Covid Scotland: Infections continuing to fall in country, says ONS



The Covid-19 infection survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated one in 55 people in Scotland in the week up to November 8 had the virus.

The figure equates to about 97,500 people, or 1.85% of the population.

In the week before, one in 50 people in Scotland were believed to have the virus.

Scotland joined Wales and Northern Ireland, both of which the survey estimates had cases in one in 55 of their population, while the figure in England was one in 60.

READ MORE: One in 20 Scots adults had long Covid during 2021, new research shows

The survey comes as Nicola Sturgeon this week urged eligible Scots to get vaccinated as she was jabbed.

“Covid is still circulating, we’ve had high levels of community circulation in recent weeks (and) a slight tailing off into the last week or so,” she told the PA news agency on Monday.

“As we get deeper into winter, a virus like this is always going to have the potential to circulate, and obviously we have concerns about flu circulating.

“My message to people is if you’re in one of the eligible groups for vaccination make sure you get vaccinated.

“It is, just as much this year as it was last year, the best way of protecting yourself.”





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Cosla clash with ministers over National Care Service



THE umbrella body for Scotland’s councils has accused the Scottish Government of misleading MSPs in a row over the cost of the new National Care Service.

When speaking to Holyrood’s Finance committee on November 8, Kevin Stewart and one of his officials claimed that they had engaged with Cosla in a dispute over the estimated cost of setting up the new service. 

However, in a letter to MSPs this week, the cross-party body which represents all 32 of Scotland’s council said this simply was not accurate. 

During the session, Mr Stewart queried a figure of £1.5bn put forward by Cosla. 

“I am not sure where Cosla and others have got these estimates from. I am more than happy to go through those estimates with them in depth, but we have not had sight of them and I would be happy to take an overview in that respect.”

When Tory MSP Douglas Lumsden asked if officials had contacted Cosla to clarify the figures, Mr Stewart said: We have conversations about data and money, but we have had no explanation for that figure of £1.5bn.”

Donna Bell, the Scottish Government’s director of social care and national care service development added: “We have engaged with Cosla on its figures. The background information has not been forthcoming.”

When asked if they would expect to see that soon, Mr Stewart replied: “I would have expected to see it before now.

“Anybody who submits such a number must have the workings behind it, but we do not have them and I do not recognise the figure of £1.5bn.

“Now that those questions have been asked by the committee, I hope that we can all see the workings behind the £1.5bn figure.”

The minster said the government had “discussions with Cosla on a constant basis.”

In a stinging letter, Mirren Kelly, Colsa’s chief officer, told MSPs that “to the best of our knowledge, we have not received any enquiries from the Scottish Government regarding the calculation of this figure.”

Ms Kelly also pointed out that the £1.5bn is not their cost for “implementing the NCS”, but “an estimate we have previously made of the total costs of implementing all of the recommendations of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care”

The body said it had cited the figure several times before during NCS Bill consultations and in financial memorandum correspondence.

“This figure is included in the Executive Summary of our response to the Call for Views on the NCS Bill, and also in answer to the Financial Memorandum questions.”

She said that in both of those documents they had made clear the figure was their estimate for “the total costs of implementing the recommendations of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care.”

And that this £1.5bn was “far in excess of the ‘more than £840 million’ stated by the Scottish Government in the Resource Spending Review as the value of its commitment to increase investment in social care by 25% during this Parliament.’”

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

 





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Covid Scotland: Infections continuing to fall in country, says ONS



The Covid-19 infection survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated one in 55 people in Scotland in the week up to November 8 had the virus.

The figure equates to about 97,500 people, or 1.85% of the population.

In the week before, one in 50 people in Scotland were believed to have the virus.

Scotland joined Wales and Northern Ireland, both of which the survey estimates had cases in one in 55 of their population, while the figure in England was one in 60.

READ MORE: One in 20 Scots adults had long Covid during 2021, new research shows

The survey comes as Nicola Sturgeon this week urged eligible Scots to get vaccinated as she was jabbed.

“Covid is still circulating, we’ve had high levels of community circulation in recent weeks (and) a slight tailing off into the last week or so,” she told the PA news agency on Monday.

“As we get deeper into winter, a virus like this is always going to have the potential to circulate, and obviously we have concerns about flu circulating.

“My message to people is if you’re in one of the eligible groups for vaccination make sure you get vaccinated.

“It is, just as much this year as it was last year, the best way of protecting yourself.”





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Boy troubles? How feminism is the solution to male woes



WE knew this anyway but it’s always good to be proven right.

An American initiative, the Global Boyhood Initiative, has now launched in the UK and announced its arrival with a new report, The State of UK Boys. It’s an in-depth document studying academic research and interviews with experts.

