Two spikes in neonatal deaths to be investigated as review announced

A spike in neonatal death rates is to be reviewed, the Scottish Government has announced. 

It saw the mortality rate to breach an upper warning threshold or ‘control limit’, which was also seen in September of 2021 when 21 neonatal deaths were registered. 

Healthcare Improvement Scotland has been commissioned to lead the review into increase in deaths of newly born infants. 

The review will cover all reported deaths across Scotland between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022 to find out if there is anything that may have contributed to the increase.

Anything identified will feed into recommendations and actions to improve the quality of care for mothers and babies.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “Every death is a tragedy for the families involved. That is why earlier this year I committed to this review to find out if there is a reason for the increase.

“I appreciate how difficult this time is for anyone affected and I would encourage them to access support if they wish to do so.

“There is information about organisations and help available on the National Bereavement Care Pathways Scotland as well as the Scottish Government website.”

Once the review team is formed it is expected it will take no longer than six to nine months to complete the work.

Neonatal mortality is defined as the death of a baby within four weeks of birth.

The review will not duplicate any matters which are, or have been, the subject of other review, investigation or audit processes.

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Scotland’s Covid infection levels remain highest in UK

Scotland’s Covid infection levels have remained the highest in the UK, according to the latest estimates. 

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus appeared to rise in the past week as about one in 45 Scots were estimated to have had the virus in the week ending September 20. 

This equates to 117,100 people contracting Covid-19 and is compared to about one person in 55 the previous week.

The Office for National Statistics said the trend in the most recent estimates was uncertain for Scotland.

The ONS estimates that about one in 65 people in England had Covid-19 in the week to September 17, and about one in 50 people in Wales in the week ending September 20.

The trend in Northern Ireland was described as “uncertain”, with about one in 80 estimated to have the virus in the week to September 20.

Sarah Crofts, deputy director for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: “Infections have continued to increase in England and Wales, with uncertain trends in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“The increase is consistent across all age groups in England.

“It is too early to identify whether this is the start of a new wave of infections.

“We will continue to closely monitor the data.”


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Highland hospitality abounds at the Kingsmills Hotel

Independent and family owned, The Kingsmills Hotel and Ness Walk Hotel offer the best of local hospitality in Inverness. Set within acres of mature gardens, the long established Kingsmills Hotel building dates back to 1785, a blend of historic tradition, contemporary design and passionate service.

The hotel offers 147 en-suite rooms, with the spacious, timeless and elegant Classic Rooms alongside fully air-conditioned Luxury Rooms or a short wander through the picturesque grounds will lead you to the Garden Rooms, nestled in idyllic seclusion. 
With a choice of restaurants, well-stocked whisky bar, leisure club and spa, it is the ideal location for a relaxing Highland retreat.
On the leafy banks of the River Ness, is the modern luxury of Ness Walk.
From the glass of chilled champagne to welcome you to one of the 47 exquisite bedrooms, including two suites with outstanding detailing and design, you will be cossetted in a warm Highland welcome. 

Each room is finished with impressive marble, crisp linens, luxurious leathers and warm velvets to create a sanctuary to relax and unwind.
The hotel restaurant, Torrish, set in the original drawing room, enjoys stunning views over the river. The kitchen source the freshest produce for dishes, including growing a supply of organic vegetables from their local farm. 
Enjoy Hebridean beetroot cured salmon, Scottish estate venison Wellington and game terrine with blackberry puree.

 Marketing Manager Angus Macleod explains the individual appeal of each property: “Kingsmills Hotel is a beautiful property set within a historic building where you will experience truly warm hospitality from the moment you walk through the doors. As we head into the cosy winter months, the hotel continues to bustle – a popular spot for winter getaways.
“Our family rooms and extensive leisure facilities are perfect for family breaks. Ness Walk is ‘redesigning luxury’ on the banks of the River Ness.
“A sanctuary of calm, Ness Walk is perfect for romantic getaways. The location is world-class and dining in our Torrish restaurant is a highlight where provenance is a focus –  sourcing produce from a local organic vegetable farm to growing our own herbs in the courtyard are a showcase of this.”
Inverness provides a base to explore local attractions or embark on an active Highland adventure. “You can explore the charming city centre – the Victorian Market has recently been tastefully refurbished and  there are all kinds of independent shops and cafés in the city.

The Highlands are even more beautiful in the serene Autumn
Beyond Inverness, you can enjoy boat trips on magical Loch Ness and you can find walking and cycling routes around the Loch.
Just south of Inverness are the Cairngorms, offering an abundance of mountain and outdoor activities. Or venture north and discover the Royal Dornoch golf course.
The boutique style Ness Walk Hotel has a regularly changing menu that follows the Scottish seasons, working in partnership with local suppliers.
The venison and game is supplied by Simpson Estate in Newtonmore, Inverness-shire, which the restaurant pair with Highland flavours such as juniper berries. Wester Hardmuir Fruit Farm provide plump berries and fruit, used to garnish cocktails or form the centrepiece of dessert recipes.

