Ben Nevis plea over hikers causing a stink



A leading mountain guide has urged action over the growing problem of human excrement being left on Ben Nevis.

Mike Pescod, of Abacus Mountain Guides, said he had recently discovered large amounts of toilet paper, poo and tampons at Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, one of the few areas where walkers can find shelter from the wind and other walker on the path.

The problem is said to be so servere that Jahama Highland Estates, a multi-business enterprise project, has reported its concerns to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Mr Pescod said it was time for a “matter of fact conversation” about the environmental impact of 150,000 people scaling the UK’s highest peak every year.

He told the Lochaber Times: “It’s past time that we all became a bit more comfortable talking about these things in order that we can lessen the mess we leave behind.

“The advice from Mountaineering Scotland is excellent, and as they say, in very busy places like Ben Nevis we need to carry out all our poo.

“Even if everyone buried their poo and took down the toilet paper, the impact would be too great, especially on the summit where there is no vegetation or mud to carry bacteria to digest and decompose everything.”

He urged walkers to use ‘Wag Bags’ which are plastic bags containing a grainy material that absorbs fluids and starts to biodegrade anything inside.

He said: “The plastic bags are biodegradable and you even get toilet paper and anti-septic wipes in the kit.

“The main problem with this system is the thought of carrying your poo in your rucksack for the rest of the day.

“Here’s my advice – get over it. It’s only poo, we all produce it and all parents and dog owners get pretty adept and cleaning it up and wrapping it in a secure little package.”

He said the disposable bags were used by teams involved in a major dark skies filming project, which took 250 people half-way up the mountain.

He added: “Our right of access is dependent on us behaving responsibly and this is one part of the responsible behaviour that is required of us.”

A spokeswoman for SEPA said it was aware of concerns.





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MSP: Anti-monarchy arrests raise ‘questions’ over anti-abortion protest stance


The handling of anti-monarchy protesters in recent weeks raises “interesting questions” when compared to cases of anti-abortion gatherings, a Scottish Greens MSP has said.

Gillian Mackay is spearheading proposals to bring in buffer zones around healthcare facilities which offer abortion services in order to prevent women from being harassed by protesters.

There have also been calls for police action against the demonstrations – but Police Scotland has previously stated it has a “duty under the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or counter-protest balanced against the rights of the wider community”.

However, the force has received criticism after a number of people protesting against the monarchy were arrested during events to commemorate the death of the Queen.

During the proclamation of King Charles III in Edinburgh, a 22-year-old woman was arrested in connection with a breach of the peace. A 22-year-old man was arrested in connection with the same offence after the Duke of York was heckled as he walked in a procession with the Queen’s coffin in the city.

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Police have been criticised over the arrests 

A third man, 74, pleaded guilty to breach of the peace near the Palace of Holyroodhouse and received a £350 fine, and other incidents received publicity.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The Chief Constable will provide an update on Operation Unicorn at the Scottish Police Authority Board meeting on September 29.”

Ms Mackay, speaking to the PA news agency, said such incidents “raise interesting questions about the balance there”.

“Certainly, some of the things that we’ve seen reported on social media and things would cause a lot of people concern,” she said, “and I would not be surprised if people were questioning why this can happen in one situation and not another, and I think that’s definitely something that the police need to address fully.”

The Central Scotland MSP also said she is “confident” that her proposed Abortion Services Safe Access Zones (Scotland) Bill will pass, citing backing from the Scottish Government and MSPs across the chamber.

She told PA: “I think the the number of MSPs potentially opposing it, for whatever reason, will be quite small.

“And so my expectation at the moment is absolutely this it will pass. The biggest hurdle for it, actually, is any legal challenge rather than getting it through the parliamentary process.

“One of the things we need to keep an eye on within parliament is how long it takes to come forward, and making sure that it is tight and robust and does exactly what we need it to do.”

A public consultation on the plans received more than 12,000 responses by the time it closed last month.

