Sunday, 31 May 2020

Asshole Cyclists and Lockdown

I don't always agree with Rod Liddle, but he was spot on in The Sunday Times the other day with his comments about the behaviour of selfish cyclists.  

"Every day it’s the same. Walk out of my front door with the dog to be swept aside, into a hedge, by a middle-class family from the city who think they’re all Bradley bloody Wiggins. Daddy and Piers, 11, in the peloton. Mummy bringing up the rear with little Poppy, 6, and Oliver, 4. All in Lycra, all with their energy drinks and fatuous expressions on their faces, expressions of self-righteousness and irreproachable virtue. This is a local lane for local people — go back to your tenements, I shout at them. My wife has persuaded me that, strictly speaking, it is against the law to tie piano wire at neck height across the road. Oh, but it’s tempting."

I'm a keen cyclist myself, but I can't defend morons who cyclone public footpaths and refuse to slow right down when there are pedestrians around.


Glasgow, Lockdown and Social Distancing (25/05/20)

I went on my usual walk into the city centre and around Glasgow Green yesterday after the weekend's wind and rain had subsided. 

Same story as in previous days - lots of people were out and about in what were clearly not family groups and selfish cyclists continue to barrel past pedestrians without minding their distance.

So the social distancing 'rules' are a bit of a joke, if you ask me and while I see plenty of police officers driving around in their cars, I have never personally witnessed any police officer taking action to enforce the rules. 

I suspect things will get worse in the days ahead and while I agree with those who think that Dominic Cummings is a real dickhead, I would be more impressed if political leaders in Glasgow were just as 'worked up' about what's happening in their own back yard.


Lockdown Rules - Glasgow Green (16/05/20)

Just back from Glasgow Green there was no sign of any bampot 'lockdown' protesters, sadly. 

I did pass around 15 male cyclists who were clearly not in a family group yet didn't seem to be in any danger of arrest by the 'thin blue line' at Police Scotland.

I also encountered another couple of 'asshole' cyclists who shot by me at high speed as I crossed this path - a rude, ignorant and potentially dangerous pair of morons.

So it proved to be an interesting and eventful visit albeit one which confirms my view that the current lockdown 'rules' are impossible to justify at times and that they are being enforced on a highly selective basis.


Family Groups and Essential Purposes (15/05/20)

I won't be attending the anti-lockdown events planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh on Saturday, but I do think it's a bit rich for Police Scotland  to be warning about the potential dangers when the same thing happens in parks and other public spaces on a daily basis.

For example, I go for a walk in Glasgow Green almost every day and it's been common for weeks now to see lots of other Glaswegians in non-family groups out enjoying themselves, particularly when the sun is shining.

So while I have no time for the conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers, I do think the authorities should face up to the fact that the 'rules' on lockdown are being upheld on a highly selective basis.

'Utterly irresponsible' - Public told to avoid anti-lockdown events planned across Scotland

Organisers are telling people to bring a picnic to the events across the UK and Ireland.

By Conor Matchett - The Scotsman 

Police Scotland have warned people not to attend 'mass gatherings' planned for this weekend Copyright: PA (Press Association)

Police Scotland have “strongly urged” people to avoid planned events which are protesting lockdown across Scotland and the rest of the UK this weekend.

Leaflets have been posted across social media advertising a “Unified Peaceful Mass Gathering” at locations across the country including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The flyers call on people to “bring a picnic” to the events and “say no to the coronavirus bill, no to mandatory vaccines, no to the new normal, and no to the unlawful lockdown”.

Police Scotland have warned people not to attend the events Copyright: PA (Press Association)

They add: “Let’s have some fun and say yes to life!”

Multiple conspiracy theories and mis-information campaigns around the safety of vaccines have been debunked, and the current lockdown is legal due to legislation enforcing it having passed through parliament.

Mark Brown, a Conservative councillor in Drum Brae/Gyle ward in Edinburgh where the event is due to take place labelled the organisers “Covidiots".

He said: “We’ve seen the term ‘Covidiots’ used during this pandemic and these suggested events really do beggar belief and are utterly irresponsible.

“I’d strongly urge that people avoid attending and those behind even contemplating putting people’s lives at danger by promoting these events should consider the serious consequences and impact of their actions.

“Both Hillwood Park and Holyrood Park remain lovely, sizeable, areas for folk to exercise locally and this should continue to be the case whilst observing social distancing guidelines.”

Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey said: “The vast majority of residents across the city are following the expert advice and are observing physical distancing measures and for this I am hugely grateful. Lockdown is difficult for all of us, but there is absolutely no excuse for putting residents’ lives at risk.

“A mass gathering in the city centre this weekend would be completely irresponsible. We’ll work closely with Government and the Police but our citizens should steer clear of this far right movement and let the Police handle it.”

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: "We have been made aware of these leaflets and would strongly urge people not to take part.

“The Scottish Government's guidance is clear - people should only leave the house for very limited purposes, for example for basic necessities, such as food and medicine, for exercise, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done at home.

“Public gatherings of more than two people, with limited exceptions, are prohibited."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The law is clear that gatherings of more than two people in public remain banned in Scotland, except for example where everyone in the gathering are members of the same household or where it is essential for work purposes.

“The advice remains to stay at home. People should only be leaving their homes if they have a reasonable excuse, for example for essential travel – to work if they are a key worker, for food and for exercise.

“While we appreciate that this can be frustrating for people, these measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus, protect the vulnerable and save lives.”

'Justice for George Floyd'

Twitter was awash with speculation yesterday about this group demanding 'Justice for George Floyd' and whether they are from the Amish or Mennonite communities in Minneapolis.

Now it hardly matters if you ask me, but their message of solidarity could hardly be clearer to the White House and its race-baiter-in-chief.


Scotland's Care Homes - Thrown Under the Bus?

Here's a powerful message in the Sunday Herald about the challenges faced by Scotland's care homes in coping with the Coronavirus epidemic. 

A public inquiry will get to the bottom of things in due course, but the evidence is mounting that the government effectively threw care homes 'under the bus' by failing to give the sector the same priority as the NHS. 

Many of the problems are already well documented - see previous post below dated 20 May 2020.


‘Three months of mixed messages, mismanagement and missed opportunities’ – care homes chief speaks out

Exclusive by Tony Banks, chairman and founder of Balhousie Care Group

The news this week that a BBC survey found one in three Scots thought care homes had mishandled the coronavirus crisis was sobering – but not surprising. Reading that made me realise people don’t know the full story surrounding Covid-19 in care homes. And it’s about time they did.

We locked down our 26 care facilities on March 11, 12 days before the nationwide lockdown. The weeks and months since have been excruciating for relatives, frustrating and confusing for residents, and hellish for our staff. They’ve also been an operational and logistical rollercoaster – but without the good bits.

It’s been three months of mixed messages, mismanagement and missed opportunities by the Scottish Government, and the rate of Covid-19-related care home deaths is one of the highest in Europe. Our Government leaders argue that this was unchartered territory, that they have done their best, that with hindsight they may have done things differently. I argue they had the power and knowledge to act much earlier to prevent the spread of this disease among our most vulnerable population.

READ MORE: Care homes inquiry: evidence kept under lock and key

Our extremely difficult decision to close homes – one of the first care home operators in the country to do so – was not taken lightly. Despite requests from industry bodies, there had been no clarity or guidance from the Scottish Government prior to March 11. We watched as coronavirus cases began to rise and realised we had to take matters into our own hands. We have a duty of care to our residents. It is our job to protect them.

On March 13, a number of local authorities asked us to help free up hospital beds by taking patient admissions from the NHS. We asked for the patients to be tested for Covid-19 before we took them and were told no. In at least one of our care homes we can directly attribute the first positive cases of Covid-19 to a new admission from hospital.

On May 21, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said more than 900 patients were released from hospitals into Scotland’s care homes during the first month of the crisis – a figure not even close to her original claim of around 300. And the advice to us at that time was simply to carry out a risk assessment on the new resident admissions and isolate them for seven days (later extended to 14). This despite little being known about the virus and its symptoms. We may as well just have crossed our fingers.

Testing was promised but has simply not been delivered. It was 62 days between March 1 – the date of the first positive test in Scotland – and May 1 when the Scottish Government promised sample testing in homes without the virus, and testing of all residents and staff where there were cases. On May 18, the Health Secretary announced routine tests for all 53,000 of Scotland’s care workers and admitted that care workers were the “prime vectors” of the virus. By then, 1,749 people in Scotland’s care homes had lost their lives to Covid-19.

