Nicola Sturgeon urged to reverse ‘unbearable’ £65m cuts to GPs



NICOLA Sturgeon has been warned that doctors are “crying out for help” as she was urged to reverse £65m cuts to GP services.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar told the First Minister that the health service is the “worst it has ever been”, following warnings from the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP committee.

Andrew Buist, chairman of the committee, has warned of the catastrophic consequences facing GPs due to primary care budget cuts – part of more than £600m the Scottish Government is cutting to meet inflation costs and public sector pay deals.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Sarwar said staff are facing “unbearable pressure” and Dr Buist believes 1,000 GPs are needed urgently.

Mr Sawrar said: “The Deputy First Minister called the cut of £65 million for GP practices, which already are short-staffed and under pressure, a ‘reprioritisation’.

“Let’s call it what it is -it’s a cut that’s having a devastating consequence for staff and for patients.

“At the same time, her Health Secretary tells people to go to their GP instead of A&E. Another case of the SNP telling NHS staff to do more with less.

“The SNP has been in charge of our NHS for 15 years, and there is a crisis in every part of it – in our GP practices, at our A&Es and in our hospitals.”

He told the First Minister responsibility lies with herself and her Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

“Staff are crying out for help,” he said.

“Does the First Minister accept this is the worst it has even been and it is all happening on Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf’s watch?”

Ms Sturgeon said she accepts the BMA’s assessment of GP pressures – but said the Scottish Government aims to recruit 800 additional GPs over the next few years, with 277 taken on since 2017.

But budgetary pressures mean “hard decisions” – including on NHS financing – have to be made, she said.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Nothing I have said today or at any time takes away from the fact that management of the NHS is the responsibility of me and my Government.

“I absolutely accept that and take that responsibility seriously.

“Is the pressure on the NHS greater than it has been at any time in the history of the NHS? Yes, it is.

“The fact of the matter is though, that while management of the NHS is our responsibility, the amount we’re able to invest in the NHS is determined by funding decisions that are taken at Westminster.”

Ms Sturgeon has faced pressure to sack Mr Yousaf as NHS waiting times in emergency departments continue to rise, however she has maintained she has “absolute confidence” in him.





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Covid Scotland: Deaths related to virus rise slightly



Confirmed or suspected coronavirus deaths in Scotland rose slightly in the week to Sunday, according to the latest figures.

Data from National Records of Scotland (NRS) shows there were 47 deaths over the period, one more than the previous week.

Of those who died, 36 were aged 75 or older, nine were 65 to 74 and two were under 65.

As of November 13, there have been 16,052 deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

NRS analysis of deaths up to October 31 this year found that after adjusting for age, people living in the most deprived areas were 2.4 times as likely to die with Covid as those in the least deprived areas.

Pete Whitehouse, NRS director of statistical services, said: “The latest figures show that last week there were 47 deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. This is one more than in the previous week.

“People living in the most deprived areas were 2.4 times as likely to die with Covid-19 as those in the least deprived areas. The size of this gap slowly widened over the period of the pandemic but has narrowed since January 2022, when the gap was 2.5.

“The number of deaths from all causes registered in Scotland in this week was 1,219, which is 52, or 4%, more than the five-year average.”

Of those who died in the week to Sunday, 21 were female and 26 were male.

Forty-three deaths were in hospital, three were in care homes, and one was at home or in a non-institutional setting.

Of the 15,995 deaths involving Covid-19 between March 2020 and October 2022, 93% (14,942) had at least one pre-existing condition, with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease the most common (22%).

Between December 2020 and the end of October this year, 4.4 million people were given at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to Public Health Scotland statistics.

The NRS report noted that over this period there have been nine deaths where the underlying cause was reported as being due to adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines, with none occurring in the last month.

In addition, there have been four deaths – though none in the last month – where adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccination was mentioned on the death certificate but not as the underlying cause.





