Medics exhausted during ‘relentless’ Covid second wave

Staff at University Hospital Crosshouse believe it will take several months before they see any reduction in their workload.

STV News

In the corridors and intensive care units of Kilmarnock’s University Hospital Crosshouse, staff are fatigued and stressed.

Coronavirus case rates may be falling across Scotland but the pressure on medical workers remains intense.

Crosshouse has been one of the busiest hospitals in Scotland during the second wave of the pandemic – its ICUs have been stretched to capacity for months.

There are currently 11 patients in the hospital’s 17-bed unit, a decrease of three in recent days and the first time in weeks that the number has reduced.

ADVERT

But staff remain just as busy as patients are staying in hospital longer – some for as many as two months.

Medics believe it will take several months before they see any reduction in their workload.

Gemma Blair, deputy charge nurse in the hospital’s intensive care unit, said the cracks were starting to show among staff who have been dealing with Covid patients for almost a year.

She said: “There are days in here when you feel that the ship has capsized and we are manically trying to get to the shore.

“I have seen what I would say are the strongest of my colleagues crying within the unit because it really is so tough. That’s really the important message to get across that it is still very busy and this is still happening in your local hospitals. “

ADVERT

“We are so tired, we are exhausted. You feel some days that you don’t know how you’re going to make it to the end of the day but then a patient who has been with you for 40 days will wave to their family for the first time on a video call or take their first drink of juice.

“That is why we get out of our bed in the morning, that is why we show up, it’s for these patients.”

Gemma feels she is can switch off from work easier these days compared to the start of the pandemic, but is now worried about the impact the last 12 months has had on staff.

“The first wave I lived it, worked it, breathed it, watched it every day on the news,” she said.

“Now I worry about after – what happens once the Covid unit closes? What will staff do then? Will there be a PTSD element?

“We are used to looking after critically unwell patients but we are not used to this and there is also a worry about the staff who have redeployed from other areas and the strain on them. “

The area that now houses the covid ICU unit was previously used for day surgery – it was converted during the summer months when Crosshouse had no new coronavirus admissions.

ADVERT

Then one Friday night in October, a call came through from accident and emergency.

One of those on shift was ICU consultant Dr Peter O’Brien, who recalls feeling uneasy at what was to come.

He said: “From June we had no new Covid admissions. I was on shift that Friday night in October when we got the call from A&E that we had the first patient of the second wave and the words in our mind were ‘well here we go again’.

“In Scotland, there appeared to be a peak of the second wave and then we took a second superimposed peak on top of that – I didn’t expect that. That second increase in that wave around Christmas going into January felt like a kick when you are down. “

Dr O’Brien says his biggest hope is the vaccine rollout will relieve some of the pressure.

“You never know what’s around the corner,” he said.

“We were always advised when the first wave was over that we had to in a state of readiness for 200, 300, 400 percent capacity. I would say for the next year, our minds will always be in that state of awareness. “

Scotland recorded a further 27 people coronavirus deaths n the past 24 hours.

That means the total number of deaths of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days now stands at 7111.

There are currently 924 patients in hospital with coronavirus, a decrease of 43, with 80 of those in intensive care, a fall of nine from Thursday. 

Although the number of Covid hospital admissions is falling across the country, Dr John Allan, critical care clinical director at Crosshouse, said the second wave has been “relentless”, adding that ICU capacity at the East Ayrshire hospital has been two to three times over capacity for many months.

He said: “The volume of patients and the duration for which we have had to deliver this high level of intensive care is the most striking aspect of this second wave.

“We have certainly seen a lot more younger patients than we did in the first wave. Another difference is that we using CPAP machines as a therapy more so than we did in the first wave.”

Dr Allan says it is also important for hospitals to catch up on elective surgery as Covid rates continue to fall.

He said: “We do need staff to get a chance to decompress and physically rest but we also have this big unknown about what Covid will look like in three months, a years time.

“I guess we all hope that it’s not going to look anything like this but it will change how we work for years to come.