Ms Mackay says she hopes to “continue to make good progress” on the process over the next few weeks and publish the findings “as quickly as possible”, before releasing a final proposal to MSPs.

In the meantime, she added, it is important that the country doesn’t “lose momentum” on buffer zones and access to reproductive healthcare in general.





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Pharmacy closures agreed by Scots health board under investigation



The pharmacy regulator is investigating snap closures which are said to have left Scots patients with reduced access to palliative care.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran agreed to shut a number of pharmacies on Saturdays throughout July and August to allow firms experiencing Covid staff shortages to redeploy employees to the weekday operation.

They included a branch in Ayrshire run by Lloyds which provides drugs for end-of-life care.

The company operates two pharmacies in Maybole, with palliative care drugs provided at 71 High Street, the pharmacy which was closed.

This is said to have led to a patient being unable to collect a prescription and suffering “withdrawal symptoms”.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) confirmed it had received a “concern” about Lloyds adding: “We cannot comment at this stage as it is being dealt with in accordance with our established procedures.”

Freedom of Information enquiries obtained by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) and others show that there have been thousands of temporary closures all over Scotland this year.

READ MORE: Why Scots GP’s concern over cancer care should concern us all 

Locum pharmacists say there are no shortages of staff willing to work and say firms are cancelling contracts at agreed rates of pay.

A source said: “Inexplicably the health board agreed [to the closure] and left the area without palliative care on Saturdays. 

“There has already been an incident in the area reported to the GPhC  Ayrshire and Arran Health Board and local MSPs, where a patient wasn’t able to collect their powerful pain-killing medication and suffered withdrawal symptoms.

“The owners claimed there was a shortage of pharmacists, but there is not, and some have been making pharmacists redundant.

“Now they claim that locums are asking for higher rates and holding them to ransom, yet they are cancelling locum contracts at agreed lower rates in order to close.”

The pharmacy is said to have returned to normal opening hours on August 27.

The PDA has called for an end to businesses being paid ‘non-activity’ payments when they close, payments which amount to £300-400 or more per day.

READ MORE: Scotland records 40 Covid deaths in latest update 

It would also like to see the regulation of pharmacies in Scotland transferred to the  Care Inspectorate.

A spokesman for the PDA said: “Many of our members are very concerned about the conditions they must work in, whether that be sub-standard premises, or being forced to follow what we would regard as dangerous practices due to short staffing, poor computer systems, long hours, lack of support and trained staff and so on. 

“Our members tell us that they are unhappy about the apparent ‘toothlessness’ of the regulator and and that is why the PDA has made the call to transfer regulation of pharmacies (not pharmacists) from the GPhC to a another body which can take more robust action against recalcitrant pharmacy owners.”

A spokeswoman for Lloyd Pharmacy said the Maybole branch was “operating normally and patients can access medicines and pharmacy services as usual.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Ayrshire and Arran added: “In considering applications for closure, the working group took cognisance of the overall pharmacy provision in the local areas to ensure that patients continued to have adequate access to a wide range of pharmaceutical services. 

“Due to the significant planning and minimal closures involved, these temporary arrangements alone should not have had any significant impact on the public accessing community pharmacy services in their area. 

“The Lloyds referred to is a Palliative Care Network Pharmacy and is one of 40 network pharmacies in Ayrshire and Arran.  

“Whilst is was closed on a Saturday between 9 July and 20 August, Palliative Care Network Pharmacies in Girvan and Ayr were open during this time.  

“It should also be noted that non-network community pharmacies in Ayrshire and Arran are encouraged to hold stock of the most commonly prescribed palliative care medicines.”
 





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Scots hospital A&E exceeds capacity by 260% as patients forced to wait in corridors


A MAJOR Scottish A&E department has been operating beyond its capacity for every single hour of every day last month.

Routine hourly checks by staff show that the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s A&E capacity of 40 patients was exceeded throughout August – and on average by 200%, or 80 patients, at any given time. Over the same month in 2019, the capacity was exceeded by over half that – at 38 patients.