Among many points, it makes a strong argument, backed by research, that feminism is good for men and boys. Which shouldn’t be a radical statement and yet, as feminist narratives such as #MeToo came to dominate the headlines, so too did extreme online misogyny begin to rise.

There’s a tendency to greet any suggestion that boys are in strife with a roll of the eyes but the report outlines clearly how boys are affected by gender stereotypes and it offers the solution – feminism.

It’s more than 10 years now since the viral The End of Men essay captivated and enraged in equal measure. The death of masculinity was greatly exaggerated in the early 2010s but the fact is that boys and men are struggling: there are high suicide rates among men; boys are underachieving at school; violent online misogyny is on the rise.

However, there is a framing of this now that suggests men, whether as an intended or unintended consequence, have become the victims of women’s successes.

It should be self-evidence that overturning gender stereotypes and tackling misogyny is beneficial to everyone but we still suffer think pieces about how “feminism has gone too far”.

It is, though, wrongheaded to blame feminism for this. It simply isn’t the case that women’s advancement has damaged the ongoing health, career and life successes of males rather than, rightly, disrupting male dominance.

Among various highlighted issues, The State of UK Boys details an academic study of 11 and 12-year-olds in a Glasgow school that found children normalised violence as a biological trait of men, making it natural, and therefore, normal for men to be violent. They saw violence as an inevitable rite of passing of growing up, of manhood, and these stereotypes surrounded them at home and at school from early childhood.

These stereotypes harm women and girls – because women and girls are often the victims of male violence and sexual assault, starting at school – but they harm boys too, by encouraging boys to be physically aggressive and to ignore or downplay physical aggression towards them.

The report suggests that a feminist education system – and if we can weave feminist into town planning then why not education? – would be of benefit to both boys and girls.

That seems self-evident. Gender stereotypes are as harmful for male children as they are for female children, enforcing regressive and damaging strictures onto young people instead of allowing them to do and be whatever they want.

Physical, intellectual and sexual prowess are still prioritised for boys and alternatives are lacking.

British Airways made headlines last week with the news that male cabin crew will now be permitted to wear make up, nail polish and style their hair in man buns. For both sexes, however, make up should still be “subtle” – and no neon finger nails. With hyper-feminine uniform rules, airlines are a last bastion of gender stereotypical clothing.

With the ongoing discussions about gender expression, it feels retro to only now be allowing make up equality for men and women – and sad that this is headline news. Yet it is; men in make up is still a point of interest when it should be something no one cares about.

Fewer boys than girls consider going to university. Yet the jobs available to non-graduates are at increased risk of automation, putting young men at risk of unemployment which, alongside the obvious financial and social implications, dents the traditional male identity of breadwinner.

Men tend to have smaller and less rigorous social circles, meaning they have fewer people to turn to when things go south, and are less likely to be open about their feelings.

This perhaps helps explain the rise of online misogyny – with no real life friends to turn to, disempowered young men look online. There, they find bad actors using frustration and despair to unite a group against a fake common enemy rather than meaningfully address genuine problems.

In late September a UK study by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) reported that discussions on a major forum for incels – the phrase is a contraction of “involuntary celibate” and is a modern expression of misogyny and male rage – are growing more violent.

To avoid giving the website publicity it was not named, but the report details the forum having more than 17,000 members (not women, they’re barred) and 2.6 million visits per month with a post about rape being published every 29 minutes.

Incel culture pushes back against feminism, it wants women at the mercy of men, quiet, domestic and reproducing. It’s vital to steer young men away from this by countering the false notion that feminism has damaged the chances of boys and talk about the importance of true equality – that it is not about women pushing into the sphere of men, but about sharing fully in work, social and domestic life.

Feminism has carved out spaces for women to talk about their lives and their desires but there are far fewer places for boys to turn to learn about or discuss an alternative culture to dominate masculine stereotypes or how to challenge the prevailing narratives about how men “should be”.

In the workplace women are taught to embrace the stereotypically masculine qualities of assertiveness and strength but why are these preferred? And why do women have to learn them, rather than be raised with them?

Raising boys to have the qualities prized in women – compassion, caring – is beneficial to them and to the men they will become. We tell girls they can be whatever they want but we aren’t as good as supporting boys to understand the full range of what’s on offer to them.

Ultimately, greater supports for boys returns full circle to being good for girls. We will never achieve true equality without male buy in, not least because men are more likely to listen to other men, so we must help men adjust to an understanding that dominance is no longer a right and, in fact, it should not be a preference.

As The State of UK Boys details, feminist principles benefit boys just as well as girls. To allow any other narrative to prevail does young men disservice and both women and men a harm.

 

Read more by Catriona Stewart:

Is retaliation right when cyclists are abused on our bikes?

