Tom Gordonstoun again, at his his best, which is of course quite creepy too:
‘ONE of Alex Salmond’s defence witnesses at his recent trial has described him as an insecure “creep”. Alex Bell, who was a special adviser to the former First Minister, said Mr Salmond had been cleared of sexual assault charges by effectively arguing “I’m sleazy, but not criminal”.’
This is from the man who wrote that the SNP politicians were ”Thatcher’s children to a person‘ and ‘Everyone gets prizes in Scotland, while the NHS crumbles, education declines and the poor get little.’
Bell’s comments and Gordonstoun’s reporting of them are Daily Mail standard.
Why are the speech marks just around ‘creep?’ Who said he was insecure?
When did Salmond self-describe as ‘sleazy’? He said he was ‘no angel.’ Me neither. Is that really the same as ‘sleazy?’ Of course not. It’s tabloid dirty thoughts….oooh nurse!
This anaesthetist is not an infection prevention specialist. There are many of those working across NHS Scotland. None have made such ludicrous claims.
The crises in Italy and Spain have little if anything to do with events in hospitals but are the consequence of a failure by politicians to impose restrictions on football events soon enough and a similar slowness in encouraging social distancing.
NHS Scotland has a coronavirus infection and mortality rate far lower than in these countries and, for that matter, only half that of the UK average. Anyone looking at the statistical trends can see that things are under control here far more than in most other countries.
There is no need to panic!
NHS Scotland should be praised and not subject to such ill-informed, hysterical rants, exploited by the BBC.
From the Scottish Government today, a report on the most damaging form of poverty:
‘Persistent poverty identifies individuals who live in relative poverty for three or more of the last four years. It therefore identifies people who have been living in poverty for a significant period of time, which is more damaging than brief periods spent with a low income. The impacts can affect an individual throughout their lifetime.’
Regrettably, for all groups other than children, persistent poverty is as common in Scotland as it is in England and Wales but more common than in Northern Ireland. However: ‘Children have consistently had a higher risk of living in persistent poverty after housing costs than working-age adults and pensioners in Scotland.’
From the data in the table above we can see that before and after housing costs are taken into account, Scotland has been able to keep the level of child poverty significantly lower than England or Wales.
While with full autonomy, we’d all expect poverty to be eradicated in Scotland, some credit must go to the Scottish Government for its efforts to reduce the impact of Tory austerity cuts. Here’s a reminder of those efforts and the recognition they’ve had:
People in crisis made more than 165,000 successful applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund in the last financial year, according to new statistics. The Fund paid out £35 million, including £10.4 million in Crisis Grants to people in financial emergency, such as those struggling on low incomes or benefits – a 14% increase on 2017-18. The money helped people with essentials such as food, heating costs and household items. A further £24.8 million in Community Care Grants helped those facing extreme financial pressures with one-off costs for purchases including beds, washing machines and cookers. The Scottish Welfare Fund is part of an annual package of over £125 million to mitigate against the impact of UK Government welfare cuts. Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households, with a third of recipients being families with children.
Finally, we heard nothing of those Westminster austerity policies which have created these problems in the first place and which the SNP Government fights to compensate.
While it might be too much to expect greater detail in a bulletin, perhaps a fuller report could cover some of this?
Though today’s report from End Child Poverty shows that Glasgow does have one of the ‘top’ parliamentary constituencies for child poverty, before taking account of housing costs, Scotland has no entries at all when housing costs, as they would be in actuality, are considered:
Why is the situation regarding child poverty a bit better here?
In 2018, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation had this to say about the Scottish Government’s intentions to reduce child poverty:
‘The Scottish Government’s commitment to building a social security system that has dignity and respect at its core and offering routes into employment for those currently excluded from the labour market, could change the family incomes and prospects of thousands of children for the better.’
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 1: Less vulnerable to benefits cuts
‘The IFS found that low-income families in Scotland currently have a higher proportion of their income coming from earnings than low-income families in some (but not all) parts of the UK, so have a lower proportion of income that is vulnerable to benefit cuts compared with some of the hardest-hit regions of the UK.’ (Hood and Waters,2017). 2
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 2: Fewer large families
‘In addition, one key change to UK benefit policy – the two-child limit on tax credits and Universal Credit– will particularly hit families with three or more children born after 6 April 2017. The IFS analysis found that Scotland has proportionally fewer families with three or more children than elsewhere in the UK, and around half the proportions found in Northern Ireland and the West Midlands.’ (Hood and Waters, 2017). 3
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 3 and 4: Higher increases in median income and less relative poverty
Note: The predicted dramatic increases above neglect impact of further welfare devolution to SNP Government:
‘Many of the key drivers of changes in poverty have been felt UK-wide. However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has supported some research that showed a clear rise in Scottish median incomes relative to the rest of the UK from around 2003/04 and a relatively bigger improvement in the relative poverty rate from 2004/05.’ (Bailey, 2014).
