packrafting mission with my bike on the front. I seriously thought, “Am I going to make it?”

I slept in a tent and that got blown down. By the time you’ve reached the pub the next day and the sun has come out, you are euphoric.

Who do you take?

Friends, my dog or I go by myself. Inverie is the sort of place where you can turn up and, if you want company, the chat in the pub and the campsite is always good. Everyone has had an adventure to get there. The locals are brilliant – they are welcoming and accommodating.

What do you take?

Waterproofs, a tent and camping gear.

What do you leave behind?

The niggly stresses of work and life.

Sum it up in five words.

Wild. Remote. Magical. Elemental. Fun.

What other travel spots are on your wish list?

Everywhere I go these days it must be by public transport or bike – I am not flying anywhere. I would love to return to the Balkans. That is a bit of an undertaking on public transport, but I’ll get there.

I recently visited the Faroe Islands and have a hankering to go back there. I rode to the Western Isles and then went by cargo ship which took 24 hours. What a great way to arrive.

Lee Craigie and The Adventure Syndicate will premiere their latest film, Not The North Coast 500, at Thrive Bike Festival in Ballater on September 24. Visit

Darius Campbell Danesh died of ‘inhalation of chloroethane’

Scottish Pop Idol star Darius Campbell Danesh died from “inhalation of chloroethane”, the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed.

The singer and actor was found dead in his US apartment, in Rochester, Minnesota, last month at the age of 41.

Autopsy documents listed “toxic effects of chloroethane” as well as “suffocation” as having contributed to his death.

The death was ruled an accident by the medical examiner.

A statement released by Campbell Danesh’s family previously said local police had found “no signs of intent or suspicious circumstances”.

READ MORE: Simon Cowell leads tributes to ‘charismatic’ Darius Campbell Danesh

The singer-songwriter – who was known as Darius Danesh when he made his first bid for fame in ITV show Popstars in 2001 – also appeared on the first Pop Idol, which was won by Will Young.

After Pop Idol, Campbell Danesh turned down Simon Cowell’s offer of a record deal and signed with producer Steve Lillywhite, whose credits include U2 and the Rolling Stones.

Fellow Pop Idol contestants Will Young and Gareth Gates paid tribute to the singer after his death was announced, describing him as “driven, courageous and gentle”.

In a heartfelt tribute, Young, 43, wrote: “For the past few days my thoughts have been with Darius’s family and will continue to be so.

“I found this picture a while ago taken during Pop Idol. If there was ever an example of not giving up on your dreams then Darius is top of the pile.

“Driven, courageous and gentle. My love goes to his family at this time x”

Gates said Campbell Danesh had taken him “under his wing” during their time on the show and had been “like a big brother, always looking out for me”.

“I will miss our chats. He was one of the most beautiful, intelligent and gentle souls I was lucky enough to know, a soul that lit up every room,” he said in his own tribute.

READ MORE: Gerard Butler ‘devastated’ after sudden death of ‘brother in arms’

Music mogul Cowell also paid tribute to the singer, as did Hollywood actor Gerard Butler.

The pair were close friends and were pictured together in Malibu shortly before the singer’s death.

In his own tribute to Campbell Danesh, Butler wrote that he had a “barely containable zest for life” and the “heart of a lion”.

“To those lucky enough to have met Darius for more than a few minutes, they were deeply moved by his infectious laugh and barely containable zest for life,” he wrote.

“He was always armed with a smile, a booming voice, and a genuinely warm embrace that few could resist-nor would they want to!

“He was an incredible talent, a singer whose voice touched your soul and an actor with great presence.

“But, most importantly, he had the heart of a lion. It was bigger and brighter than the sun and an energy so contagious he could light up a room in seconds.”

Butler, 52, who is best known for films such as 300, Law Abiding Citizen and Olympus Has Fallen and its sequels, added that his friend was driven to “inspire others to better themselves”.

Campbell Danesh’s debut single, Colourblind, was released in July 2002 and went straight to number one, marking the start of a run of top 10 releases.

Following his death the song re-entered music charts and several days later took the top spot on the iTunes download chart.

