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Jan 172018
 January 17, 2018

A COMBINATION of long-term staff sickness and other staff now falling ill is having a temporary impact on the maternity service in the west of the region.

An overriding concern for patient safety has prompted moves to place the on-call service on hold until staffing recovers from short-term seasonal illness.

A very small number of expectant mothers will be affected, and after discussions these mothers have expressed their satisfaction with alternative arrangements to give birth in Dumfries.

A spokesperson for NHS Dumfries and Galloway said: “We always aim to accommodate a mother’s desire about where they give birth, but this has to be balanced with being able to ensure we can provide the full care and support that might be required. Our midwives are not immune from the same seasonal illnesses which are affecting the whole of Scotland. As much as the midwives want to fulfil their roles, they understand better than most the importance of protecting new mothers and their babies from the cold and flu.”

Recruitment is already underway in order to cover the long-term absence due to sickness. Other maternity services in the west of the region continue as normal, and as staff recover from short-term illness it is expected that the on-call service will resume shortly.

Jan 162018
 January 16, 2018

A GROUND-BREAKING pilot scheme is introducing paramedics as part of NHS Dumfries and Galloway’s Out of Hours (OOH) service.

Two Specialist Paramedics with the Scottish Ambulance Service will support the region’s OOH service as part of a collaborative six-month pilot project

The Out of Hours Service delivers medical help outside of general practice opening times.

Service manager Mark Sindall said: “There have been significant challenges with the Out of Hours service – there’s a shortage of staffing both locally and nationally around GPs and then a commitment to supporting the service.

“We felt that we needed to do something different, so we are looking at different ways of working, looking at a wider multi-disciplinary team that can support that service for the future.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to work with the Scottish Ambulance Service, integrating our services in order to provide the best level of patient care in the community.”

Specialist Paramedics are advanced practitioners who have completed post-graduate education in urgent and emergency care. This enables them to see and treat more patients at home, referring them for appropriate follow-up when necessary in addition to responding to emergency calls.

The project is a major part of the Scottish Ambulance Service’s 2020 strategy, Taking Care to the Patient.

Michael Harmjanz is Area Service Manager for Dumfries & Galloway (West) area, and he explains: “We have a service throughout Scotland, and it’s part of our 2020 vision to improve the access to healthcare within the community, to avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital and to give people the choice to be managed in their homes rather than having to go to hospital when its clinically appropriate and safe to do so.”

Dr Nitin Desai is the Out of Hours clinical lead in Dumfries and Galloway.

He explains that paramedics involved at this point are Specialist Paramedics, able to take on additional responsibilities working in a multi-disciplinary team with a GP as its lead clinician.

The Dumfries and Galloway Out of Hours team also currently includes two trainee Advanced Nurse Practitioners who are on placement over the next two years, and prescribing pharmacists who are also able to work independently within the service.

Dr Desai said: “At peak times on weekends or public holidays when we know there are often a lot of medications queries and requests, we thought it would be reasonable to have a prescribing pharmacist who could tackle those things.

“But the pharmacists that we have at the moment are ones who have had some training in physical examination, and so they are dealing with some common clinical conditions in the Primary Care Centre – dealing with skin conditions, ears, throats, that kind of thing.”

Addressing the move towards a multi-disciplinary team, he added: “This would have been the way of the future anyway, but it’s just speeding things up quite a bit, and now we have the right people, with the right skills, dealing with the right patients at the right time.”

Jan 162018
 January 16, 2018

Scottish Secretary David Mundell visited a major engineering company to support a pioneering UK Government campaign to transform the way young people see engineering and boost numbers entering the profession.

Mr Mundell toured Mitsubishi Electric’s Livingston facility and met engineers and apprentices as the Year of Engineering was launched to highlight the scale of opportunity that careers in the industry hold for young people in the UK.

2018 is officially the Year of Engineering and will see a national drive in all corners of the country to inspire the young people who will shape our future.

Engineering is one of the most productive sectors in the UK, but a shortfall of 20,000 engineering graduates every year is damaging growth. There is also widespread misunderstanding of engineering among young people and their parents and a lack of diversity in the sector – the workforce is 91% male and 94% white.

The new campaign is aimed at filling those gaps and changing misconceptions, and will see government and around 1,000 partners deliver a million inspiring experiences of engineering for young people, parents and teachers.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said:

It was great to be at Mitsubishi Electric to promote the UK Government’s Year of Engineering campaign and see engineers and apprentices in action. Scotland has a world class engineering sector which makes a major contribution to the UK’s economy. But there is a shortage of young people entering the profession in the UK and a lack of diversity. Our campaign will help address these challenges by increasing the understanding and awareness of this exciting career among young people and deliver a new generation of talented engineers.

