Step change In Scotland doctors’ approach to patient safety


An international medical expert will today urge a step change in Scottish doctors’ approach to patient safety. Professor Pat Croskerry, Nova Scotia, Canada, a leading international expert in patient safety and clinical decision-making, will warn doctors that they must learn to think more critically if wishing to reduce the number of adverse incidents in Scottish hospitals. He will also urge that medical schools in Scotland need to adapt their curricula in order to ensure that doctors of the future are better placed to make clinical decisions, which can have serious adverse implications for patients if incorrect or not fully informed.

Professor Croskerry has highlighted, that whilst patient safety has improved in recent decades, doctors are not thinking sufficiently critically to inform their clinical decision-making and ensure the best outcome for patients. In some cases, this could have serious consequences for patients including the risk of permanent disability or even death.

Croskerry said, “Doctors are required to make clinical decisions on a daily basis which can literally have life or death implications for patients, not only in emergency situations but also in the daily routine of general practice.”

In addition to Prof Croskerry, the event will feature presentations from a range of speakers providing updates in developments in patient safety, including Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Olivia Giles MBE and Dr Ross Paterson, Scottish Patient Safety Programme.

Dr Graham Nimmo, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine, said, “The safety of patients is of paramount importance and our first priority. It is for this reason that we have convened this conference in order to increase awareness amongst doctors and other healthcare staff in Scotland.”

The collaboration of senior policy leaders, clinicians, managers and, most importantly, patients and families in the Scottish Patient Safety Programme has seemingly so far delivered unprecedented changes in Scotland’s hospitals. According to Dr Nimmo this has included, infection reductions, improved drug safety and mortality reductions.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Scottish Government, said, “International experts tell me that the safety work in Scotland’s NHS is unique in the world.”

She highlights that building on the ground breaking work of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme they have recently launched the first country-wide paediatric safety programme and are moving into primary care and mental health.

“I am proud of the work being done to make care in Scotland’s NHS even safer and I am delighted this conference will help share best practice.”

 Samantha McLean

Adoptions Levels reach new low


With over 64,000 children in the care system and adoption levels reaching a new low, Barnado’s says there is no room for discrimination when it comes to potential adopters. Adding to recent concerns that race is acting as a barrier to adoptions in the UK, a poll commissioned by the children’s charity and released today on day one of Barnado’s fostering and adoption week, shows that more than one third of the public do not think gay couples can parent as well as heterosexual couples.

 Marcel and Meryl became adoptive mothers to their two sons, now 17 and 18, via Bernado’s. In response to the poll results Marcel says, ‘I think the boys would have something very strong to say about that. I feel the result is based in ignorance because nobody knows if they are going to be good parents and no child comes  with a manual so everybody does the best they can – I don’t think a same sex couple is going to find that any different to a heterosexual couple.’

However, following a drawn-out case in 2009, where two grandparents were refused custody of their grandchildren due to on-going health problems, they spoke out for the second time on their opinion of the two youngsters being adopted by a gay couple, the grandfather said, ‘It breaks my heart to think that our grandchildren are growing up in an environment without a mother figure. The ideal for any child is to have a loving father and a loving mother.’ His wife added: ‘It’s so important for children to fit in, and I feel our grandchildren will be marked out from the start when they draw pictures of their two dads’.’

Only 3.75% of children adopted in England in 2010 were adopted by same sex couples, yet children are still desperately waiting to be adopted with a quarter of those with adoption plans never finding a family. New Barnado’s chief executive Anne Marrie Carrie says, ‘The poll not only highlights a disturbing and prevalent belief system, but also a deepening concern that children in the care system are continuing to lose out on potential parents.’

‘To continue to discourage potential adopters simply because of their sexual orientation is severely diminishing the chances of securing loving, stable homes for the children who are waiting.’

The difficulties of adoption are not only affecting homosexual couples according to recent recorded data from online blogging sites and forums for potential adoptive parents. Adoptive Families Circle blogger ‘Gideonsmom,’ described the pre-adoption process as ‘excruciating.’ She said, ‘I would compare myself to other adoptive parents and wonder why they were successful and I still had to wait after three years of sleepless nights and no apparent support.’ Another blogger said, ‘I was so depressed and down to think we had passed everything we needed and still the wait continued. Nobody tells you the strain it puts on your life and even your marriage.’

There is no definite waiting time for these potential parents however; the process of even applying is a long and strenuous one. Ginny Gidley, an adoptive parent to son Joshua, 21, said, ‘We went through months and months of form filling, phone calls and received nothing. We had to take it into our own hands and be pro-active about the situation. It seems to me that there are thousands of deserving, loving parents out there for the thousands of children who deserve a loving home, who are just not getting the break through. I understand the process has to be a thorough one for the child’s sake but it does put potential parents under extreme stress and anxiety.’

Samantha McLean

The Perfect Weapon – The Four Foot Fighter


In the Early 1980’s, in the lowlands of Mozambique, a new technology of warfare raised its head sweeping across Africa and soon to be the rest of the world – The child soldier.

Rebel Commanders had constructed a four-foot killing-machine that cut its way through village after village nearly overrunning the government. Its trail? Smoking huts, sawed off ears, women, children, their fathers, husbands, massacred – never to take another breath.

The Mozambiquians learned that children were the perfect weapon: Easily manipulated, fearless, intensely loyal and, as cynical as it is, they need less food than an adult fighter. Also, when conflicts drag on, children are used to maintain high numbers of fighters even after heavy casualties. “Children are more vulnerable, not fully matured and not independent decision makers. They are effectively easier to train and to brutalise and force into a very violent life,” explains Amnesty’s Sarah Greene. “It’s not about proper enrolment and pay. It’s just about force.”