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Choose House of Hearing for safe and sound solutions to hearing issues


Delivering specialist hearing care for more than 50 years, House of Hearing’s clinics across Scotland have changed the lives of  countless patients, writes Nan Spowart

 

REALISING she was missing out on family conversations finally made grandmother Christine Swales go for a hearing test.

A former physiotherapist and keen quilter, she had also become aware she was withdrawing from conversations at her sewing group because she couldn’t hear what the others were saying.

“I began to feel left out, a bit isolated, because I kept on saying I couldn’t hear what they said and kept asking them to say it again – it eventually got to the point where I wouldn’t bother,” said the 75-year-old.

After 18 months of trying to get by, Christine went for a hearing test which confirmed she had reduced hearing.

Through the NHS, she was given hearing aids which worked well for several years until her hearing deteriorated further.

Finding out that there was now a long waiting list for a test in her area, Christine did some research on alternatives and found House of Hearing came highly recommended.

HeraldScotland:

Established in 1969, House of Hearing now has clinics across Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, offering free hearing tests and an ENT nurse-led wax removal team. 

Not wanting to wait any longer, Christine decided to give House of Hearing a try.

“I had the feeling I was being an irritant – that people were having to repeat themselves,” she said. 

“It is a social thing too. You tend to withdraw as you tend to think ‘well, if I didn’t catch it, I didn’t catch it’ and you don’t pursue the point.”

While Christine had been happy with the NHS aids and the service she received when she was first diagnosed at the age of 68, she was very impressed with the service and equipment offered at House of Hearing. 

“Instead of being in a small room this was a clear booth, where you could see what was going on and the advice, the explanations and everything were great.”
Christine also found a difference in the hearing aids.

“You can’t compare them really,” she said. “It is more like normal hearing without you having to make any effort at all.”

Now Christine enjoys being able to hear and join in with group conversation. Her advice to others who think they may have reduced hearing is to seek help. “I think some people are very conscious of having hearing aids but to be perfectly honest most people don’t even know I have them,” said Christine. “So don’t be put off by that at all but go, get your hearing checked because it makes life a lot easier.”

House of Hearing Senior Audiologist Stuart Lyness agreed, pointing out that untreated hearing loss is linked to social isolation, depression and even dementia.

HeraldScotland:

“Most peoples’ hearing will deteriorate gradually over time and sometimes it is others who will notice first,” he said. 

“Classic symptoms include turning the TV up louder and difficulty following conversations in noisy or busy situations.”

There is increasing evidence that untreated hearing loss can contribute to poor mental health

“This can happen when hearing loss goes unaddressed because there is an increased risk of social isolation when someone finds it difficult to hear,” said Stuart.

“Withdrawing from conversation with friends and family in extreme cases can lead to bouts of depression and possibly even lead to dementia. 

“Fortunately, the reverse is also true so where patients can improve their hearing, they can lead more active and fulfilled lives.”

With Christmas parties and family gatherings in the offing, it’s important to make sure you can enjoy them to the full, and so the House of Hearing Team is encouraging people to be proactive and get their hearing checked with a free comprehensive hearing test at one of their clinics. 

Find out more at www.houseofhearing.co.uk or call 0141 363 0287     





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Alcohol could be ‘hidden like tobacco’ in marketing curbs



THE Scottish Government has launched a consultation on proposals that would see alcohol marketing banned on outdoor billboards and phased out of sports sponsorship in Scotland.

Retailers would also face restrictions on the promotion of alcohol in-store under plans aimed at reducing “the appeal of alcohol to young people” and cutting overall consumption.

The report states that people in recovery from alcohol dependency have told researchers that they found in-store promotions “triggering” and had to send neighbours to get their shopping to avoid temptation.

READ MORE: Affluent Scots most likely to exceed ‘safe’ alcohol limits

Although discount deals such as multibuy offers are already prohibited for alcohol, shops and supermarkets are currently able to promote sales through end-of-aisle displays, at checkouts, near exits and entrances, and through signage or window displays.