Analysis of 24 hourly snapshots during August shows that on one day, August 15, it had been operating at 104 patients over capacity. In 2019, before the pandemic, the worst case scenario saw the hospital running at 55 over capacity.

On its busiest day this summer, the A&E department at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was looking after 144 patients, that’s 260% overcapacity.

The findings offered what has been described as a “terrifying snapshot” of the scale of the pressure Scotland’s emergency wards are under, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

The NHS Lothian figures show that, since the turn of the year, Edinburgh Royal’s A&E department has, on average, been beyond capacity for 22 hours per day.

The health board also confirmed that those patients waiting to be seen are typically kept in corridors on trolleys or chairs, or asked to sit – and in exceptional circumstances stand – in the waiting room.

NHS Lothian’s problems were not confined to the Edinburgh Royal.

The A&E departments at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, the Western General and St John’s in Livingston were also operating beyond capacity for the majority of this summer.

It comes as it emerged last week that performance on waiting times targets at Scotland’s hospital A&E units have hit a new low.

HeraldScotland: The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is among the sites where A&E figures were being misreported (Pic: Gordon Terris/The Herald)

Figures for the week ending 11 September showed just 63.5% of patients were dealt with within four hours.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf admitted those figures were “not acceptable” and he was determined to improve performance.

Figures for the week ending 11 September showed just 63.5% of patients were dealt with within four hours.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the figures were “not acceptable” and he was determined to improve performance.

Shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane believes the situation in NHS Lothian is being mirrored across Scotland, and he has warned Humza Yousaf to act now before more lives are needlessly lost due to the excess delays patients are experiencing.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “These stats provide a terrifying snapshot of the unbearable strain frontline A&E staff are operating under in Scotland.

“I’m certain that the over-capacity crisis they reveal is not unique to NHS Lothian, because we know how bad waiting-time figures are in emergency wards across Scotland.“But it still beggars belief to think that there was not a single moment last month when Edinburgh Royal staff weren’t battling to clear a backlog of emergency patients.

“No wonder waiting times are the worst on record when staff are constantly stretched beyond breaking point. And the tragic reality is that these excess delays lead inevitably to avoidable deaths.

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“The buck stops with Humza Yousaf and the SNP Government for this crisis, and they must not attempt to shift the blame.”

The Scottish Government began publishing weekly A&E statistics in February 2015 over concerns that the figure had dropped to 86%.

The figure has been below 70% since May and the previous low was 64.8% at the beginning of July.

In the latest weekly figures from Public Health Scotland, 27,097 attended A&E and a record number waited more than four hours (9,895).

The number of people waiting more than eight hours was 3,367 – a new high – and 1,257 people waited longer than 12 hours.

Dr Gulhane added: “Our dedicated NHS workers are burning out. Both A&E staff and patients are being let down by the SNP’s dreadful workforce planning, which has left Scotland’s A&E wards dangerously under-staffed for years.

“Humza Yousaf’s flimsy Covid Recovery Plan simply isn’t fit for purpose and must be rewritten immediately.

“The most alarming thing about these figures is that they cover the height of summer, when A&E wards are traditionally quieter.

“It’s frightening to think how bad the situation will be this winter unless the Health Secretary finally gets a grip of the A&E crisis, which he has ignored for too long.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I recognise A&E departments, including NHS Lothian, are working under significant pressure and I am grateful for their continued efforts as we recover from the pandemic, which is still affecting services.

“As I have made clear, the latest A&E performance is not where it needs to be. A letter has issued to boards setting out immediate actions to ensure immediate performance recovery and I will meet with the boards facing the most challenges next week to discuss further support to their improvement plans.

“We are working with boards to reduce pressure on hospitals, including our £50 million Unscheduled Care Collaborative programme, which supports further development of Flow Navigation Centres in every board to ensure rapid access to a clinician and scheduled appointments.”





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