Why does such snobbery remain around regional accents?

Manston shows Suella Braverman’s failure on immigration





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The only way to save the NHS is to allow it to be changed



WHEN is a crisis not a crisis? When it happens every year. This is the tale of the National Health Service. It is never in crisis because it is always in crisis. November has become the month where we talk about the looming winter crisis in the NHS and, as sure as night follows day, we’ll do it next year, and the year after, and the year after that too.

The reason for the annual NHS introspection is far from any of the factors which the politicians, of all parties, and the vested interests within the medical world will claim it to be. It is not Covid. It is not trade unions. It is not money.

Instead, the reason for the crisis is precisely the key characteristic which those politicians and vested interests do not want you to know about. It is the design and structure of the entire service. Our national health service is one which is custom-built to be in perpetual crisis.

It is a health service which, because its supply is so centralised, runs on a full capacity model whereby patients can be moved from facilities in NHS boards where services are full, to facilities in other boards where there is spare capacity. Furthermore, many specialist services are, by design, located in only one board area, which eliminates the need to provide capacity for them elsewhere. This is the very concept of the NHS – it is designed to be a pooled and shared, equitable service. The problem arises when, like now, there is no spare capacity.

Some health services, of which there are many good examples across Europe, are run on a more decentralised basis where there are several suppliers of state-funded healthcare. This means that each supplier has to ensure, to the best of their ability, that they have capacity. This leads to more, overall, as the figures further down this column show, so there is usually capacity somewhere else for a patient to transfer to during busier times, like winter.

We are deliberately poor at exploring alternative ways to deliver healthcare, because we have made the unilateral national decision that our NHS is the world’s best healthcare system. Indeed, we increasingly speak about it as though it is the world’s only healthcare system; as though we are the only country with hospitals and sick people everywhere else in the world have to lie in the street and hope for the best.

Covid has exacerbated this hysterical fallacy, and has perpetuated the inability to critique the system without being accused of criticising the people who work in it. However, any objective analysis of the NHS would very rapidly reveal that the assertion of it being a top-tier health service, far less the world’s best, is mythical.

The NHS is now in a near-permanent imbalance of supply and demand. At its most basic, some of this can be put down to population increases. The NHS was designed in 1948 when the UK had 50 million inhabitants. The country now has a population of 70 million, but the service is almost unchanged. This imbalance, and more, is dramatically exposed in the statistics provided by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, recognised as a gold-standard provider of globally comparable data.

Perhaps the most important of the myths which the OECD exposes is that Scotland and the UK underfunds our health services. This is not objectively true, and indeed, the relationship between inputs (money) and outputs (results) over many years has shown that more funding does the NHS little good.

According to the OECD, the UK spends just over 10 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, compared to less than nine per cent for the average country. For sure, some countries are up in the teens, but others are significantly lower.

Despite this above-average spending, though – and here is the problem with a centrally-planned system – we have around half the number of hospital beds per head of population than the average OECD country. There are two-and-a-half beds per thousand people here, compared to nearly four-and-a-half beds in an average OECD country. Imagine, for a moment, the difference in waiting times this winter and beyond if, as in Germany, we had eight beds for every thousand people.

The same is true with doctors and nurses. The UK has proportionally fewer doctors and nurses, and less than half the proportion than some high-performing countries. This gap is, by design, going to widen; we are training fewer doctors and nurses than the average. Ireland is training twice the number of doctors per head of population than we are.

The outcomes are predictable. Our survival rate following a stroke is lower than average, as is our survival rate after major cancers such as cervical and esophageal. Diagnosis for breast cancer takes place at a later stage than in other countries.

It would be fair to ask where the money is going. But, in fact, it’s a fairly hopeless exercise. Supertankers like the NHS cost a lot of money to run and have to build in a great deal more inefficiency than a larger fleet of smaller ships.

Supertankers are also extremely difficult to turn around. You cannot, in practice, get one of the world’s largest employers to move to a flexible 24/7 service or to stop using fax machines (really, they do), but you emphatically can make such changes to smaller, more malleable, more nimble units.

And so, this is really the heart of the debate. The future success of our health service depends on system change, not solely on money. It depends on us – all of us – leaving behind our emotional attachment to the NHS as a system, and focusing instead on building a better system which retains taxpayer-funded access to healthcare.

In other words, a system which honours the laudable intentions of the NHS, but works better. Those who claim to be the NHS’s high protectors – those politicians, doctors and academics who tell us that we’re the envy of the world – are in fact the opposite.

There is a crisis in our health service. But it has been caused by a crisis in our heads; an emotional attachment to a failing system. The only way to save the NHS, now, is to allow it to be changed.

• Andy Maciver is Founding Director of Message Matters and Zero Matters

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald





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