Evidence has found that end-of-aisle promotions for beer, wine and spirits boosted sales by between 23 and 46 per cent by encouraging “impulse or unplanned” purchases.

The Scottish Government said it is “considering whether the restrictions around the alcohol display area need to be tightened”.

This could include forcing smaller retailers who display alcohol on shelves behind the counter to place the bottles “in a closed cupboard, like tobacco products”, or in larger outlets – such as supermarkets – requiring that alcohol be kept near “near the back of the shop away from entrances, exits or checkouts”.

The report adds that “this could significantly limit how alcohol could be sold” and that “further work will need to be undertaken on the impact to small retailers before any potential restrictions were introduce”.

The proposals also outline suggestions such as banning mixed aisles of alcohol and non-alcohol products to “limit the visibility of alcohol to only those who make a specific decision to buy alcohol” and prohibiting window displays for alcohol to “reduce the visibility of alcohol from outside the shop itself”.

In Ireland, which introduced new restrictions on alcohol marketing came into force in 2020, shops selling alcohol and other products are required to store alcohol in a single closed storage unit behind the counter which is not accessible to the public and means the products are kept out of sight except when a sale in taking place.

The report also sets out options such as a ban of the use of alcohol brand logos on sports clothing, trophies, items worn by players or managers, and within sports venues to “create a more family friendly environment” and “weaken the link between influential figures and teams with alcohol brands”.

READ MORE: Scots still drinking to much as drop in sales stalls 

Outdoor advertising of alcohol – including on billboards, buses, and in public transport hubs – could also be banned to reduce the opportunities for children, young people, and those in recovery to be “exposed to outdoor advertising indiscriminately as they travel around their neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities”.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “We are constantly bombarded by alcohol marketing and it affects us all. It makes alcohol consumption seem normal and desirable when the reality is it is responsible for one in 15 of all deaths in Scotland.

“Children and young people, and people in recovery are particularly affected. They tell us that they see alcohol marketing everywhere and it prevents them being able to fully live and thrive in their communities.

“We are pleased to see that the Scottish Government have today published their consultation on introducing restrictions on alcohol marketing which covers a broad range of marketing tactics including sponsorship of sports and events, outdoor advertising, branded merchandise and how alcohol is sold in shops.

“Scotland has the powers to act in all of these areas. This is an opportunity for us to be ambitious and to put people’s right to health before company profits by introducing restrictions.“

Public Health Minister, Maree Todd MSP said: “There is clear evidence that adverts which glamorise drinking can encourage young people to drink alcohol and have a detrimental impact on those in recovery from problem alcohol use.”

The public consultation will run until March 9 2023. 





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World’s first UNESCO Trail wins European sustainability award

IT launched last year, aiming to connect more than a dozen spots across Scotland on a high-tech “digital trail” that also aimed to highlight the country’s efforts to become a world-leading responsible tourism destination.

Now Scotland’s world-first Unesco Trail has received a special award in recognition of its contribution to sustainable development.

The trail, which links 13 destinations countrywide, including World Heritage Sites, Biospheres, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities, to form a dedicated digital journey, has received the Santaganta Foundation Award for Unesco Territories 2022.

The honour was conferred at a ceremony in Rome yesterday, honouring the country’s work to encourage visitors to stay longer, visit all year round, make sustainable travel choices, explore more widely and at the right time of the year, and, in turn, contribute to the sustainable quality of life of those communities surrounding the designated sites.

Scotland’s Unesco Trail also received the Sustainability Award at the Wanderlust Travel Awards in London last week – an award that celebrates action and innovation for sustainable travel.

Scotland is the first nation in the world to create such a pioneering initiative, which was developed through a partnership between VisitScotland, the Scottish Government, the UK National Commission for Unesco, Historic Environment Scotland, NatureScot, the National Trust for Scotland, and Scotland’s 13 Unesco designations.

Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “These awards recognise the Scottish Government’s mission to grow the value and enhance the benefits of sustainable tourism across Scotland, as set out in our tourism Strategy Scotland 2030.

“The trail is helping visitors to discover Scotland’s fascinating Unesco designated sites, while encouraging them to make responsible and sustainable choices through environmentally friendly travel and partnership with green accredited businesses.”

Laura Davies, UK ambassador to Unesco, said: “This digital trail is the first to bring all Scotland’s wonderful designations together into a single space – the World Heritage Sites, of course, but also the Biosphere Reserves, Geoparks and Creative Cities: important for the visitor experience, but even more so for the 13 designations and their communities.

Grounded and global – you don’t get more Unesco than that – and I am delighted to see this recognised through the prestigious Santagata Foundation award!”

Professor Anne Anderson, non-executive director at the UK National Commission for Unesco and VisitScotland board member, said: “It is fantastic to receive this recognition for Scotland’s Unesco Trail, in particular for the sustainable credentials of this project.

“The development of Scotland’s Unesco Trail has been a great example of collaboration to create a unique visitor experience firmly rooted throughout with responsible tourism ethics.

Across Scotland, these Unesco designations are local partnerships and communities that protect and promote their outstanding creativity, cultural heritage and the natural environment.

“The trail aims to inspire visitors from around the world to rediscover Scotland’s unique treasures, know they are travelling sustainably, and contribute to the communities who maintain these precious places.”

The trail launched last year, aiming to take visitors on a cultural journey across the country, experiencing everything from history to science, music, design and literature to nature and cityscapes.

The digital trail – available at www.visitscotland.com/unesco-trail – “showcases the breadth of culturally astounding Unesco designations on offer across Scotland, providing information and inspiration to visitors across the world”, VisitScotland said, adding: “It also celebrates businesses and communities that are committed to responsible tourism business practices and promotes sustainable travel options.”

Scotland is the first nation in the world to create such a pioneering initiative.

The trail links Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Unesco Biosphere, Wester Ross Unesco Biosphere, Dundee Unesco City of Design, and Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature.

It also goes on to link Glasgow Unesco City of Music, Shetland Unesco Global Geopark, North West Highlands Unesco Global Geopark, and the Forth Bridge UnescoWorld Heritage Site.

Also featured in the groundbreaking project are the “Frontiers of the Roman Empire” the Antonine Wall Unesco World Heritage Site, New Lanark Unesco World Heritage Site, Heart of Neolithic Orkney Unesco World Heritage Site, the Old and New Towns of EdinburghUnesco World Heritage Site, and St Kilda World Heritage Site.

Professor Anne Anderson, non-executive director at the UK National Commission for Unesco, said on the launch of the trail: “Scotland’s Unesco Trail is a world first, bringing together Scotland’s world-class cultural and natural heritage.

“Not only this, the trail does so within Unesco’s broader aims of building peace and sustainable development. Across Scotland, these Unesco designations are local partnerships and communities that protect and promote their outstanding creativity, cultural heritage and the natural environment.

“By partaking in the trail, visitors from around the world will rediscover Scotland’s unique treasures, know they are travelling sustainably, and contribute to the communities who maintain these precious places.

“From the stunning mountains of the northwest Highlands, the heart of Neolithic Orkney, the vibrant music scenes of Glasgow, to Edinburgh’s outstanding heritage and literature festivals, there is a wealth of people and places waiting to welcome you.”

Francesca Osowska, CEO of NatureScot and chair of the Trail Steering Group, said: “The trail is a hugely exciting global first, inspiring visitors to Scotland”.

Glasgow to Barra: Aviation fan’s delight as he gets ‘solo flight’

IT is the only airport in the world that has a tidal beach for a runway and is regularly voted as one of the most stunning places in the world to land by passengers and pilots alike.

But one lucky aviation enthusiast was treated to a flight he will never forget on a recent trip to Barra as he was the only passenger onboard.

