Cancer patients in rural areas get a raw deal - Readers' Letters

Health boards and politicians apply double standards in the rural/urban healthcare divide, a reader arguesHealth boards and politicians apply double standards in the rural/urban healthcare divide, a reader argues
Health boards and politicians apply double standards in the rural/urban healthcare divide, a reader argues
According to reports, Tayside can now unite with Dumfries and Galloway cancer patients who also travel outside their nearest tertiary centre. Tayside’s prompt mitigation of the effects of avoidable travel and the co-operation of three other boards highlights a rural/urban health divide starkly contrasting with Galloway, which has faced far worse for 20 years.

Driving past the closest oncology hospital is the norm for Wigtownshire. Travelling through six health board areas, within two miles of the Glasgow Beatson, for 45 unnecessary miles, Dumfries and Galloway Health Board sends almost all oncology patients to Edinburgh, accepting the absence of benefit while ignoring evidence of the emotional, physical, and financial harms caused by unnecessary travel.

We have been promised that patients would have choice: this does not happen. The board refuses mitigation through a travel and subsistence scheme, adding an inequitable financial penalty to this already perverse arrangement (described by a patient as “cruel”). I have met with different Cabinet Secretaries for Health on two occasions and nothing has changed. The board recently defended this, suggesting rural and associated travel is a lifestyle choice. That is preposterous. Stranraer has serious deprivation with social mobility unaffordable.

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This episode highlights how nationally, boards and politicians apply double standards in the rural/urban healthcare divide. Many rural boards deliberately ignore egregiously unfair rural issues. Politicians fail to call them to account while addressing identical urban issues as a national emergency.

Through petition 1845 to the Scottish Parliament, Galloway Community Hospital Action Group has proposed a national advocacy service for rural and remote patients, to promote fair and reasonable treatment and reduce rural health inequality. Cheap and simple, that would be a good start.

Dr A Gordon Baird, Past Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Rural Practice Task Force, Dumfries and Galloway

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Covid pandemic reaching ‘endgame’ - but shouldn’t be treated like flu

Brain scan

It is profoundly disappointing that some nurses are willing to lose their jobs rather than be vaccinated against Covid. The Nursing and Midwifery Council code of conduct requires those in the profession to have a duty of care, and as such, do no harm. As with other immunisations required in the past, these are provided to protect both the practitioner and the patient. I fail to see how these staff can honour that promise, knowing that they might infect others.

Their excuse appears to be based on the theory that the pandemic was started by a secretive cabal intent on setting up an authoritarian world government. One leader claimed that being forced to have a vaccination to continue to be employed by the NHS was “frightening” – but hardly as “frightening “ as an NHS patient vulnerable to Covid being treated by unvaccinated staff who seriously believe Silicon Valley moguls want to control their brain.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

Moving on

An anti-vaccination rally in Washington DC last weekend was forecast by the organisers to attract 20,000-plus. As it turned out, little more than a sad handful assembled beneath the figure of Lincoln at the spot where Martin Luther King had attracted 100,000-plus back in the 1960s.

In much the same way, there was a similar pathetic response to the nationalist call for an anti-Boris march in Glasgow at the same time. It was the same old (in every sense of the word), dreary marchers bearing the same old dreary lost cause message that has long ago lost interest for the majority of Scots.

Could they all, on both sides of the Atlantic, now please stop and give the rest of us a break? I absolutely concur that even cranks have a right to demonstrate lawfully, but this is all growing a little tiresome, surely, even for the most fervent nationalist or anti-vaxxer.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Roll with it

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I was in a queue of about four people waiting for a sausage roll in Glasgow at the weekend. Turned out I was in the middle of the “emergency” All Under One Banner March. Didn't even realise.

David Bone, Girvan, South Ayrshire

Slàinte mhath

Your article about the history of Drambuie (Scotsman, 24 January) makes a welcome change from the myths and inventions perpetrated over the years.