Campbell Danesh’s family said in a statement he was “found unresponsive in bed in his apartment room in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners’ office”.

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World Suicide Prevention Day: Two Scots share story and urge others to speak up

At his lowest point, he was more afraid of living than dying.

William, who preferred to keep his full name anonymous, said his mental health struggle left him feeling “alone in the world” for much of his life until he found a Men Matter Scotland where he “could speak his mind” for the first time.

“Maybe if I had been able to talk the way I can now forty years ago, my life would have been different,” the 69-year-old said.

“I was sexually abused at a very young age, and I carried an anger that lasted for the rest of my days, and it affected me badly throughout my whole life. It was something I never spoke about until recently.

“I was a very lonely, isolated person from an early age. I didn’t want to let people in and I pushed people away emotionally my whole life.”

The 69-year-old said that while he never spoke about it, he carried his mental health issues with him his entire life.

Speaking about his first suicide attempt, he said: “I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of living at that point in life.

“My mental health deteriorated from there. I used alcohol and drugs to try and obliterate it.”

During the pandemic, William was moved into temporary accommodation and had been planning a second suicide attempt when he opened up to a housing officer named Gemma.  She brought Men Matter Scotland into his life.

“Since I went there, I have never looked back,” he said. “That first day, getting in the door was horrendous but I was made to feel so welcome in such a short period of time.”

He now visits the mental health hub most days of the week and described it as a place of “no judgement, love and understanding”.

While the most recent figures in Scotland showed a fall in death by suicide in 2021, the tragic number rose for men aged between 65 and 84.

 Samaritans Scotland said the 753 suicide deaths registered last year showed a “huge amount of work needs to be done”.

‘You will feel such a relief’

Speaking out for World Suicide Prevention Day, William wants more people to feel comfortable opening up about mental health.

Sharing a similar message is another Scottish man – Thomas Valentine, 22, from Falkirk has become a dedicated campaigner for suicide prevention following his own battle with mental health.

HeraldScotland: SuppliedSupplied

“As much as it is hard to ignore the stigma, speaking out is much better and you will feel such a relief,” Mr Valentine said.

He revealed he had a “number of events going on at home which weren’t ideal to be living in” as a child.

At the age of 12, he was put into foster care until the age of 16. He said: “I was taken away from my parents, my siblings and had very limited contact with family during this period.”

“We did have a younger brother. At the time, he was only a baby when we were taken into foster care.

“We were told at the time that he was being put up for adoption so we weren’t getting to see him again at all.

“What was difficult about it was I think having to continue in life knowing he is still around. He is still alive, but you’ll never get to see him again.

He added: “Those were the main events from my childhood that reflect where my mental health started.”

He first started experiencing anxiety and low mood when he was but “avoided dealing with it” until ten days after his 19th birthday.

“I had attempted to take my own life but thankfully I was obviously dealt with by the emergency services.

“Unfortunately, in January 2020, so I would still be 19, I attempted to take my life again for a second time. I was taken to hospital again by emergency services.”

‘I used to keep it to myself all the time’

After a number of months, Mr Valentine was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) – a disorder of mood that affects how a person interacts with others.

He said: “Sadly it is one of the most stigmatized mental health conditions because people don’t know too much about and there are all these myths around it.

“It’s quite a difficult disorder to live with and also the stigma and symptoms that come with it.”

The diagnosis provided him with “comfort” after finally being able to understand his thoughts and feelings.

However, it was not until March last year that he decided to speak up about his mental health.

“Before I used to keep it to myself all the time,” he said. “When I first got diagnosed, I never told anyone except my mom and dad and sisters.”

“I didn’t tell anyone until last March 2021, I had quite a big breakdown at that point.”

Taking to social media, he shared his diagnosis and his struggles and was greeted with a “really positive response”.

Since that moment he has taken up campaigning and volunteering to help others experiencing similar struggles, including as a member of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group’s youth advisory branch.

He also uses his own experiences to help others in mental health emergency as part of his role as Scottish Ambulance Service call handler. 

‘There is no need to bottle up your feelings’

Reaching out and finding support is “life-changing”, William said as he described the impact Men Matter Scotland had on his life.