Jack Rickeard, who runs Youtube aviation travel channel Newcastle Flyer, could not believe his luck when he was treated to the “surreal” experience of having his own ‘private Twin Otter flight’ from Glasgow with Loganair.

The 18-year old, from Newcastle, said staff believed it was the first time the flight made the 45-minute journey from Glasgow Airport to Barra with only one passenger onboard.

READ MORE: Meet the Englishman visiting every beach in the Highlands and Islands

He said: “When I got to the gate no-one else appeared. And when they let me on the plane they said ‘Oh it’s just you’. There where just two pilots, no cabin crew.

“The staff told me that they’d never seen it before. It was the first time that they knew of that only one person was on the flight. And they said that that morning all the other flights were quite full.

“There was a flight to Shetland going at the same time from an adjacent gate and that was pretty much full.”

Due to the beach runway, Barra Airport is also on the bucket list of aviation enthusiasts the world over. 

Operating twice daily flights to and from Glasgow, around 14,000 passengers take the Loganair flight every year on one of around 1,400 annual aircraft movements.

Barra Airport was constructed in 1936 and to provide an alternative way fore residents to get to the mainland rather than the 7 hour ferry trip to Oban.

It actually has three runways, which is one more than London’s Heathrow, and they are marked by wooden poles placed at their ends.

The airport has one small terminal but because it is naturally lit, it cannot handle night flights.

During days with poor visibility, vehicles are stationed at the end of runways to assist pilots to locate them.

Despite the fact that it is also an airport, the beach is still open to the public, with people advised to check if the windsock is flying, because that means the airport is operational.

In 2011, a poll was conducted by the jet charter company, PrivateFly.com where Barra Airport was chosen as the top airport in the world

But Mr Rickeard travelled up from Newcastle and back on the same day to take the ‘bucket list’  flight, and said the “surreal” experience of flying solo made what was “already a very good experience even better”. 

He said: “It was high on my list and had been for a number of years. It was bizarre. It was not like anything else I’d done before, landing on a beach and it being so soft. And landing on what literally was water.

“I thought it was very good. I’d gone to go and land on the beach in Barra. I’d assumed with it being such a famous place and quite touristy that I would at least not be the only one on the plane. And it made what was already a very good experience even better.

“It was just surreal and unlike anything I’ve done before. I’ve flown more than 80 times this year and that’s the only time that’s ever happened to me. There were six out of 19 seats occupied on the way back, but even then there was plenty of room to stretch out.

“I had about three hours there between flights. I went on the first flight and came back on the last. I had a walk on the beach. That’s really all you can do there.”

The only downside to the flight for Jack was that the “very noisy” plane meant he couldn’t engage in conversation with the pilots sat in the doorless cockpit in front of him.

He said: “I spent most of it looking out the window at the view because the West of Scotland is very pretty. It’s very noisy on the little plane and it would be difficult to have a conversation with someone sat next to you never mind three rows in front.”

He now believes everyone should experience the flight to Barra, not just aviation enthusiasts of the world.

He said: “Even if you just wanted a day out on the beach and you are prepared for doing something a little bit different. You can get some really good last minute deals on this, I only booked it the night before and I paid £50 for the flight. While it wasn’t that cheap it was definitely worth the money I thought.

“The views were fantastic, going over the Isle of Mull and Inveraray, places like that. Places that are spectacular from the ground but even better from above where you can see them more properly and in full. It’s up there with one of the best.”

Loganair were approached by The Herald for comment.

Maternal mortality in UK higher than most European nations


MOTHERS in the UK are three and a half times more likely to die during pregnancy or soon after than women in Norway, according to a new study.

Researchers evaluating outcomes across eight high-income European nations with good quality surveillance systems found that only Slovakia had higher maternal mortality rates than the UK.

The findings – published in the BMJ medical journal – are based on data gathered before the pandemic.

A separate report, published last week, showed a sharp rise in the UK’s maternal mortality rate during the most recent three-year period from 2018-2020.

