Surgeon withdraws offer to help women injured by mesh surgery

Dr Dionysios Veronikis had offered to travel to Scotland from the US to perform the complex mesh removal operations.

Surgery: A Missouri-based surgeon has withdrawn an offer to help after becoming 'exasperated' by the Scottish Government. Pixabay
Surgery: A Missouri-based surgeon has withdrawn an offer to help after becoming 'exasperated' by the Scottish Government.

A Missouri-based surgeon has withdrawn an offer to help Scottish women left suffering after vaginal mesh surgery for a “second and final time” after becoming “exasperated” by the Scottish Government.

Dr Dionysios Veronikis had previously offered to travel to Scotland from the US to perform complex mesh removal operations on women.

But in a letter to health secretary Jeanne Freeman, he said this has now been “permanently withdrawn” as he claimed his “goodwill has been abused”.

Dr Veronikis said he had previously withdrawn an offer to travel to Scotland but had been “given assurances by the First Minister of Scotland and I came back on board with the project”.

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But he added: “Regretfully, promises made to me by the appointed officials were not delivered.

“This was the reason why I withdrew my offer for a second and final time.

“All past cooperation has collapsed. It is over. My goodwill is exasperated.

“I am certain that my 200-plus hours invested in these negotiations would have been better spent operating on 20 mesh-injured women.”

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The surgeon said former chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood had previously committed to arrange the necessary sponsorship with the General Medical Council to allow him to operate in Scotland.

He said a U-turn on this sent a “clear message to me that neither CMO Calderwood nor the clinicians were committed to this project”.

Dr Veronikis told Freeman: “I am surprised that under your direction and that of the First Minister that such non-action was permitted.

“My original offer to come to Scotland to help the mesh-injured women is the only offer that ever existed.

“This offer, the offer that I extended, remains permanently withdrawn.

“From my perspective, I have been extremely cooperative and my goodwill has been abused.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who has spoken out on behalf of the women left in pain after vaginal mesh surgeries, branded the letter a “damning indictment of the failure of the Scottish Government to do right by mesh-injured women”.

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Findlay said: “Despite Dr Veronikis’ generous offer, no assistance was given by the Scottish Government to facilitate his visit to Scotland.

“The health secretary and the First Minister owe an apology to the mesh-injured women of Scotland whose agony has been prolonged due to the incompetence, pride and intransigence of the SNP government.”

In July, Freeman announced the NHS is to set up a specialist service to perform mesh removal operations on those women who have been left suffering after surgery.

The Scottish Government will provide more than £1.3m to support the new Complex Mesh Removal Surgical Service in 2020-21, she added.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said NHS Scotland had offered the opportunity of a contract to Dr Veronikis in February, subject to “detailed discussions”.

She added: “The international recruitment team at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde also wrote to Dr Veronikis in March.

“Unfortunately Dr Veronikis has not felt able to do this without first having a contract in place and has withdrawn his offer to come to Scotland.

“This is deeply disappointing.

“The Scottish Government is clear that any woman who has suffered pain and life-changing complications caused by mesh implants should have access to the best possible care.”


‘Cautious optimism’ hospital admissions starting to slow

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 2016 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said there’s “cautious grounds for optimism” that coronavirus hospital admissions are starting to tail off.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 2016 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – an increase of five overnight. 

Out of those, 151 patients are in intensive care – six fewer than what was reported on Sunday.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid briefing on Monday, the First Minister said: “I don’t want to overstate this because the pressure on our NHS continues to be acute and is likely to be so for some time yet, but we think we may have some cautious grounds for optimism that admissions to hospital are starting to tail off slightly.”

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Sturgeon confirmed that a further four people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The death toll of those who had tested positive now stands at 5709, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 7448.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 172,953 – a jump of 752 in the past 24 hours

The daily test positivity rate is 8.6%, up from the 7.4% reported on Sunday when 1195 cases were recorded.

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Of the new cases reported on Monday, 224 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 138 are in Lanarkshire and 87 are in Ayrshire and Arran.

The rest of the cases are spread out across ten other health board areas.

Sturgeon said there has been “early evidence” that lockdown measures across the majority of Scotland are working.

She said: “We are seeing some early evidence that these restrictions are working, which is positive.

“We think they are starting to reduce case numbers and while it will take a bit of time yet to feed properly into admissions to hospital and ICU, we also hope that we might be starting to see some early positive signs too.”

As of 8.30am on Monday, 415,402 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government is on track to meet its target for the vaccination of everyone over the age of 70, which has been set for the middle of February.