International visitors returned to Inverness this summer alongside local visitors continuing to experience the best of the Highlands. In the autumn, Ness Walk and Kingsmills Hotel treat guests to exclusive offers to those travelling outwith the peak season. 
Angus explains: “The Highlands are even more beautiful in the serene Autumn… the sprawling sandy beaches on the north coast are a personal highlight; a visit to the Highlands offers a chance to reset, to relax in luxury. 
“The Highlands offer the perfect chance to completely switch off, take a walk by the river or in beautiful parkland, see the change in colour across the landscape.
“With the leisure club at Kingsmills, you can swim in the pool, have a massage treatment in the spa and take the chance to recharge your batteries for the winter.”


This article was brought to you by the Kingsmills Hotel

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Dementia care in Scotland will be informed by public says SNP government

People with lived experience of dementia and their families will be central to a new strategy which aims to improve care, according to the Scottish Government.

The SNP is to launch a “National Conversation” on the disease which aims to identify what policy changes Scots would like to see.

It will include online and in-person discussions, which the government said would feed into a new strategy and will driven by a citizens’ panel.

Questions on the survey include, ‘what challenges need to be addressed in dementia care’.

Alzheimer Scotland is calling for action to address the so-called ‘dementia tax’ which it says results in people in care homes paying for nursing care that would be provided by the NHS if they had any other terminal illness.

The charity wants to see people with dementia given personalised assessments to determine how much nursing care they require and for this to be funded.

The previous strategy was focuessed on improving the diagnosis of a disease that is estimated to affect around 90,000 Scots.

Cathie Russell, of Care Home Relatives Scotland said: “It’s always good to focus on how services for people with dementia can be improved but as they say – talk is cheap.

“The Scottish Parliament has already agreed an excellent Charter on dementia but it didn’t help any of us through the pandemic when the human rights of people in care, more than 70% of whom have dementia, were totally disregarded.  

“We can only hope whatever is agreed this time is actually implemented.

“A huge priority for us is to have a much fairer way of charging for people who need 24/7 support.”

The Scottish Government said it had already provided an additional £3.5 million over two years to strengthen the support given people with dementia and their families after a diagnosis.

This funding is on top of an estimated £2.2 billion spent on dementia by local delivery partners annually.

Minister for Social Care Kevin Stewart said:“Scotland has a track record in supporting people living with dementia, as shown by our world leading commitment to provide immediate support in the first year after people receive a dementia diagnosis.

“If we are to improve that record further, we need to put people and carers at the vanguard of our policy work – helping us develop a new story together that improves the understanding of dementia and allows more people to live well with it.”

Responses will be open until December 5 and will inform a new strategy to be published by April 2023.


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E.coli cases linked to South Lanarkshire nursery

Health officials are investigating the five cases of E.coli O157 which have emerged in Biggar. 

It comes after five nurseries in East Lothian were forced to close amid an outbreak of the bacterial infection last month, that saw many effectively self-isolating under formal exclusion orders to prevent the further spread. 

NHS Lanarkshire’s public health team is working closely with South Lanarkshire Council and Public Health Scotland and anyone with symptoms is being urged to contact their GP. 

Four of the confirmed cases attend a local nursery where all staff and children have now been tested for the infection. 

The fifth individual is closely linked to one of the other cases.

Dr Alison Smith-Palmer, NHS Lanarkshire consultant in public health, said: “To respect and maintain confidentiality, further information about the cases is not being released.”

The symptoms of E.coli O157 can include nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, diarrhoea, bloody diarrhoea or fever. In a small proportion of cases it can cause serious complications.

Dr Smith-Palmer, added: “We are asking people in the local area to be alert for any symptoms they, or a child they look after, may have. Anyone who has developed symptoms of E.coli infection should seek medical attention as specific tests are required to diagnose the infection which can mimic other illnesses.

“Anyone who develops symptoms should contact their GP practice or NHS24 on 111 when the GP practice is closed. This is crucial to help contain the infection and stop its spread within the community. Also, washing hands with soap and water is the best way to stop this bug from spreading.”

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Dementia charity says music should be ‘part of care policy’

Music should be be a recognised, formal part of dementia care, according to a charity set up almost 10 years ago by broadcaster Sally Magnusson.

Playlist for Life said it had seen “multiple benefits” since the initiative was launched, including a 60 per cent reduction in the use of sedative drugs at one Glasgow care home.

It is calling on the Scottish Government to reassess the role of music in health and social care by including personalised playlists in dementia policy for the first time.

The Glasgow charity provides free advice and support to people affected by the disease to create their own playlist. 