He said: “All of a sudden, I found that people did care. I had 24/7 access to support that I had never had in my life.

“If it wasn’t for Men Matter Scotland, I have no two doubts that I wouldn’t be here today. 

“They gave me the ability to live a life outside, to be able to be, not afraid to get out of the house, not to feel ashamed, not to feel guilty and to be able to love again.

While both men struggled to come to terms with a stigma associated with mental health, they would encourage others to speak openly about how they feel.

William described the stigma as a “horrible shame on society” and added:

“People with mental health problems think they have a glass head, and they think everyone can see inside you.

“So they start isolating themselves away from the community until they get to a point where they don’t see a way out.

“It’s important that the message gets out that there is help there. It is so important.”  

Mr Valentine added: “For men in particular mental health can be difficult because you are trying to put on this brave face, I am not allowed to cry or feel rubbish.

“What is really important is that we remind people that that’s not the case. Men have feelings too and it is okay to not be okay. There is no need to bottle up your feelings.”

William continued: “For me most of my life I was quite happy if people called me an alcoholic or a drug addict as long as they didn’t mention that I was mentally ill.

“I was quite happy because that stigma never ever leaves you and my mental health will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

“What Men Matter has given to me is the ability to talk, it gave me the ability to lead a normal life, to be able to function in a community without feeling like I stood out.” 

The 69-year-old added that there is more understanding for mental health nowadays than when he was young. 

He said: “There is support. Maybe now there is a bit more understanding about mental health but that understanding hasn’t been there for so long.   

“I know back when I was younger you were just treated as a daftie  

“I have been in mental institutions when I was 20 years of age and it was electric shock treatment they used in those days. It has come a long, long way.

William said he believed places like Men Matter Scotland are actually helpful because they provide a “peer to peer system based on love and understanding”.

Of course, there are still days for both of them when it is harder to cope with the emotions and feelings.

Speaking about a recent “bad spell” which saw him admitted to hospital, Mr Valentine said: “I am not there yet. I am not fully recovered. I’m not afraid to say that. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

However, this week he was “looking forward” to return back to work for the first time since the hospital admission, stating: “My job is my purpose in life and that’s what keeps me going.”

The 69-year-old said the Men Matter Scotland offers constant help to his battle with mental health: “Sometimes when I am down, it does happen and life is not always rosy I am afraid, they support me and they herd me up when I cannot stand myself and that is the important part.

“It is not just a one-off thing, it is a whole life-changing thing. 

“The support is there if you reach out for it, which is the hard part of it.

If you are struggling, Samaritans can be reached at 116 123 or email: [email protected] 

Alternatively, Scottish Association for Mental Health can be contacted 0344 800 0550 or email [email protected]

Contact Men Matter Scotland: 0141 944 7900 or [email protected]


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Disabled bear brunt of Covid and cost of living

EARLIER this week, England’s newly appointed Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey said her immediate priorities to fix the ailing NHS were A, B, C, D: ambulances, backlog, care, doctors and dentists.

All areas in urgent need of help and reform, yes. But something else probably deserves to be included under the ‘D’ umbrella: disability.

From the onset of the Covid pandemic to the current cost of living crisis, those with disabilities have been hit harder than most.

There was further disappointment again on Tuesday when campaigners evaluating the SNP-Greens ‘Programme for Government’ found “nothing”new or meaningful to help struggling disabled people and their carers.

The anger is understandable when you consider what the past two and a half years has meant for people with disabilities.

READ MORE: Increase in patients waiting over a year for NHS operations

According to updated analysis by the King’s Fund, a leading health think tank, between January 2020 and March 2022 the risk of dying from Covid-19 was three to four times higher in “more disabled” men and women compared to non-disabled adults (people were classed as “more” disabled if they reported that their day to day activities were “limited a lot” by their conditions).

Even after adjusting for demographic, socio-economic and health-related factors, the risk of dying remained around 1.5 times higher for those with a physical disability, while those with a medically-diagnosed learning disability were 3.7 times more likely to have died as a result of Covid compared to people without a learning disability.