In one country after another, conflicts have morphed from idea, or cause-driven struggle, to war lord-led drives whose essential goal is depredation.

Because those new rebel movements are motivated and financed by crime, popular support becomes irrelevant. Those in control do not care about hearts and minds. They see the local population as prey.

Today, Human Rights groups say that there are over 300,000 child soldiers world-wide. And experts say the problem is deepening as the nature of conflict itself changes – especially in Africa. Many children have suffered greatly in the last decade, with experts suggesting that during the long civil war and ensuring rebel riots in Liberia between 1989-1995, more than 21,000 children took part in the fighting.

 In neighbouring Sierra Leone, where the 11 year conflict was only settled in 1999, many minors were forced to witness and take part in horrible crimes against civilians, including amputations, rape, beheadings and burning people alive. Over 7,000 children served as soldiers in Sierra Leone.

Children are heavily drugged in order to keep them detached, fearless and brutal. “I was doing all this not with myself but with the ‘morale booster’ that I took before leaving for the battlefield.” A former child soldier told The International Education and Resource Network (iEARN)  in Sierra Leone. This ‘morale booster’ includes cocaine, marijuana and alcohol. Another ex-soldier stated “I was injected with cocaine and then given an AK-47 rifle to carry. I started going to front lines killing people, raping and doing all sorts of bad things.”

Girl soldiers are frequently forced to provide sexual services as well as to fight. “I don’t know how many people had sex with me,” said Fabienne to Amnesty, who was 13 when she was abducted from her home in Burundi. “A man would come, then another and another. You couldn’t refuse… they said they’d kill you if you ran away.” Especially in Angola, Sierra Leone and Uganda, it is commonplace that rebel leaders sexually abuse young girls and force them to become their ‘wives’. According to Human Rights Watch, girl soldiers in northern Uganda have been known to have had babies by rebel commanders, only to be forced to strap them to their backs and continue fighting against National Security forces.

In many armed movements, children are taught that life and death depend on spirits, which are conjured up by the commanders and distilled in oils and amulets. Magic can spur good children to do unspeakable things. It also bestows otherwise lacklustre leaders with a veneer of supernatural respectability. “The commanders would wear certain pearls and said that guns wouldn’t hurt us,” an ex-child soldier recalled to the BBC, “And we believed it.”

Renamo, the South African – backed rebel army that terrorised Mozambique in the 1980’s as it tried to destabilise the Marxist government, was among the first to turn to magic. It carried out a special role for witch doctors, whom the Marxists had marginalised.

By the time groups in Congo took that technique to its lowest depths in the late 1990’s, some child soldiers were instructed that eating their victims remains would make them stronger – The world started paying attention.

To help children escape this fate, international government programmes designed to disarm and rehabilitate ex-soldiers have been set up in Mozambique, Angola, Somalia and fairly recently in Sierra Leone. However, this process is complex and long-term, and does not stop the flow of children into armed groups.

In an effort to prevent this continuing recruitment, using child fighters has been outlawed by international law and by the newly established International Criminal Court (ICC.) The UN Convention on the Rights of a Child also has an important protocol which prohibits the use of children under the age of 18 in armed forces. Some countries, however, have opted out of that protocol.

Britain is one of them.

“When discussing child soldiers, it is important to note that Britain still uses under 18’s in the armed forces, which it’s not supposed to do,” Amnesty International tells The Situation. “By opting out of the protocol prohibiting the use of child soldiers, we’re not setting the right example. Britain is unusual in having done that.”

 What will the future bring for the thousands of child soldiers of today? How will they grow up? And what happens to a country with an adult population of psychologically traumatised ex-soldiers? One thing however, is certain – no child will have a healthy childhood carrying an AK-47, especially when true to form, their leader has told them that he rolled to earth in a ball of stars.

Samantha McLean

Choices Choices…


It seems to me that in today’s society religion is no longer a choice, but a way of life affected by every Tom, Dick and Harry, religious or not. I was thumbing through The Evening News, whilst taking a quiet stroll up Lothian Street and was pleasantly surprised to read about a man who is just as dubious as me about The Church judging the suitability of teachers to teach, even in denominational schools. If I were to say my feelings on this tender topic were not monumentally strong, I would be telling a big, fat lie. I found myself getting into quite frenzy when I did a bit of research and began reading the views of others. Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely the choice of who teaches our children should be made on the grounds of ability and not religious faith.

I am well aware that religion plays a huge part in global affairs and everyday life, whether you are religious or not. Of course our children should be, or should I say need to be educated on such matters in school, however, when looked at plainly and simply for what  religion is, it is a choice, a preference that we each as individuals have a right to make. Do you like peanut butter? I do, but hey, I don’t give a damn if you like it or not, you’re having it, and every meal you have from now on will be tainted with the taste of peanuts. Fair? I think not. Metaphorically speaking, I do not have a problem with people who like peanut butter or people who don’t like it, but quite frankly If I wasn’t a peanut person, I wouldn’t want it rammed down my throat on a daily basis.

This leads me on to the relevant question, ‘Well if The Church has a say, why can’t we?’ My answer?  ‘Fantastic question!’ If The Church has a say in who teaches our children, we need a dozen extra seats my friend, we have a queue of Buddhists, Jews, Muslim’s, Scientologists and Satanist’s who all want a say! Where do we draw the line? One critic asked, ‘Should someone who claims to have seen Nessie or fairies get a place too?’ Derogatory it may sound, but the principle remains the same, why should a body of people get a say in our education system when the substance of what they preach is not proven and is merely a choice we as human beings make once we have been educated on ALL religious faiths and angles on this controversial subject.

A critic posted this link to the original article which I found an interesting read also.

I would love to hear everyone else’s views on this piece!

Samantha McLean