According to research, the most formative years for memory making is between the ages of 10 and 30 and it is suggested that playlists contain music from those years.

Experts say they can be used in times of crisis to calm and build trust with patients and loved ones, and can be used at all stages of dementia.

The charity says there is evidence that listening to music leads to a reduction in changes in behaviour and emotion that may cause distress, a reduction in decreased nutrition and improved levels of focus while performing tasks.

In an NHS dementia ward in Fife, researchers found the diversionary technique significantly reduced levels of agitation and led to patients becoming markedly less stressed during clinical procedures in 96% of cases.  
Willy Gilder, 69, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in April 2022, says creating a playlist “rewired” him.

He said: “It allowed me to get back a connection with drawing and painting – something I’ve loved doing since I was five years old. 

“When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I lost all interest in art and I was baffled, bewildered, lost, because this was something central to me – it was part of my identity.  

The charity Playlist for Life has called for music to be a 'formal part of dementia care' in light of evidence showing it led to a reduction in use of sedative drugsPlaylist for Life

“I knew that music was known to have therapeutic remedies relating to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease so, for weeks, I sat and listened to 60s music like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  

READ MORE: World first dementia study offers prevention hopes 

He added: “Over time, my passion for art was reignited – and it wasn’t an instant hit: one day I didn’t just wake up and was full of the passion that I had before, it was more akin to re-energising a muscle that hasn’t been used in a while. But, it was joyous.”

An estimated 90,000 people are  living with dementia in Scotland, with an around 20,000 being diagnosed every year. 

The charity Playlist for Life has called for music to be a 'formal part of dementia care' in light of evidence showing it led to a reduction in use of sedative drugsPlaylist for Life

Michelle Armstrong-Surgenor, the executive director at Playlist for Life, says it is easy to train practitioners in the “person-centred lost low-cost intervention” and says it has the potential to offset costs associated with long-term dementia by reducing dependency on anti-psychotic medication.

She said: “Our ultimate goal is for everyone living with dementia in the UK to have access to their own personalised playlist.

READ MORE: Demand to end ‘grotesque inequality’ of dementia tax 

“There are over 2,000 Help Points sharing personalised playlists in their local communities – in settings like libraries and carers centres – and we’ve trained almost 9,000 healthcare and social care professionals who are using playlists in their care for people with dementia, in settings ranging from care homes to A&E wards. 

“We’d like to see Scottish Government formally introduce the use of personalised playlists into health and social care policy so that every person living with dementia has access to their own playlist.  

“Personalised playlists are widely used by people living with dementia at home and in Scottish care homes and NHS wards as it stands. 

“However, it is often considered an ‘add on’ to the official care plan – we would like to see it as an integral part of dementia care.” 

Playlist for Life was founded in 2013 by  Sally Magnusson after the death of her mother, Mamie, who had dementia. 

For more information visit 

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Demand for laser eye surgery boosts revenues and profits at Optical Express

Optical Express, the eyecare company owned by Scottish entrepreneur David Moulsdale, posted a hefty increase in revenues and profits last year amid high demand for laser eye surgery.

New accounts for Lorena Investments, parent company of Optical Express, show that the group’s 120 outlets generated a combined turnover of £157.4 million during the year to January 1, up from £99.1m previously. Pre-tax profits rose to £52.1m against £20.1m in the prior year.

Director Stewart Mein said it was a “very busy” year for refractive eye surgery as lockdown restrictions limited consumers’ discretionary spending on other things such as travel and dining out. There was also an increase in demand for cataract procedures.

Demand for laser eye surgery boosts revenues and profits at Optical ExpressDavid Moulsdale

“Through a combination of continued investment in new, advanced technology and in our people, we have recorded significant progress during the year,” he said.

“However, we remain vigilant towards the changing patterns of consumer spending and financial pressures therein hence we will not pay a dividend as a measure of prudence. In 2022 we are experiencing the impact of escalating costs of utilities, personal and almost all supplies.”

He added that current trading should result in “another good year” for Optical Express, though it “won’t be as good” as 2021.

The company invested in additional technology across its clinics last year for the earlier detection of eye conditions and “improved insight into the health and refractive requirements of our patients”.

READ MORE: Profits surge at Optical Express as it pulls back from high street

January 2021 also saw the acquisition of Anglia Community Eye Service, an independent provider of NHS ophthalmic care across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Mr Mein said Optical Express is looking to expand this into other areas of England.

The highest-paid director, presumably Mr Moulsdale, received total emoluments of £501,000 which was unchanged from 2020. The group employed an average of 1,140 people during the year.

Mr Mein added: “With regard to the future, we remain cautiously optimistic on current trading but remain mindful of both Covid legacy issues and the current financial pressures upon consumers. With no dividend payment we will continue to invest in the business and most importantly our best asset – our people.”

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