“Even though we have now vaccinated a large section of the population, we are not that much quieter than we were at the peak. It could take several months before our numbers start to come down so we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet.”

Pauline Murray, a deputy charge nurse with 30 years of experience, said medical staff are resilient but tired.

She said: “We have not had as many patients recover, unfortunately, so we have not had that boost that we got with the first wave when patients were discharged; that helped us keep going the first time when we saw these wins but this time it’s been tougher.

“We are a resilient bunch of people, although we are tired. We all just want a holiday to be honest. The support staff are maybe finding it a bit more difficult but we are trying to support them as much as we can. “

Who’s in charge as Glasgow becomes UN territory at COP26?

Everything you need to know about the law, policing and security during the crunch climate summit.

STV News
Police Scotland officers can only enter the blue zone with UN agreement.

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow is being hosted by the United Nations, which means the venue will come under its control.

The summit will take place across two sites – the ‘blue zone’ at the Scottish Event Campus and the ‘green zone’ at Glasgow Science Centre.

STV News

The blue zone is a UN-managed space that hosts the negotiations, bringing together delegations from 197 countries. It will become an international territory subject to international law, in the same way the UN headquarters in New York and its offices in Geneva and Vienna are not subject to domestic law.

The UN will have administrative control of the Scottish Events Campus and will be responsible for security during COP26. While it will be supported by Police Scotland, the UN will remain in charge of all security in the blue zone.

STV News
Police mounted units have been training for COP26.
ADVERT

Police Scotland may only enter with the consent of the UN secretary general, a standard arrangement for such conferences.

‘Complete freedom of expression’

UN officials, representatives and experts all have immunity from legal process – including prosecution (diplomatic immunity) – inside the blue zone.

Natasha Durkin, a senior associate in Shepherd and Wedderburn’s regulation and markets team, told STV News: “It is a foundational principle of the UN that its property is ‘inviolable’, meaning that UN property is immune from any legal interference wherever it is situated.

ADVERT

“The main reason for this is to allow the UN full control of its international functions and activities without interference, and reflects the immunities UN personnel have from legal process.

“One important aspect of the blue zone is that it allows the UN to guarantee complete freedom of speech to those participating in UN meetings, regardless of the (possibly restrictive) laws applying in the host state.

“Complete freedom of expression for participants is agreed in Article 2 of the COP26 agreement.”

Year of planning

Police Scotland has been planning and preparing for over a year, alongside the United Nations, UK Government and Glasgow City Council.

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said: “We have engaged with the United Nations and this is common practice for UN conferences.

“In consultation with a range of partners, our policing plan takes into account all factors to ensure an appropriate response will be delivered.” 

STV News
Police carry out a training exercise on the ‘Squinty Bridge’ in Glasgow.
ADVERT

All attendees within the blue zone must be accredited by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Ms Durkin said: “Consistent with having full control of the blue zone, the UN is ‘in charge’.

“However, the COP26 agreement (and again, as is standard) requires the UN to cooperate with UK authorities to ensure the proper administration of justice and to prevent any abuse of the blue zone. 

“In addition to the UN being required to cooperate with the UK in relation to the administration of justice, and to prevent abuse, the secretary general of the UN can waive any immunity applying to the blue zone. 

“As such, if an offence is committed, there are mechanisms for both cooperation between the UK and UN, and the possibility of waiver of immunity. The disposal of an alleged offence committed in the blue zone would ultimately depend on circumstances.”

So what is the green zone?

The green zone is managed by the UK Government and is a platform for the general public, youth groups, civil society, academia, artists, business and others to have their voices heard.

It will host events, exhibitions, workshops and talks promoting dialogue, awareness and education.

Normal domestic law applies there.

Study calls for more tutoring to close school attainment gap

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was 'sparse'.

Hispanolistic via IStock
Report: High-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

More tutoring and mentoring of pupils should be used in Scotland to help close the attainment gap, a study says.

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was “sparse”.

The report, released on Wednesday, said high-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

In February the Scottish Government announced a £45m fund for educational recovery, however the report said there was no published information on how much of this went towards catch-up tutoring programmes.