READ MORE: Highland woman’s excruciating myeloma symptoms missed in pregnancy

The BMJ report shows that the UK’s maternal mortality rate was 9.6 per 100,000 live births in 2016-18, compared to 2.7 in Norway from 2014 to 2018.

This covers deaths occurring up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy, with suicides and cardiovascular deaths, including blood clots, found to be the leading causes of maternal deaths for most of the eight countries, including the UK.

Adverse events directly relating to childbirth – such as obstetric haemorrhages or fatal complications from anaesthesia – were much rarer.

The eight countries included were: the UK, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Slovakia.

HeraldScotland: Cardiovascular causes of death were the largest factor behind UK and Norwegian maternal mortality, compared to suicide in Finland and DenmarkCardiovascular causes of death were the largest factor behind UK and Norwegian maternal mortality, compared to suicide in Finland and Denmark (Image: BMJ)

Previous studies comparing countries’ maternal mortality rates have tended to underestimate maternal deaths because they are based on death certificates, rather than comprehensive surveillance systems.

The data used by the BMJ was taken from the International Network of Obstetric Survey Systems (INOSS), an international collaboration aiming to gather data on serious illnesses in pregnancy and childbirth.

However, the authors caution that their country-by-country comparisons are not adjusted for differences in the socioeconomic profiles of the mothers in each nation.

They stress that “wide variations exist in the proportions, among all births, of younger and older mothers and of mothers with a migrant or minoritised ethnic background [which] may partially explain the differences in maternal mortality ratios, as those characteristics were associated with higher risks of maternal death”.

In the UK, Black women are known to be nearly four times more likely than white women to die during or after pregnancy, with women of Asian ethnicity having 1.7 times the risk compared to white women.  

In the BMJ study, a pooled analysis of the data by age revealed that maternal death rates were highest for both the youngest and the oldest mothers in all countries except the Netherlands.

For example, women under 20 were at twice the risk of death compared with women aged 20-29, and those aged 40 years or over were at almost four times the risk of death.

READ MORE: Will home births ever be the norm again? 

Other factors not accounted for – such as body mass index – could also be influencing rates of cardiovascular maternal mortality, they add.

In the UK, there were 50 cardiovascular-related deaths compared to 15 in Italy and three in Norway.

However, they note that differences in maternal mortality from causes such as haemorrhage or amniotic fluid embolism, which are not linked to individual characteristics, “may suggest explanatory hypotheses related to care”.

They add: “To further reduce maternal mortality by learning from best practices and each other, in-depth analyses of differences in quality of care and health system performance at national levels are needed.

“Cardiovascular diseases and mental health in women during and after pregnancy need to be prioritised in all countries.”

It comes after the MBRRACE-UK report found that 229 women in the UK had died during or up to six weeks after the end of pregnancy between 2018-2020.

Excluding nine Covid-related deaths, the mortality rate – at 10.5 per 100,000 women giving birth – was 24 per cent higher than it had been in 2017-2019.

The report did not include specific breakdowns for the maternal mortality rates by constituent UK nations because of the comparatively small numbers involved. 

However, it is also understood to have increased in Scotland.  

HeraldScotland: Report by MBRACCE-UK, which monitors maternal mortality in the UK, showing an upturn - especially for direct maternal deaths - during the most recent three-year period covering 2018-2020Report by MBRACCE-UK, which monitors maternal mortality in the UK, showing an upturn – especially for direct maternal deaths – during the most recent three-year period covering 2018-2020 (Image: MBRRACE-UK)

In 2020 specifically, the report found that women were three times more likely to die by suicide during or up to six weeks after the end of pregnancy compared to 2017-19

A further 289 women died between six weeks and a year after the end of pregnancy in 2018-20.

Psychiatric and cardiovascular disorders combined account for 30% of maternal deaths in the UK.

Various types of blood clot – known collectively as thrombosis and thromboembolism – were the main direct cause of death.





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