Persistent poverty refers to children who have been living in relative poverty in three out of the last four years – a measure of the number of children who have been in poverty for a prolonged period of time.
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 5 and 6: Stronger decreases in poverty rates and increases in employment
‘The research identified strong decreases in poverty rates for the working-age population compared with the rest of the UK, alongside improving employment rates, especially for families without children. Over the period from 2000/04 to 2008/12, Scotland saw a bigger reduction in out-of-work families compared with the rest of the UK and similar growth as the rest of the UK in ‘intermediate work intensity’ (‘partly working’ families). 8
Differences with non-Scottish Parts 7 and 8: Affordable rents and mortgage costs
‘The analysis also pointed to more affordable rent and mortgage costs relative to income than in England, with social rents being 20–25% lower in Scotland by 2012/13. As a result, poverty after housing costs, compared with before housing costs, rose by a smaller amount than in England.’ 8
SNP Government Initiatives
‘In the coming months, the Scottish Government will launch two strategies that could make a crucial difference for our society. The first is an action plan on halving the disability employment gap, and the second is an action plan on the gender pay gap that is due to be published by the end of the year. This could be transformational for tackling poverty.’ 9
TODAY, we hear of the ongoing commitment of the SNP government, despite the Westminster constraints, to go beyond words and to act:
‘Vulnerable families are set to benefit from new funding to support households in financial hardship. Seven projects aimed at tackling child poverty will receive a total of £450,000. The money is a part of the ‘Every Child, Every Chance’ Innovation Fund, which is jointly supported by the Scottish Government and The Hunter Foundation. The fund aims to support innovative approaches which could have an impact on reducing child poverty by 2030. The projects range from job training and a befriending service, to school-based mentoring and support for lone parents. One of the successful projects is Stepwell, a social business based in Inverclyde, which provides support to people in the local community with health and finance issues as well as training and employment opportunities.’
After the hand cleansers not in right place scandal
Here’s the headline claim:
‘We hear about a man with MND left lying on a floor for hours due to a lack of crisis care as his brother self-isolated.’
Here’s the truth of the situation:
‘The local social care partnership said it offered respite care to Richard, 50, but he turned it down. He told them he wanted to remain in his own home.’
So, with care staff unavoidably reduced by the coronavirus outbreak, the man is offered temporary care in a respite centre but refuses it. The brother self-isolates and doesn’t visit for several days. Another family member finds him on the floor. I can see why it’s distressing but they were offered a safe solution. Must public services be able to meet any demand regardless of what is possible?
More important, this single case is not evidence of a wider crisis, on its own. It cannot be but, once more Reporting Scotland contravene their own editorial guidelines to imply a wider crisis on the basis of a single event.
“The role of modelling burst into the open last Monday, when the UK government switched its strategy on the virus. Gone was the idea to allow it to pass through the population in a managed way (and build up ‘herd immunity’), and in came complete suppression. It soon became clear why.
A shocking new analysis from disease modellers at Imperial College suggested that 250,000 people would die under the old strategy. Some have reported the U-turn as a triumph for the modelling team, but that’s not the full story. Buried in the report was the admission that only “in the last few days” did the modellers update an assumption about the demand for intensive care beds. The demand had been assumed, based on pneumonia data, to be half the actual level observed elsewhere. Earlier versions of the Imperial College model, with the errant assumption, had been informing the UK and US government policy on the virus for “weeks”.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who days before had boasted that the abandoned strategy was built on “the bedrock of the science”, must have felt the earth shake.
Richard Horton, a doctor and the editor of medical journal The Lancet, is one of many experts who is angry and looking for answers. The ‘new data’ was not new. Research from Chinese scientists in late January established the percentage of coronavirus patients needing intensive care. “We have lost valuable time,” Horton wrote in The Guardian. “There will be deaths that were preventable. The system failed. I don’t know why.””