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said:

Engineers – whether they are working on cutting-edge technology in aerospace, energy or artificial intelligence – are vital to the lifeblood of our economy.

We want to show young people and their parents the immense creativity, opportunity and value of the profession. By bringing them face to face with engineering role models and achievements we can send a clear message that engineering careers are a chance for all young people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or social background, to shape the future of this country and have a real impact on the lives of those around them.

Skills Minister, Anne Milton said:

I want to see everyone whatever their background, wherever they live to have a chance to get a rewarding career or job in engineering whether they come via a technical or academic route.

The Year of Engineering gives us a great opportunity to work together with business to inspire a new generation of world class engineers. We want to build the science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills that we need for a growing economy, as highlighted in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

Yoshihiro Sumida, company president of Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning Systems Europe (M-ACE) said:

Our Corporate Mission is to continually improve our technologies and services by applying creativity to all aspects of our business. Advanced Engineering is obviously a key to this as well as to the growth of our business here in Scotland. In this context we operate a well-established engineering apprenticeship programme in our factory, with the valued support of West Lothian College. I welcome the UK emphasis on improving engineering skills and we as a company will keep making contributions to this end.

All this week, engineers, businesses, schools and universities will be marking the launch of the campaign by celebrating the positive impact of engineering.

Jan 162018
 January 16, 2018

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has accused the Scottish Government of being in denial over the challenges facing the NHS in Dumfries and Galloway, after the latest Accident and Emergency Waiting times showed that the local NHS failed to hit the Government’s target for the twelve  week in a row.

According to the latest figures published by ISD Scotland today (16 January) NHS Dumfries and Galloway had only 85.3% of patients who arrived at Accident and Emergency seen within the 4 hour target time and 6 patients last week had to wait more than 12 hours before being seen by a doctor. The current Government target is 95%.

This was despite the fact that the local NHS have cancelled a number of operations and out patients clinics in a bid to tackle the current crisis.

Last week Nicola Sturgeon was forced to apologise for the excessive waiting times being faced by thousands of patients left waiting across Scotland.

Commenting on the latest figures  Colin Smyth MSP said:

“Despite the best efforts of staff, once again we are seeing patient care affected by the current crisis in our NHS, as the Scottish Government go on the charm offensive to convince the people of Dumfries and Galloway that everything is fine and there are no problems.

Staff are doing an incredible job in our hospitals but the truth is, with an ever-increasing workload and resources failing to keep up with demand, they can only do so much.

For 12 weeks now we have seen waiting times in this area fall below target. There is only so many excuses the SNP can make before they come to realise that the austerity they have imposed upon the budgets of this area are directly affecting services.

There are only so many times they can blame black ice and the flu before people come to realise they simply cannot be trusted to run the NHS.”

Jan 112018
 January 11, 2018

A CHANCE to learn how to take better care of yourself and get the most out of life is being offered in Dumfries from next Wednesday.

Nithsdale Health Improvement Team are preparing to launch a new free, run of the Mindfulness Course, which is an interactive approach helping to change the way we think about feel about experiences in our life – especially stressful ones.

Nithsdale Public Health Practitioner Tina Gibson is helping to deliver the eight sessions which begin on Wednesday January 17 at 10 am, and she said: “To deliver the course you have to practice mindfulness – meditating twice a day.

“For me, it’s made me calmer, happier and just lighter. It’s helped me to understand that I don’t know what everyone else is thinking, made me less judgemental and helped me to sleep better.”

The sessions help people to gain a better understanding of their thought patterns and feelings, so they become more aware of them but less occupied by them and better able to manage them.

The course aims to assist people in taking better care of themselves and getting the most out of living. And the majority of people who take part in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) course report lasting physical and psychological benefits.

These include:

  • An improvement in      concentration levels
  • The ability to      step back and see things more clearly
  • Coping better with      negative thoughts
  • The ability to      relax

To get the most out of the course, participants must be able to commit to attending all eight sessions. And they will be expected to make a commitment to doing daily home practice of approximately 20 minutes during the eight weeks of the course.

The course teaches mindfulness as a life skill, and people will not be expected to discuss personal issues. The course book which comes with a CD is Mindfulness – A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. And at times the course will involve doing some gentle movement using floor mats, with participants asked to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing.

Explaining why they took part, a participant on a past course said: “As a full-time carer I was very stressed, and I thought this could be beneficial to me coping with the day-to-day.”

Offering a verdict, one said: “I’m a lot less stressed and a nurse at my practice could see a big difference in me. She said I was more happy looking and relaxed.”