Apart from testing delays, there has been massive inconsistency in speed and capacity across health authorities, and a shocking lack of awareness of this at Government level. Daily Government briefings promised testing for our staff and residents – but testing facilities were often unavailable or out of reach. And when public health officials promised to come to us, the testing didn’t always happen.

Between May 1 and May 15 – two weeks after the Government’s first promise on testing in homes with cases – two of our pleas to health officials went unanswered. We were told there was “not enough capacity” to carry the tests out.

The strategy from the Scottish Government was clear from the start: to protect the NHS. And it was successful. But at the expense of this, hundreds of care home residents have passed away before their time. And as we navigate this unholy mess there are police investigations into Covid-19-related deaths, procurator fiscal referrals, and an announcement from the Scottish Government that “failing” care homes face being taken under local authority control. I know I’m not alone in saying that private care home operators feel betrayed.

Infection control and other guidelines have come in thick and fast and are ever-changing and conflicting. If you try to follow the thread of changes on the Scottish Government’s website, good luck.

READ MORE: Coronavirus – what now: is this the end of the care home?

Eleven weeks into this pandemic, our experience of working with six different local authorities and four health authorities tells us they rarely talk to each other. Their approaches and rules differ, and some of their requirements on our homes are wholly unreasonable. Panic among officials has risen in line with the rise in negative press surrounding care homes, and some of our relationships are strained.

I question why our health officials were not better prepared when we had the experience of several other countries to draw on.

Our staff are unbelievable. We came up with the phrase “Everyday Heroes” two years ago as part of an employee recognition scheme. Today, that couldn’t be more apt. We’re asking them to get to grips with new and changing guidance as they do their “day job” of being a family to our residents. They never complain as we issue them new rules on everything from the temperature to launder clothes, or what chemical to use on what surface.

Our heroes are sweating it out (literally – try wearing a face mask for 12 hours and you’ll know) while trying to keep spirits up among residents and themselves. And we’re more than aware of the impact it’s having on their wellbeing. Counselling lines and a hardship fund have been in place for them since almost the beginning.

Thankfully, Covid-19 cases and deaths at Balhousie Care stand at less than half the industry average and recovery rates have been remarkable (in one of our homes all residents affected have recovered). I’m convinced our swift action on closing doors and our strict policy on non-essential visits – which was only this week relaxed to include end-of-life visits – is an important factor, as are our high standards of infection control.

That said, we are not complacent – and nor should anyone be. There are lessons to be learned for everyone, and we all have a new normal to prepare for. On a practical level, we are taking extra precautions, including thermal imaging cameras for temperature checking and disinfecting foggers, plans for staggered visitor booking systems, PPE guidance for visitors, and designated meeting spaces.

But the crucial thing is this: we must have enough testing – for staff, residents and visitors, both antigen and antibody tests, and testing that isn’t just one-off but continuous. This is vital now to stop the spread and prevent a second wave.

The First Minister says she is “working hard to support the sector in every way”. Part of supporting is listening, yet nobody is asking us to share our experiences. Maybe this will come with a public inquiry. In the meantime, let’s get the whole care sector around the table and share the lessons we’ve all learned.

Let’s not forget the human cost of this pandemic. Every single person who dies is someone’s mum, dad, brother, sister, grandparent. They become our family when they move into our care home, and with the bonds that develop we really feel the loss of their death.

READ MORE: Calls for inquiry into 'national scandal' of deaths in Scotland's care homes

In their memory, and to protect the residents in our care today, we must learn from the mistakes of the past three months. That should include a full public inquiry. If not, we risk a second wave that could be substantially more aggressive and unforgiving than the first.

Tony Banks is chairman and founder of Balhousie Care Group - by the numbers: how Covid-19 has affected one leading care home operator

  • As the Scottish care sector prepares for a public inquiry into the crisis, Balhousie Care Group lifts the lid on how its homes have been affected by Covid-19.
  • 19% of Balhousie Care Group homes currently report a suspected case of Covid compared to a national average of 44%**.
  • May has seen a similar number of Balhousie Care residents die as during the winter flu months. A second peak of coronavirus cases in the winter months could take 2020 flu deaths in care homes even higher, warns the group
  • Around half of Balhousie Care residents who have died in May tested positive for Covid-19.
  • As of May 24 there were 3,779 deaths from Covid-19 in Scotland*, 46%** in care homes. Deaths at Balhousie Care Group homes stand at 19.
  • Balhousie Care Group operates 26 homes across Scotland with 940 residents.
Sources: Balhousie Care Group, National Records of Scotland*, Scottish Government**

Care Homes - Thrown Under The Bus (20/05/20)

When the time comes to look back on the battle to stop the spread of Covid-19 I suspect the evidence will show that care homes across the UK were 'thrown under the bus'. 