The above is an extract from a piece in Open Democracy. Allysson Pollock, a professor in public health, could have told Richard Horton one reason why the system failed. It is “the lack of public health input and the decimation of the speciality and expertise in communicable disease control prior to and after the Health & Social Care Act 2012. There appears to be no public health evidence from experienced physicians in communicable disease control and their teams.
Last week the New England Complex Systems Institute presented a critique of the Ferguson paper (Imperial College) which the government used to justify its volte face – on the basis of its truly apocalyptic figures. The NECSI academics’ critique highlighted the deep flaws in the modelling in the Imperial paper, and crucially how the model failed to take account of the impact of contact tracing and testing, isolation, and quarantine. These are classic public health measures. The government’s evidence includes an important paper by Keeling et al on the impact of contact tracing on disease containment. This shows how, if basic public health measures are implemented, the transmission of the disease can be markedly reduced and the disease contained, without the draconian measures we are currently being subject to.
It is not too late to do this and it must happen especially in areas within Scotland and the North East where the number of cases are still low.
Blanket school closures across the whole country do not make sense. They should be proportionate to the situation in each local area with appropriate risk assessment and to the effectiveness of contact tracing, cordon sanitaire, etc, on containment. For example, Gateshead, Sunderland, and Northumberland have very few cases, so vigorous contact tracing of cases could be done. During the H1N1 flu epidemic only some schools were closed and then for short periods depending on the local information and risk assessment.
This useful map shows the distribution of cases and deaths in different parts of the UK for COVID-19 and also the opportunity for rapid and intensive contact tracing and local intervention and risk assessment depending on the number of cases.
Children appear to not be at high risk of COVID-19 infection and there is no strong evidence to suggest they are vectors; indeed, the Chinese evidence suggests the contrary. Those interviewed could recall no cases of child to adult transmission.
It seems our government and its task force has failed to read and above all to learn from and apply the meticulous lessons of the China WHO report.
“Much of the global community is not yet ready, in mindset and materially, to implement the measures that have been employed to contain COVID-19 in China. These are the only measures that are currently proven to interrupt or minimize transmission chains in humans. Fundamental to these measures is extremely proactive surveillance to immediately detect cases, very rapid diagnosis and immediate case isolation, rigorous tracking and quarantine of close contacts, and an exceptionally high degree of population understanding and acceptance of these measures.” [My emphasis]
“China has a policy of meticulous case and contact identification for COVID-19. For example, in Wuhan more than 1800 teams of epidemiologists, with a minimum of 5 people/team, are tracing tens of thousands of contacts a day. Contact follow up is painstaking, with a high percentage of identified close contacts completing medical observation. Between 1% and 5% of contacts were subsequently laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19, depending on location.” [My emphasis]”
With new appointments to advise the Scottish government, it looks as if the Scottish government has, belatedly, grasped the folly of following UK government policy on covid19. If it has we have, I think much to thank Professor Pollock for.
That’s how they looked on the Scottish Government site after yesterday’s increase of a further six. Note the graph only goes up to 22 even though there have been more than 500 cases. Look what happens if you flatten the graph:
Doesn’t seem so worrying does it? What if we squeeze it?
What if we put it into some kind of context, say overall cases admitted, as Reporting Scotland did the previous day?
Relatively low? Sign of excellent care? Or, as she has it, we’re ‘behind the curve?’
While more factors than we can measure will be behind these variations, I remain sure that the performance of health services must be one, and so NHS Scotland must be praised for what they have achieved in saving lives.
Some, especially on Twitter, have criticised both these data and what they think are my motivations. I’ve been accused of being ‘political’, ‘smug’ and, of course, of using meaningless statistics.
I realise that these comparative statistics cannot be considered wholly accurate indicators of the differences between the performance of health services but does anyone believe that 10 years of Tory austerity has not wounded NHS England and damaged its ability to deal with crises thus increasing the mortality rate? Does anyone not believe that there is a real difference in performance by the Italian and German health services?
As for ‘political?’ Of course. My main drives here are political. First, I aim to defend the reputation of NHS Scotland, with evidence, and by association the Scottish Government and by association the Independence movement. Second, I aim to refute the outrageous clearly political, infantile, and nauseatingly smug suggestion by Boris Johnson that Scotland’s public services had ‘issues of resilience’ going into the crisis. The evidence is already in.