Another said: “I have been sleeping better. I’m more positive, looking at my surroundings and realising my situation is not all negative.”

The course runs at Georgetown Community Centre, Georgetown Road, Dumfries, on Wednesdays, on January 17, 24, 31, February 7, 21, 28, and March 7 and 14, from 10 am to 12 noon.

To find out more, and apply for a space, contact Tina Gibson on 07736955498 or email [email protected]

Jan 082018
 January 8, 2018

WEEKLY sessions helping to support healthy lifestyle choices are being launched in Upper Nithsdale for the first time.

Free guidance and support will show how even small changes to routine can result in someone feeling fitter and better, and potentially reduce their risks of developing illnesses such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

The Health and Wellbeing sessions which officially launch at Sanquhar Health Centre on January 10 are being delivered by Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership.

Nithsdale public health practitioner Tina Gibson said: “We’ve got staff capacity now to start work in Sanquhar Health Centre.

“It’s a free drop-in, with an opportunity to get weighed, but there’s also a topic covered every week like healthy snack ideas, motivation and goal setting.

 “People can come at the beginning to get weighed. They can then stay for the chat if they want to, so there’s a social aspect as well. People have formed their own groups and gone for coffee afterwards.

“And we do sometimes set little challenges during the week, but people are just doing it for themselves – it’s not a competition.

“But it can help you. If you need a knee replacement, they won’t do that unless you’re a certain weight.  And then there’s diabetes, reducing the risk of cancer, the effect on your joints, and being able to live well. People maybe don’t realise that if you do lose weight you can add many healthy years to your life.”

Pointing to one of the health risks associated with being overweight, Tina added:  “It’s about prevention of Type 2 diabetes, because Type 2 diabetes is not a very nice thing to get. It’s a serious disease, and it’s about doing anything you can to do avoid it. If you’re obese, you’re seven times more likely to get Type 2 diabetes.

“It’s mostly avoidable. You can reduce your chances. If you’re a healthy weight you can significantly reduce your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes and reverse it as well.  People can stop taking medications.”

The Health and Wellbeing sessions have already been running successfully in Dumfries, helping people to make small modifications to lifestyle which are hopefully less of a challenge to maintain.

And some sessions feature guest speakers, who explain how small changes to lifestyle can help reduce certain health risks.

Helping to deliver the sessions, community link worker Lindsay Murdoch said: “A lot of people are thinking about their lifestyles after Christmas, as most of us will be. But it’s everything in moderation, and making small, manageable changes. It’s giving people tips and ideas. Some of those might not suit them, but they might be able to take those that work for them and include them in their lifestyle. We wouldn’t expect people to take everything on board and make dramatic changes.

“It’s information about healthy lifestyle choices, with an optional weigh-in, so there is a focus on weight.

“Each week we have a different topic, where usually there’s a handout of some sorts. We have a discussion around that, and questions, and it’s good because there’s good peer support there as well and that helps people’s motivation.

“We also provide a different recipe every week so people get a bit of variety, and while some people don’t cook others share picture of dishes they’ve made on the Facebook page and Twitter.”

Lindsay added: “We encourage people as well to try and increase their physical activity. That’s not necessarily going to the gym – it could be just going an extra walk once a week, or whatever’s manageable for them, because a lot of people who come along have multiple long-term conditions so they’re not able to go and do an hour at the gym or an aerobics class or do yoga.

“So we try to give people a variety of ideas that they could get involved in. It could be hula hooping – something that’s fun, and that they’re going to enjoy. And some people in the Dumfries sessions have made friends, and go along to exercise together.”

The first Health and Wellbeing session takes place at Sanquhar Health Centre at 2 pm on January 10.

For more information about Health and Wellbeing sessions in both Sanquhar and Dumfries visit the Facebook page Nithsdale Health & Wellbeing Team, the Twitter account NithsdaleHIT or contact Lindsay Murdoch by emailing [email protected]


Jan 042018
 January 4, 2018

D&G Standard reportHere’s a chance to listen again to Mark Smith’s special feature with Samaritan’s volunteer, Frank Ritchie, who lost his son to suicide in 2015. This moving interview, interspersed with music poignant to the story, tells of Frank’s experiences before and after the tragedy, as well as how he’s been coping since.

First broadcast on Boxing Day 2017.

Frank has been in the media spotlight over the festive period, highlighting the services offered by the Samaritans, which are valuably utilised at this time of year.