Some of the many challenges have already been widely reported in the media, often with the aim of finding someone to blame, but here are several issues which have jumped out to me so far.

  • Hospitals have discharging patients into care homes without ensuring they are not infected with Covid-19
  • Care home residents and staff in care homes have not been routinely tested for Covid-19 - despite repeated promises
  • The supply of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to care homes has been slow and patchy
  • The guidance on the use of PPE in care homes has been poor, for example on the wearing of face masks
  • The absence of a robust TTI (Test, Trace, Isolate) policy has made it more difficult to contain outbreaks of Covid-19   
  • Patients who would normally be transferred to hospitals for treatment have been forced to remain in their care home
  • Doctors have designated care home residents as DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) without consulting residents or their families
  • Staff in the independent sector are being penalised for self-isolating because they do not receive their full pay
  • The Care Inspectorate (which regulates the sector) has been accused of operating with too much of a 'light-touch' after suspending its inspections during the epidemic
My Mum spent her last days in a care home and I know from my own experience that the staff who cared for and looked after her were every bit as committed as the staff in the local hospital (which she visited regularly) and the Home Carers who enabled her to live independently until she needed the extra help and support of a residential care home.  


Coronavirus, Care Homes and Testing (16/05/20)

The shocking deaths of 7 residents at the Home Farm care home in Skye has led to the Scottish Government taking the owners (HC-One) to court with a view to removing their licence.

Now I don't know the reasoning behind this decision, but you would imagine the Scottish Government must have a good case for taking such strong action.

But what is odd is that in West Dunbartonshire an even more shocking 16 residents died from Coronavirus after Crosslet House declared itself to be "Covid-19 free".

The Times reported this story on 22 April 2020 with the local MP (Jackie Baillie) and Scotland's health minister (Jeane Freeman) both condemning shameful behaviour which gave the impression that residents were being tested when they were not.

So what action, if any, was taken to safeguard residents at Crosslet House run by West Dunbartonshire council and why should this care home be treated any differently to the Home Farm facility in Portree?

Coronavirus in Scotland: testing at care homes increased after outcry

22 April 2020

Jeane Freeman, the Scottish health secretary, at Holyrood yesterday. She said that all new residents moving into homes would be tested for Covid-19 and isolated for 14 days - Photo


By Helen Puttick - The Times

Inspections and coronavirus testing across Scotland’s care homes are being ramped up after ministers bowed to concerns about the number of residents falling ill.

Jeane Freeman, the Scottish health secretary, said that care homes “should not have seen the level of transmission” experienced if all the guidance on social distancing was being followed.

She announced a “considerable increase in intervention and oversight” with NHS public health directors told to report back on how nursing homes were coping, whether they were following the rules and had the necessary protective equipment.

In a significant change of policy, she also said all new residents moving into homes would be tested for Covid-19 and isolated for 14 days. Less than a week ago Nicola Sturgeon rejected calls to test potential care home residents, arguing that this could undermine other infection control measures.

Yesterday’s figures showed that the number of patients admitted to intensive care with the virus in Scotland was reducing. The death toll of confirmed cases was 985, up 70 from Monday.

Yesterday Jackie Baillie, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, highlighted that Crosslet House care home, which is run by West Dunbartonshire council, had registered 16 deaths despite managers’ claims that it was “Covid-19 free”.

Ms Baillie accused the council of “a shameful piece of spin” and giving the impression that residents were being tested. Ms Freeman described the episode as “utterly shameful and completely unacceptable” and said the NHS’s regional director of public health would investigate.

The health secretary also promised that she would not leave the office last night until an issue was resolved of personal assistants who care for frail people in the community being unable to contact a helpline for supplies of personal protective equipment. Ms Freeman said: “There is no reason at this point why they cannot access PPE.”

Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents care home and home care providers, welcomed the new measures to support the sector. “This will support a very stretched sector to deal with the most vicious disease many of us have ever known in our lifetime,” he said.