ADVERT

The Poverty Alliance’s research also found there were geographical gaps in the provision of mentoring for children in poverty.

Dr Laura Robertson, lead author of the report, said: “The Scottish Government has put tackling the poverty-based attainment gap at the heart of its agenda. However, inequalities in education attainment remain stark.

“Covid-19 has not only tightened the grip of poverty on the lives of many children and young people, but has also exacerbated these inequalities.

“Now, more than ever, children and young people need access to additional support.

ADVERT

“This report reveals that – despite the evidence that it works – young people living in poverty still don’t have equal access to high-quality tutoring free of charge.

“In a just society, all children and young people should have access to support that allows them to reach their potential, so the Scottish Government must – if it wants to end the attainment gap – respond with action.”


Inquest set to open into death of MP Sir David Amess

The MP was stabbed to death in Essex on October 15.

UK Parliament via Website
David Amess: Attacked at constituency surgery.

An inquest into the death of MP Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death during a constituency surgery at a church, is due to be opened and adjourned.

Sir David, 69, was attacked at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on October 15.

The father-of-five was pronounced dead at the scene at 1.10pm and a preliminary postmortem examination report gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the chest.

An inquest into the death of the Conservative MP for Southend West is due to be opened and adjourned at County Hall in Chelmsford on Wednesday.

ADVERT

A 25-year-old man is charged with the terrorist murder of Sir David.

Ali Harbi Ali appeared before the Old Bailey last Friday, where he was not asked to enter pleas to charges of murder and preparing acts of terrorism between May 1 2019 and September this year.

He faces a trial in March next year.


Man seriously injured after being attacked on city street

The 29-year-old suffered a serious neck injury in the attack.

Ilbusca via IStock
Ambulance: The man was taken to the Royal Infirmary.

A man has been left seriously injured after being attacked on a Glasgow street in brad daylight.

The 29-year-old suffered a neck injury in the incident that took place on Burnhouse Street at Collina Quadrant in Maryhill at around 1.30pm on Saturday.

Emergency services attended the scene and the man was taken to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary where his injuries have been described as serious.

Police are now appealing for witnesses as they look to trace the person responsible.

ADVERT

Detective Constable Katrina Keogh said: “I am appealing for information from the public to help with our investigation. I would ask anyone with dash-cam footage or any witnesses to come forward.

”Anyone with information can contact Police Scotland on 101.


Obituary: Ex-Rangers and Scotland manager Walter Smith

Walter Smith was one of the most successful Scottish football managers of all time.

SNS Group

Walter Smith, the former Scotland and Rangers boss and one of the most successful managers in Scottish football history, has died aged 73.

Smith’s career in professional football spanned 45 years, taking him to international level and cementing a position among the elite of the club game.

As manager of Rangers over two spells, he won ten league titles, five Scottish Cups, six League Cups and guided his side to the UEFA Cup final in 2008.

Smith was also awarded an OBE in 1997 for his services to association football.

ADVERT

Born in Lanark in 1948, his football career started in earnest when the defender signed for Dundee United in 1966 after a spell in Junior football. Smith played for the Tannadice club over two spells, and also had two years at Dumbarton, the highlight being a Scottish Cup final appearance in 1974.

By the time he hung up his boots in 1980, Smith had already begun a coaching career that would far surpass the success of his playing days.

Starting out at Dundee United under the guidance of Jim McLean, the young coach combined his duties at Tannadice while working with Scotland’s Under-18 team. He was alongside Andy Roxburgh when Scotland won the European Youth Championship in 1982, the country’s first international title at any level.

His growing reputation as a coach grew and he was appointed manager of Scotland’s Under-21 side, and then acted as Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man at the World Cup in Mexico in 1986.

ADVERT

That year brought another pivotal moment in Smith’s career, when he moved to Ibrox to become assistant manager at the club he supported as a child. Acting as assistant to Graeme Souness, he was a central figure in a dramatic and impactful time at the club and in Scottish football as Rangers brought in high-profile players from England and targeted success at home and abroad.