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Sturgeon told the briefing that 95% of residents in adult care homes and 95% of health workers have now been vaccinated, with 46% of all people over the age of 80 given a jab, up by 9% since Friday.

From Monday, Scots aged between 70 and 79 will receive letters inviting them for their inoculation.

The First Minister said: “It’s in your interests and obviously in everybody else’s interest for you to accept the appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”


‘We’re not coping’, say parents of children with special needs

Parents call for schools for pupils with additional needs to be reopened.

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Parents of children with special needs are having to deal with increasing levels of violence in their home because of a lack of support during lockdown. 

Charities are calling for Scotland’s additional needs schools to be reopened fully, as they are in the rest of the UK.

They also want staff to be given the Covid vaccine as a matter of priority to help relieve stress on families.

For ten-year-old Dillan, the loss of routine has meant his world has collapsed. He has Down’s Syndrome and no understanding of lockdown.

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His parents are juggling work with caring for him and their four-year-old, meaning their daughter has had to find her own way around home schooling.

The changes are already having an impact on Dillan’s behaviour.

His mum Maya said: “He is just not understanding and not coping well with the situation.

“We are trying not to focus on that behaviour when it happens and we just try to keep him safe and reassure him that things are going to change back to normal.”

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Ross is attending school just two days a week. The break in routine has led to bursts of violence and he recently kicked three holes in his bedroom wall.

“It’s really really tough and it’s really tough for Ross too,” his mum Carol said. “It’s just tough for all of us. He needs routine, familiarity. He needs his things back that he knows.”

Special schools have remained open in the rest of the UK, but the picture is patchy in Scotland, where they mostly closed until at least the middle of February.

The Scottish Government said pupils with additional needs could return in the first phase of reopening.

Children’s minister Maree Todd said: “We are now thinking about how quickly and how soon can we get children and young people back into school settings and how many can we get in.

“Children with additional support needs are at the forefront of our thinking there because we recognise just how hard it is for them not to be in school.”


Vaccine letters start for over 70s as blue envelopes delayed

White windowed envelopes, with a distinctive black NHS logo on the right, will be used as a temporary measure.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

Coronavirus vaccination appointment letters for Scots aged 70-79 will be delivered from Monday, but plans to use distinctive blue envelopes have been delayed.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman initially urged people to look out for the “very distinctive” blue envelopes, however on Sunday evening the Scottish Government announced that they weren’t ready.

White windowed envelopes, with a distinctive black NHS logo on the right, will be used as a temporary measure and are being given priority by Royal Mail.

The Scottish Government said the change will have “absolutely no impact” on the vaccination programme timetable.

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According to its vaccine deployment plan, the 70-79 age group should receive their first dose by mid-February.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to strongly urge everyone in the 70-79 age group to check all their post in the coming weeks and take up the offer of the vaccine when it is received.

“Patients may receive a phone call invitation from their local health board as part of the appointment process and all patients aged 75-79 in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will be invited via phone.”

A new booking system is also being used by several health boards to schedule appointments for patients in order of priority.

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Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Lothian are among the NHS boards that will use the system.

Vaccinations for the over 80s are continuing, with that group on track to receive their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week in February.


Woman, 91, found dead after fire rips through house

Emergency services were alerted to the blaze in Main Street, Crossmichael, at around 4am on Monday.

© Google Maps 2020
Crossmichael: Emergency services were alerted to the blaze on Monday morning.

A 91-year-old woman has died following a house fire in Dumfries and Galloway

Emergency services were alerted to the blaze in Main Street, Crossmichael, at around 4am on Monday.

Police said the pensioner was pronounced dead at the scene.

Enquiries into the cause of the fire are ongoing.

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A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Emergency services were called to the report of a house fire in Main Street in Crossmichael at around 4am this morning.

“The fire was extinguished by the fire and rescue service. 

“The sole occupant of the house, a 91-year-old woman, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

“Enquiries into the cause of the fire are ongoing and a full report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in due course.” 


Baby tyrannosaurs were ‘size of Border Collie dog’

A project led by Scots researcher has found that baby tyrannosaurs were only the size of a border collie dog when taking their first steps.

University of Edinburgh
An artist's impression of how a baby tyrannosaur might have looked.

Baby tyrannosaurs were only the size of a Border Collie dog when they took their first steps, a team of palaeontologists has discovered.