But rather than the romantic “legend” of Bonnie Prince Charlie himself giving the recipe to a Captain John MacKinnon, the extensive research by my cousins Hamish Dixon and Deirdre Perth (both direct descendants of James Ross, its creator) suggests that it was a French officer serving with the Prince in 1746 who gave it to Captain Lachlan Mackinnon.

It then passed down the line to Alexander Kenneth Mackinnon of Corry in Strath, Skye, who gave it to his friend John Ross, James Ross’s father, whose wife leased the Broadford Inn in the 1870s. The original recipe, thought to be brandy-based, was refined by James using various ingredients including different whiskies, until he was satisfied he had made the perfect liqueur for which he coined the slogan “A link with the ‘45” and named it, after a good friend sampled it and said “Ah, an dram buidheach”, or the drink that satisfies.

It was sold from the Inn and also shipped by MacBrayne’s steamers from Broadford Pier to UK customers, and from there as far afield as France, USA, Canada and Australia, in the 1890s and early 20th century when the new owners took over.

John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Global threat

Saturday 22 January 2022 marked one year since the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force as international law. 122 nations voted in favour of TPNW – but the UK did not, because of its Trident nuclear weapons system. Each Trident warhead may have an explosive power of 100 thousand tonnes.

In March 2021 Boris Johnson announced an increase in the cap on the number of the UK’s Trident nuclear warheads from 180 to 260. What message does this send to the world – not “global Britain”, but “anti-global Britain”?

E Campbell, Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire

Warning signs

In 1936, Hitler sent his armed forces to reoccupy the Rhineland. Western powers allowed this on Hitler's promise that he had no further territorial ambitions. In 1938, the people of Austria "voted" to become part of the “Third Reich”. They did this mainly on the realisation that no Western power would render them practical support to remain an independent country. In that same year, Hitler's forces moved into the Sudetenland despite desperate pleas from the Czechs for help. Western powers were interested only in avoiding war. Buoyed by his success, Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.

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In 2008, dissident elements in Georgia were agitating against their elected government. Russia sent in troops to “support and protect” ethnic Russians in these areas. The ensuing war ended in 2010. To this day, the UN regards Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied Georgian territories”.

The failure of Western security agencies to prevent the occupation of these territories underlined the weaknesses in these organisations. While this dispute was continuing in diplomatic circles, Russian elements took control of strategic positions and infrastructure in Crimea. In March, 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a territory of the Ukraine.

Coincidentally with this, unbadged Russian forces had been infiltrating Ukraine in the Donbas area, fighting alongside dissident ethnic elements. In 2019, the Ukranian government estimated that seven per cent of its land was under occupation.

Only in the past two years have the UK and USA begun to heed the warning signs. Modern weaponry and military training personnel have now been sent from the UK. The USA has threatened sanctions in the event of further Russian aggression.

Once more, Western powers seem more intent on containing the war than stopping it. There is an argument that no war is worth human life. I wonder if the dispossessed or the capitalists in our societies would agree with that. Even if they do, does this nation sit back until the enemy tanks roll into Poland once again?

Brian Donaldson, Stirling

Domino theory

As the democratic West has already sat on its hands over the Crimea, Putin must be greatly encouraged in his putative ambition to restore under Muscovite hegemony all of the non-Muslim countries of the former Soviet Union.

If the West turns another blind eye over Ukraine the way is clear for the reclamation of the Baltic nations then the Balkans with, who knows, to follow Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and finally Poland and East Germany? Even an independent Scotland with its airstrips and nuclear submarine shelters giving control of the North Atlantic may not be an ambition too far.

Let the West not again make the mistake of writing off Ukraine as "a small, far away country, of whom we know little”.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Green Burns

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Considering the poetry of Robert Burns yesterday, as you do, I was struck by his poem To A Mouse, one of ny favourites, and its relevence today, perhaps even more than in his time. Especially the second verse: “I'm truly sorry man’s dominion/Has broken nature's social union...”.

Perhaps the Green Party could adopt it as a motto!

Jenny Martin, Edinburgh

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