During her statement in the chamber yesterday Ms Freeman made it clear that testing would be available for all care home staff and residents. She added: “We are also building the testing structure we need as we move to the next phase, our capacity to test, trace and isolate will be critical to controlling the virus.”

The Scottish Conservatives said they continued to hear of shortages of personal protective clothing. Jackson Carlaw, the party’s leader, said: “We keep hearing that Scotland has sufficient supplies of PPE for now and the foreseeable future. But still care homes, and carers working in communities, are being left exposed to the huge risks of coronavirus.

“There is clearly still a problem when it comes to getting these provisions to those who need them and we’re now several weeks into this crisis.”

Ms Freeman said there were enough supplies but that efforts were required to continue ensuring this was the case.

Care Homes and Coronavirus (14/05/20)

Incredible though it sounds Scotland's health minister, Jeane Freeman was forced to admit that she had not seen the latest care home guidance issued by the Scottish Government.

Now there is controversy surrounding residential care at the moment with claims that residents have been:

  • denied access to hospital treatment 
  • discharged from hospital without being given the 'all clear' from Coronavirus
  • issued with 'DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) notices by GPs' without their and/or their families knowledge.
And that's without getting into the problems of PPE and whether 'barrier techniques' in care homes have been of a sufficiently high standard.  

So you would think that the Scottish health minister would be familiar with the latest advice being issued by her own government department. 

Read a full report in the link below to The Scotsman.


Protecting Service Users and Essential Workers (21/04/20)

The BBC reports another incident of multiple deaths due to Coronavirus in a Scottish care home - this time in Crosslet House run by West Dunbartonshire Council.

As with other incidents, the authorities are clearly working hard to safeguard residents and staff, but it does seem to have been a real struggle to get the right kind of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to essential workers on the front line, in this case to home carers and carers in residential homes.


Coronavirus: '15 dead' after outbreak at care home in DumbartonImage copyright - GETTY IMAGES Image caption - A quarter of Scotland's coronavirus deaths have occurred in care homes

Scottish Labour's deputy leader said 15 residents have died following an outbreak of Covid-19 at a care home in Dumbarton.

Jackie Baillie, who is also the local MSP, described the reports from Crosslet House as "devastating".

West Dunbartonshire Council said it has suspended new admissions to the 70-bed home for the time being but declined to comment on the number of deaths.

The Daily Record reported the cases were highlighted by a whistleblower.

Ms Baillie tweeted: "Devastating to hear 15 people have died at Crosslet House. My thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones. Serious questions need to be asked as to the handling of this outbreak. Every staff member and resident must be tested for Covid. There must be no new admissions."

Meanwhile, six residents at an Aberdeen care home are believed to have died with suspected coronavirus symptoms.

Bon Accord Care, the operators of the Kingswells home have confirmed there have been a number of deaths there, and said it has "robust infection control in place throughout the home".

There have been a number of suspected Covid-19 outbreaks in recent weeks.

The largest known have occurred at Berelands Care Home, Prestwick; Burlington Court Care Home, Cranhill; Elderslie Nursing Home, Paisley; and Hill View, Clydebank.

Crosslet House is the second Dumbarton home to experience a number of suspected Covid-19 deaths after it emerged eight residents had died in the privately operated Castle View.

Devastating to hear 15 people have died at Crosslet House. My thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones. Serious questions need to be asked as to the handling of this outbreak. Every staff member and resident must be tested for covid. There must be no new admissions

Last week official figures showed a quarter of Scotland's coronavirus deaths have occurred in care homes.

In response to the outbreak, a West Dunbartonshire Council spokeswoman said: "Our dedicated team of carers at Crosslet House is working round the clock to provide essential care and support to residents and their families during these unprecedented and hugely challenging weeks.

"Testing of staff and residents has already been undertaken in line with guidance and the care home is already closed to new admissions."

The council said its procedures are "thorough" and added: "Morale among our staff remains high and we are hugely grateful for the vital role they are playing in caring for and protecting residents most in need."

A Care Inspectorate spokesman said: "We are aware of the tragic deaths of residents at this care home as a result of suspected cases of Covid-19.

"Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those affected as well as the staff and wider community of the home.

"We have been notified of the circumstances and we are in contact with the care service and the local health and social care partnership during this difficult time."