The relocation of Charles and others in his household to Balmoral at this time is more than insensitive. It is crass!
It exhibits a flagrant disregard for government guidance – ‘no unnecessary travel’. And it disregards both the guidance as well as widespread rural community ‘sentiment’: in terms, don’t use second homes in the Highlands as your personal bolthole in order to isolate yourself and your family. Don’t come, stay put! The heir to the throne has ignored all this by traveling to his family’s private residence at Balmoral – and it is such bad luck that immediately after he arrives he tests positive for Coronavirus!
We already know that the queen moved location to Windsor in response to Coronovirus. The BBC said so: “This year however, the royal diary has been changed as Buckingham Palace adapts the Sovereign’s plans in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.” So is Charles’ move to Balmoral a ‘response’ to the same?
The ‘courtly’ Hello Magazine on 25 March certainly suggests that Charles’ move north and the queen’s move to Windsor are both related to Coronovirus:
“The Queen and Prince Philip were taken to Windsor Castle last week as the coronavirus pandemic continued to escalate worldwide, and it’s since been confirmed Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla have also left London and are spending their time in Scotland.”
It goes on: “Last week, Charles was said to be hard at work at home at Clarence House, so he’s likely still doing the same thing at Balmoral.”
So ‘if still doing the same thing’, what was wrong with Charles, his wife and his office staff and his security staff all staying put in Clarence House? Or if not to his taste, what was wrong with making the shorter journey to his private home at Highgrove, Gloucestershire? And was there no room in the other Royal Residences in and around London close to well resourced private medical facilities if needed?
I wonder how many members of staff have traveled with Charles to ‘serve’ him at Balmoral? How did they travel and at what cost, and at what infection transmission risk? Did all his accompanying staff get tested by NHS Grampian for the virus too? How many people local to Balmoral will now be engaged in ‘serving’ an infected house guest plus accompanying staff? Do Police Scotland now need to deploy to Balmoral? How many Grampian Health Board staff have already been and may still need to be engaged in supporting the infected visitor and potentially others in the household?
Does the man and his advisors not ‘get it’ … or just don’t care?
Better treatment [in Scottish hospitals] is likely to be the answer. This extract from an interview with WHO’s Bruce Aylward suggests that may well be the reason.
“In Guangdong province, for example, there were 320,000 tests done in people coming to fever clinics, outpatient clinics. And at the peak of the outbreak, 0.47 percent of those tests were positive. People keep saying [the cases are the] tip of the iceberg. But we couldn’t find that. We found there’s a lot of people who are cases, a lot of close contacts — but not a lot of asymptomatic circulation of this virus in the bigger population. And that’s different from flu. In flu, you’ll find this virus right through the child population, right through blood samples of 20 to 40 percent of the population.
Julia Belluz If you didn’t find the “iceberg” of mild cases in China, what does it say about how deadly the virus is — the case fatality rate?
Bruce Aylward It says you’re probably not way off. The average case fatality rate is 3.8 percent in China, but a lot of that is driven by the early epidemic in Wuhan where numbers were higher. If you look outside of Hubei province [where Wuhan is], the case fatality rate is just under 1 percent now. I would not quote that as the number. That’s the mortality in China — and they find cases fast, get them isolated, in treatment, and supported early. Second thing they do is ventilate dozens in the average hospital; they use extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [removing blood from a person’s body and oxygenating their red blood cells] when ventilation doesn’t work. This is sophisticated health care. They have a survival rate for this disease I would not extrapolate to the rest of the world. What you’ve seen in Italy and Iran is that a lot of people are dying.
This suggests the Chinese are really good at keeping people alive with this disease, and just because it’s 1 percent in the general population outside of Wuhan doesn’t mean it [will be the same in other countries].
Julia Belluz That’s really concerning for the rest of the world. Are you suggesting this is the big one — the once-a-century pandemic people have been bracing for?
Bruce Aylward It’s not. It can be the big one but like, for flu — whether you have a pandemic with flu, it’s a function of the virus. That’s a virus with a very, very high infectivity rate, a very, very high transmissibility rate. The time [the virus] takes to go from [one person to the next] can be as short as 1.5 days. For Covid-19, it’s longer — four to five days. Look around the world. We’re seeing a whole bunch of outbreaks controlled with the right responses, and even turned around if they get to a bad state.”