Smith was alongside Souness as Rangers won three league titles and four Scottish Cups and, when Souness suddenly left Glasgow to return to Liverpool in 1991, the Ibrox club made the decision to elevate the assistant to the top job. It would prove to be a move that delivered one of the most successful spells in the club’s history.

Under ambitious owner David Murray, Rangers spent big and won big. Smith signed a number of the best players from across Scotland and supplemented them with stars from across Europe, including Alexei Mikhailichenko, Brian Laudrup, Basile Boli and Paul Gascoigne.

Rangers had won the previous two titles under Souness, and Smith delivered seven more, dominating the domestic game as Rangers equalled rivals Celtic’s record of nine successive league trophies. Three Scottish Cup wins and three League Cup wins in that time added to the trophy haul, but Smith’s tenure was also marked by some big moments in European football, including a run in the 1992-93 Champions League that saw them beat English champions Leeds United and go unbeaten in the group stage, missing out on a place in the final by a single point.

Smith stepped down in 1998, his final season seeing Celtic win the league title on a dramatic final day, and Rangers lose to Hearts in the Scottish Cup final.

He returned to management shortly after his Ibrox departure, succeeding Howard Kendall at Goodison Park. Though his four years in charge didn’t bring success, Smith was a steady hand at the wheel as spending at Everton was restricted while rival clubs splashed the cash.

After leaving the Toffees, Smith had a brief spell at Manchester United, reuniting with Alex Ferguson as assistant at Old Trafford, but he was soon to return to front-line management.

ADVERT

Scotland needed a change of direction after the tumultuous Berti Vogts era and Smith answered the call, taking the manager’s job in 2004. Though the team missed out on qualification for the 2006 World Cup, the Scot brought marked improvement to the side and a climb up the world rankings was proof of his success.

Smith and Scotland were part-way through the Euro 2008 qualifiers when Rangers asked him to return to the club in January 2007 after Paul Le Guen left Ibrox.

The second spell at Rangers saw Smith underline his iconic status with the Rangers support. Three further league titles, three League Cups and three Scottish Cups added to his formidable trophy haul, but a European run against the odds was the highlight in 2008.

Smith’s side began the season in the Champions League but could only finish third in a group that pitted them against Barcelona, Lyon and Stuttgart. That brought the consolation prize of a place in the knockout stage of the UEFA Cup and Rangers took on that challenge and excelled.

A disciplined side with a miserly defence saw off Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Frioentina, conceding only one goal along the way, to reach the final.

At the showpiece match in Manchester, Smith’s side came up against Zenti St Petersburg, but fell short in a 2-0 defeat.

Smith retired in 2011, having amassed 21 domestic trophies as Rangers manager, second only to Bill Struth in terms of silverware at Ibrox and with his prominent place in the club’s history books assured.

He later had brief spells as a director and chairman at the club but also offered guidance and advice to those who came after him as Rangers boss.

Rangers chairman Douglas Park said on Tuesday: “It is almost impossible to encapsulate what Walter meant to every one of us at Rangers. He embodied everything that a Ranger should be. His character and leadership was second to none, and will live long in the memory of everyone he worked with during his two terms as first-team manager.”


Forbes calls on Sunak to reinstate universal credit uplift in Budget

Finance secretary wants chancellor to help Scots facing ‘real cost of living crisis’.

georgeclerk via IStock
Rishi Sunak will deliver his second Budget of the year on Wednesday.

Scots are facing a “real cost of living crisis”, finance secretary Kate Forbes has said, as she urged the chancellor to reinstate the £20 a week recently removed from Universal Credit.

Forbes made the plea ahead of Rishi Sunak delivering his second Budget of the year to the Commons on Wednesday.

In a letter to the chancellor, she called on him to use the keynote address to “provide certainty to the wider public sector, boost the economy and support our most vulnerable at this challenging time”.