Led by Dr Greg Funston, a University of Edinburgh researcher, the team examined fossilised remains of a tiny jaw bone and claw which had been found in Canada and the US.

They were revealed to belong to a baby tyrannosaur – cousin of the fabled T-Rex – in 3D scans and are the first-known fossils of tyrannosaur embryos.

It suggests the creatures which lived more than 70 million years ago were only around three-feet long when they hatched, despite being able to grow to 40ft long and weigh around eight tonnes.

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The team has also estimated that tyrannosaur eggs – remains of which have never been found – were around 17 inches long.

Distinctive tyrannosaur features were found in analysis of the three-centimetre long jaw bone, including a “pronounced chin”, which the team say suggests physical traits were also present before they hatched.

Dr Funston, of the university’s School of GeoSciences, said: “These bones are the first window into the early lives of tyrannosaurs and they teach us about the size and appearance of baby tyrannosaurs.

“We now know that they would have been the largest hatchlings to ever emerge from eggs and they would have looked remarkably like their parents – both good signs for finding more material in the future.”

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The study is published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences and was supported by the Royal Society, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and National Science Foundation.

Researchers from the universities of Alberta, Calgary, Montana State and Chapman were also involved.


Man found dead in parked car at Tesco supermarket

Police believe the 73-year-old took ill at the wheel at the Tesco store in Aberdeen.

Police Scotland / © Google Maps 2020
Police are investigating the circumstances of a man's death in a Tesco car park.

A 73-year-old man died in his car in an Aberdeen supermarket car park after apparently taking ill at the wheel.

Police and paramedics were called to the car park at the Tesco store in Rousay Drive at about 3.10pm on Sunday but the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police sergeant Chris Smith said: “We are working to establish the exact circumstances at this time and although we believe that the man has taken ill at the wheel, we are asking any witnesses to come forward.

“I would urge anyone who saw the blue Nissan Micra being driven in the car park around 3pm on Sunday afternoon to contact us.

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“We would also ask anyone with dash-cam footage to come forward.

“Anyone with information should contact 101 quoting reference number 2121 of Sunday, January 24.”

Growing gap between rich and poor Scots’ long-term health

Both men and women not living in good health for as long as they used to, stats show.

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Healthy life expectancy for Scots has decreased.

Healthy life expectancy for Scots has decreased, with a widening gap between the richest and poorest, according to the latest figures.

Estimates for how long both men and women can expect to live in good health fell between 2016-18 and 2017-2019.

Women’s healthy life expectancy has dropped from 62.2 years to 61.9 in that timeframe and is now the lowest since records began in 2009-2011.

Since 2009-2011, it has fallen by more than a year – down from 63 years at the start of the decade.

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Healthy life expectancy for men stands at 61.9 years – a decrease of almost two and a half months from the previous year, although it remains higher than the 61.1 years recorded in 2009-2011.

The measure of healthy life expectancy is monitored by the National Records of Scotland and estimates the number of years lived in “very good” or “good” general health, based on individuals’ responses to the annual population survey.

The gap for those born into the poorest and most deprived circumstances grew sharply.

For men, the gap is now 25.1 years of healthy life between those in the top 10% and bottom 10% of the population, up two years compared to 2016-2018.

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The gap for women is now 21.5 years, an increase of 2.4 years from the previous year’s figures.

By region, healthy life expectancy at birth for males was highest in East Dunbartonshire, at 69.8 years, and lowest in Glasgow at 54.6 years.

For females, healthy life expectancy at birth was highest in Orkney at 75.1 years – the only region to be higher than 70 – and lowest in North Ayrshire at 56.3 years.

Julie Ramsay, head of vital events statistics at the National Records of Scotland, said: “Over the last decade healthy life expectancy has increased for males and decreased for females.

“However, both males and females experienced a decrease in healthy life expectancy over the latest year.

“The decrease in healthy life expectancy coincides with a stalling of growth in life expectancy in recent years and has resulted in a lower proportion of life being spent in good health, with 79.9% for males and 76.3% for females.”


Applications set to open for £25m wedding sector fund

Eligible businesses such as photographers, wedding venues and florists can apply for up to £25,000.

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Fund: Businesses can apply for grants up to £25,000.

A £25m fund to support the wedding sector which has suffered a “severe impact” from the coronavirus pandemic will open to applications this week.

The fund will provide one-off grants of up to £25,000 for eligible businesses in the sector which have been hit by the impact of Covid-19, including wedding venues, photographers, florists, caterers and suppliers.