Dec 122017
 December 12, 2017

Artisan coffee is a big thing at the moment – even the national coffee chains are focussing on coffee connoisseurs these days. Local Dumfries town centre coffee shop, Kings Coffee and Books, are using the skills learned from their barista trainer, Dale Harris, to offer coffee barista training courses in the new year. Dale recently became the 2017 World Barista Champion, by winning not only the UK championship, but also the global one held in Seoul, South Korea, last month.

Husband and wife team Mark and Helen Smith, who run Kings for the River of Life Church say, “We’ve been ‘coffee geeks’ from the beginning and we’re proud of it! Dale has been regularly training our staff for the last six years and we owe a lot to him. Releasing our baristas to share those skills with ordinary people in our community will help more people enjoy the creative side of coffee – imagine being able to impress your friends by demonstrating your new skills by crafting the perfect cup of coffee!”

Would-be baristas can sign up for the Coffee Barista Taster Courses in Kings, 12 Queensberry Street, online at, or why not buy a voucher to pop in your favourite coffee geek’s Christmas stocking, for a quirky gift, they wouldn’t expect!

Dec 122017
 December 12, 2017

With Christmas only a couple of weeks away, a major health campaign is encouraging people across Dumfries and Galloway to plan ahead if they depend on repeat prescriptions.

The NHSScotland Be Health-Wise this Winter campaign is highlighting the possibility that some GP surgeries will be closed for up to four days because this year Christmas Day falls on a Monday.


Having enough repeat prescriptions for themselves, or anyone they look after, means people can enjoy the festive break with one less thing to worry about.


John McAnaw, Head of Pharmacy at NHS 24, said it is important for people taking regular medication to make sure they have enough supplies to last them through to the New Year: “There’s always so much to get organised at this time of year, with only a couple of weeks left until Christmas, but it’s important to remember those winter health necessities on your ‘to do’ list.


“It’s a good idea to pick up some over-the-counter remedies for winter ailments such as coughs and colds and if you need regular medications, take a minute to check you have enough left to cover the holiday period. It’s important not to waste medicines, so only order what you need, and pick it up in plenty of time.”


This year, GP surgeries may be closed for up to four days (Saturday 23rd to Tuesday 26th December) but it’s worth checking with your local surgery. NHS 24 is predicting a busy period, with more than 74,000 calls expected to 111. A lot of these calls will be about repeat prescriptions so people can save themselves time and worry by being prepared.


Community Pharmacy Scotland is backing the national campaign.  Harry McQuillan, Chief Executive Officer said “Patients who rely on regular medication should check how much they have left now, and if they are going to run out they need to make sure they order by Tuesday 19th December to be sure of getting it before Christmas. If you do run out of medicines your local community pharmacy can help – take along your empty pack or bottle, or the repeat ordering slip and in most cases they can dispense enough to last until your GP surgery reopens.”


Dec 122017
 December 12, 2017

Christmas is a great time for lots of people, but for some, it’s not so cheery; neighbours have gone away, lunch clubs are taking a break, coffee shops and libraries are closed and public transport is almost non-existent. It feels like everyone is building up for the ‘big day’ where they’ll be enjoying food and fun with their friends and family but for those who have no one to be with, or have no money, there’s nothing to look forward to at all. Well, in Dumfries, there’s hope; once again the River of Life Church by the Railway Station is opening its doors to anyone who would otherwise be spending Christmas alone or in need. It’s completely free and comprises a full Christmas Day Dinner, with all the trimmings. There’ll even be vegetarian options available. There’s no need to book either, with plenty for everyone!

This year, they’re also giving parcels of food and gifts to people who come, to help them through the rest of the festive season and they’ve teamed up with, which lets people know what similar groups are doing around the UK.

This will be the thirteenth annual Christmas Day Dinner staged at the River of Life Church, by Dumfries Railway Station and the eleventh year professional chef, Eddie Vallance, has volunteered his services. He and his wife Tracy will be coordinating a team of excited volunteers all helping in a variety of ways.

Mark Smith, Pastor of the Church says; “Please don’t be miserable on Christmas Day – come along to a very warm welcome, some fantastic food (turkey and everything you’d expect with a great roast), plus some super entertainment.

“Let’s remember the festive season can be rotten for some people – when everyone seems to be having a fantastic time except you. Here at River of Life, we always serve some great festive fayre, but equally important; a loving welcome to all, without judgement and irrespective of faith or non.

“We’re so grateful to ordinary people and business in our region – folk are so generous, making this event possible. Thanks so much Dumfries! There’s a one hour service at 11am on Christmas Day too, so people are very welcome to that as well, or just arrive for the meal at 1pm if they’d rather.”

Anyone who’d like to help out or support the event is very welcome to do so by contacting Mark Smith on 07710 111727