HeraldScotland: People with physical and learning disabilities were much more likely to become seriously ill and die as a result of CovidPeople with physical and learning disabilities were much more likely to become seriously ill and die as a result of Covid

The most significant risk factor appeared to be that people with severe learning difficulties were more likely to be in residentital facilities. However, even after adjusting for the risk associated with communal living, their risk of dying from the disease remained 1.7 times higher.

Overall, nearly 60 per cent of all Covid deaths in the UK occurred in people with some form of disability.

Earlier this week, 13 organisations which represent disabled people – including Inclusion Scotland – applied for ‘Core Participant Status’ in the UK’s Covid Public Inquiry, a move that would grant them access to relevant documents as well as permission to make open and closing submissions and put forward questions for witnesses.

Disability Rights UK, one of organisations behind the application, said disabled people were “left high and dry by statutory agencies” during the pandemic, with failings ranging from poor access to healthcare, inadequate access to social care, lack of accessible communication and information, and disproportionate barriers to education, retail and transport.

Concerns have also been raised around unfair discrimination, stretching from the earliest days of the pandemic to the so-called ‘post-Covid’ recovery period.

READ MORE: Questions over ‘discriminatory’ guidance issued to clinicians at start of pandemic

In June this year, the Herald reported on questions raised around “potentially discriminatory” guidance issued to clinicians in March and April of 2020 which experts warned may have led to elderly and disabled people wrongly being denied access to ventilators and intensive care.

Academics tasked with analysing the documents and providing evidence to guide the Scottish Covid Inquiry found that some of the advice issued to medics early in the pandemic detailing what to do if demand for ICU beds exceeded capacity was “problematic in terms of human rights and the law, and could potentially have led to discriminatory care”.

They also pointed to guidance urging doctors to consider factors such as whether a patient depended on help for daily activities or was a nursing home resident “with the clear implication that these factors, whatever their cause, weigh against access to critical care”.

In the end, lockdown slowed the spread of the virus and Scotland’s ICU surge capacity exceeded demand during the first wave.

However, the researchers said it remains unclear whether the guidance had “a real world effect” in terms of some people being “wrongly denied access to treatment”.

They also raised concerns around “significant anecdotal evidence” of vulnerable individuals “feeling pressurised” to agree to do not resuscitate (DNR) orders and suggestions that particular groups, such as people with learning disabilities in care settings, had been placed on DNRs “when this was not clinically justified”.

READ MORE: Clinically vulenrable treated like ‘modern day lepers’, says former Government advisor

Dr Sally Witcher – a former senior advisor to the Scottish Government on social security – has also criticised the exclusion of thousands of clinically vulnerable disabled people who were previously on the shielding list from access to Covid antivirals and Spring boosters at a time when restrictions were being lifted, and the spread of Omicron pushed virus rates to their highest levels since the pandemic began.

Dr Witcher, herself disabled from childhood, said the situation had left her and thousands of others with “no prospect of leaving [the] house safely in the foreseeable future” at a time when the healthy population was embracing a return to normality.

HeraldScotland: Vaccinations have been key to reducing the risk of severe Covid disease, but access to Spring boosters was limited to over-75s and a narrow category of conditionsVaccinations have been key to reducing the risk of severe Covid disease, but access to Spring boosters was limited to over-75s and a narrow category of conditions

More recently, campaigners have hit back at the decision in August by the UK Government not to procure Evusheld , a Covid-19 drug already used in countries including Canada, France, Israel, and the US, and which has been approved by UK regulators for use in patients with health conditions, such as blood cancer, which mean they are unlikely to mount an immune response from vaccination.

Data from Israel during the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron waves found that immunocompromised people who took Evusheld were half as likely to become infected with Covid, and 92% less likely to be hospitalised and/or die.

As if the impact of Covid wasn’t bad enough, disabled households now face a disproportionate burden from rocketing energy bills due to higher requirements for heating and electricity needed to charge wheelchairs or operate everything from home dialysis and oxygen machines to feed pumps.

Perhaps it is actually an ‘E’ that should be added to the list of priorities: equality. For disabled people this remains far off.

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