Forbes, who will set out the Scottish Government’s draft budget for next year in December, stressed that ministers at Holyrood were “strongly opposed to any return to austerity”.

ADVERT

The finance secretary appealed to the chancellor to re-think the Government’s recent decision to end the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

She told Sunak: “A real cost of living crisis is emerging as a result of this cut, combined with the escalating energy costs and upcoming rise in National Insurance contributions.

“The Universal Credit cut alone will push an extra 60,000 people in Scotland, including 20,000 children, into poverty and hundreds of thousands more into hardship, whilst also reducing social security expenditure in Scotland by £461m by 2023-24.”

She insisted it was not justifiable for UK ministers to introduce these “cuts to individual income”.

ADVERT

Instead, she said, the Budget should “prioritise spending that supports the financial security of low-income households, the well-being of children and young people, and delivers good, green jobs and fair work”.

With the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow getting under way in just a few days, she added that “significant investment is required from the UK Government in reserved areas” to help ensure that Scotland meets its emissions targets.

And here Forbes urged the chancellor to match the £500m the Scottish Government has pledged to spend over 10 years to help the north-east of Scotland transition away from oil and gas.

The finance secretary told Sunak: “Given the UK Treasury has, over decades, benefited from billions of pounds of revenue from activity in the North Sea, I ask that you at least match our commitment to help secure jobs in the north-east of Scotland, support the energy transition, and reduce emissions.”

Scottish Labour finance spokesman Daniel Johnson also demanded the Chancellor use his Budget to deal with the “cost of living crisis” many are facing “due to spiralling prices and the damage done by callous Tory cuts”.

Johnson said: “The pandemic has shaken our economy to the core and if we do not act now to put fairness at the heart of our recovery, thousands of people will be thrown into hardship this winter.

“This Budget must deliver real and tangible support for those struggling to make ends meet.

ADVERT

“The Tory government must wake up to the cost of living crisis unfolding due to their disastrous governance and act now.”

Sunak, meanwhile, is expected to announce details of a new £150m fund aimed at helping smaller businesses in Scotland.

The fund, to be delivered through the British Business Bank, will be similar to existing schemes in England and Northern Ireland, which have provided investment and loans for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Sunak said it would show the UK Government was “continuing to support businesses across the UK”.

More on:

No return of Covid restrictions as NHS ‘faces more pressure than ever’

The First Minister was giving an update on the state of the pandemic in Scotland in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

STV News / Beerkof via IStock

There will be no immediate return of Covid restrictions despite health care being under more pressure than ever, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister was giving an update on the state of the pandemic in Scotland in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

She said that the health and social care sector was “arguably under more pressure now than at any stage of the pandemic” with NHS boards across the country in high alert.

NHS Lanarkshire has confirmed it is at the highest risk level (black) due to “critical occupancy levels”.

ADVERT

The health board along with NHS Borders and NHS Grampian has called in the British Military to ease pressure on services.

STV News
Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood on Tuesday.

Sturgeon said that the Cabinet had agreed not to make any changes to current coronavirus mitigations but that the situation “remains fragile”.

She warned that pressures on the NHS and social care were likely to increase in the coming months.

The prospect of healthcare workers facing another winter under a state of emergency is “exceptionally frightening”, representatives said this month.

ADVERT

Sturgeon said: “Across the country, hospitals are at, or close to, capacity.

“The social care system is also under pressure and reporting an increase in the number of people requiring care packages.

“These pressures are, of course, likely to intensify during the winter.”

The First Minister announced an investment of £482m in the NHS and care sector.

More than £120m of the funding will go towards bolstering Test and Protect with another £130m supporting the vaccination programme – 87% of all those over-18 fully vaccinated in Scotland.

On Sunday, October 31, the UN climate summit officially begins with 30,000 delegates expected to visit Glasgow along with thousands more protestors and activists.

Professor Devi Sridhar, who sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group, said coronavirus restrictions may have to be reimposed in the aftermath of the climate conference.

ADVERT

Prof Sridhar’s comments echoed those of another Scottish Government adviser, Professor Linda Bauld, who said last week that holding the large-scale event was “risky”.