The Scottish Government said that in recognition of the ongoing challenges faced by the sector, a further £10m has been added to the £15m announced in December.

The fund will be managed regionally by Scotland’s three enterprise agencies – South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

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Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said: “The pandemic has had a severe impact on Scotland’s wedding sector, and we know that the current restrictions, while entirely necessary in our fight against Covid-19, continue to take their toll on the sector.

“I’d encourage all those who think they are eligible to find out more about applying – we want to help as many businesses survive this pandemic as we can.

“We have allocated over £3bn to help businesses since the start of this pandemic. However, we know it can never compensate for the unprecedented effect this has had on business.

“We will continue to work with the resources available to us to protect businesses and build a stronger recovery for Scotland.”

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Under current coronavirus rules, no more than five people can attend a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registrations in level four areas, and wedding receptions cannot take place.

In levels one, two and three, no more than 20 people can attend a wedding ceremony and reception.

Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance (SWIA) co-founder Caroline Inchyra said: “On behalf of the Scottish wedding industry, we are delighted that the sector has secured £25m funding from the Scottish Government.

“We must thank the Scottish Government for recognising the wedding industry as a vital sector in the Scottish economy, and the enterprise agencies for working with us to ensure this fund has as much impact as possible.

“This funding will give renewed hope to the many businesses who have been unable to operate in a viable way for almost a year.

“The SWIA looks forward to a continued positive working relationship with Scottish Government as the wedding industry navigates a path through the most difficult trading conditions this highly resilient sector has ever faced.”

Other businesses eligible to apply to the fund include videographers, marquee hire (including tipis), wedding attire and entertainment such as bands, DJs, pipers and string quartets.

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Dawn Robson, of Blooms Florist in Dumfries, welcomed the news of the fund after her business suffered from the impact of the pandemic last year.

She said: “I ended up with only two wedding bookings in the whole of 2020, which was completely devastating.

“I am already seeing bookings being cancelled for 2021, with a number of couples deciding to move their weddings back to 2022.

“It has been such a difficult time for everyone, but the wedding industry in particular has been devastated.

“It is good news to see this new fund open specifically for the wedding industry, with any help we can receive really appreciated.”


Boohoo buys Debenhams brand for £55m but stores to close

With stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs are likely to be saved.

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Debenhams: Online fashion retailer Boohoo has confirmed it has bought the brand.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo has bought the Debenhams brand and website for £55m.

Although the deal will see the department store name survive, the company’s remaining 118 stores will close for good.

The deal will see Debenhams products sold by Boohoo from early next year, allowing enough time for liquidators to continue closing the retailer’s sites once they are allowed to reopen after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

But with stores closing across the 242-year-old brand, it is unlikely many of the remaining 12,000 jobs are likely to be saved.

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Debenhams had already announced significant job losses and the permanent closure of six stores, including its flagship outlet on London’s Oxford Street.

Boohoo said the deal represents a “fantastic opportunity” to target new customers and launch into the beauty, sports and homewares market for the first time.

The company highlighted how Debenhams has six million beauty shoppers and 1.4 million Beauty Club members.

It said: “The group intends to rebuild and relaunch the Debenhams platform, helping further the group’s stated ambition to lead the fashion eCommerce market, and grow into new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

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In hints that it intends to take on the might of Amazon, Boohoo said it would create the UK’s largest marketplace across fashion, beauty, sport and homeware – expanding the range of products sold via Debenhams marketplace by maintaining current third party relationships and expanding further.

Debenhams’ own fashion brands will also be absorbed into Boohoo’s current portfolio and sold via the Debenhams website.

Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle said: “The acquisition of the Debenhams brand is an important development for the group, as we seek to capture incremental growth opportunities arising from the accelerating shift to online retail.”

Founder and executive chairman, Mahmud Kamani, added: “Our acquisition of the Debenhams brand is strategically significant as it represents a huge step which accelerates our ambition to be a leader, not just in fashion eCommerce, but in new categories including beauty, sport and homeware.”

Boohoo has previously bought a number of well-known high street brands out of administration, turning them into online-only operations, including Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen.

Meanwhile, online fashion giant Asos has confirmed it is in exclusive talks with the administrators of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia over the acquisition of the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands.

In a short statement to the stock exchange, Asos said it “believes this would represent a compelling opportunity to acquire strong brands that resonate well with its customer base”.

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“However, at this stage, there can be no certainty of a transaction and Asos will keep shareholders updated as appropriate. Any acquisition would be funded from cash reserves,” it added.


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