But health secretary Humza Yousaf previously said he believed the government could take the necessary steps to counter a potential spike caused by COP26.


£2.2m campaign launched to double size of new nature reserve

The Langholm Initiative charity hopes to buy 5300 acres of Langholm Moor and three residential properties.

The Langholm Initiative/Tom Hutton via PA Media
An initial crowdfunder on Go Fund Me aims to raise at least £150,000.

A £2.2m fundraising campaign has been launched to double the size of a nature reserve in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Langholm Initiative charity created the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve after raising £3.8m to buy 5200 acres of land and six residential properties.

The campaign was launched last year and the group took ownership of the land in March.

It now hopes to buy 5300 acres of Langholm Moor and three residential properties from Buccleuch Estates.

ADVERT

This would increase the size of the nature reserve to 10,500 acres.

The community said it needs to raise the funds by May 2022 as the offer from Buccleuch is time limited.

An initial crowdfunder on Go Fund Me aims to raise at least £150,000.

Applications will also be made to grant-funding bodies and a private donor has already pledged £500,000.

ADVERT

Jenny Barlow, the reserve’s estate manager, said: “We’re aiming to repeat the impossible and open a new chapter in this inspiring story of hope and community by doubling the size of Tarras Valley Nature Reserve – and so doubling the benefits for people, nature and climate.

“We need all the help we can get to achieve a big win for wildlife, climate action and community regeneration – and a legacy for future generations.

“Scotland is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries and it desperately needs projects like this.”

She added that if the land goes onto the open market there is a risk it “will be bought by corporate investment firms, which are currently banking large amounts of land in the area”.

Benny Higgins, Buccleuch’s executive chairman, said: “We were delighted that The Langholm Initiative was able to purchase the initial area from Buccleuch last year, having shown such tenacity and vision.

“Having reached agreement on timeline and value, we wish them every success with this next exciting phase, both for the initiative and the community.”

Langholm said the land is home to wildlife such as black grouse, short-eared owls and merlin, and is a stronghold for hen harriers.


Higher shop prices ‘likely’ in run-up to Christmas

A survey showed three in five retailers expect prices to increase in the run up to Christmas.

Михаил Руденко via IStock
Checkout: Shop prices 'likely' to rise.

Higher shop prices are likely in the run-up to Christmas as ongoing global shortages and supply problems result in cost pressures, figures suggest.

Shop price annual deflation eased to 0.4% in October from last month’s decrease of 0.5% – a slower rate of decline than the 12 and six-month average price decreases of 1.3% and 0.7% respectively.

Overall prices are still lower than this time last year but food prices this month saw their highest rate of year-on-year inflation, at 0.5%, since November 2020, according to the BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index.

Fresh food prices rose for the first time in 10 months, by 0.3%, following 10 months of deflation, while ongoing global shortages of materials and supply issues with logistics and shipping continued to put cost pressure on products such as furniture.

ADVERT

Non-food deflation was steady at 1%, a slower rate of decline than the 12 and six-month average price declines of 2.3% and 1.1% respectively.

A British Retail Consortium (BRC) survey showed three in five retailers expect prices to increase in the run up to Christmas.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “It is now clear that the increased costs from labour shortages, supply chain issues and rising commodity prices have started filtering through to the consumer.

“Tight margins mean retailers may not be able to absorb all of these new costs, so prices will continue to rise. Retailers continue to do all they can ensure value for money for customers and are looking to work with Government to find a long-term solution to these shortages, otherwise it is the British consumer, who already faces higher energy bills this winter, who will suffer the consequences.”

ADVERT

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ, said: “With food prices slowly increasing we can expect shoppers to start to rebalance basket spend over the next few weeks, particularly with increased concerns about discretionary spend.

“And with consumer sentiment now more cautious we cannot ignore that availability issues are still top of mind. So consumers will be uncertain about when and where to spend and with Christmas promotions about to kick in, competition will intensify in both food and non-food retailing.“


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?