NHS launches campaign to increase male blood donors

The NHS has kicked off the new decade with a nationwide campaign to increase male blood donations. In 2019, only around 41% of new donors were male, despite male blood being used for a variety of illnesses which female blood is not able to treat.

Throughout January, the NHS will be campaigning to increase their first-time male blood donation rates by an ambitious 26% in 2020 which equates to roughly 68,000 new donors. This means that if the campaign is successful, first-time male blood donation rates will rise to 67%, overtaking female blood donation rates which reached 59% last year.

Number of annual new donations (Credit: NHS)

Every winter the NHS tries to encourage extra donations due to Christmas closures, however, donations must be regular to be effective as centres often have a “shortfall” after Christmas. A Staff Nurse from Edinburgh Blood Donation Centre says that while they do have a large number of donors, they are often irregular:

“Because we have a lot of students, you have them for a wee while then they move off… it’s just a constant battle to keep people coming in.”

Male blood exclusively is used for blood transfusions in newborn babies and provides 93% of donated platelets – an essential part of the blood’s clotting system. More than half of platelets donated are used to treat cancer patients to reduce internal bleeding. Regular donations are essential due to the shelf life of certain parts of the blood:

“Red blood cells last for about a month but platelets only last about a week, so we always need to keep going.”

Why do we need male blood?

Credit: Pixabay

Men are much more likely to have higher levels of iron compared to women as they don’t menstruate, which means that their donations are far less likely to be rejected because of low haemoglobin. This helps to maintain a level of consistency with donations which is vital to patients who receive regular transfusions throughout their lifetime.

Women are also known to produce certain antibodies and proteins during pregnancy. The presence of these antibodies affects the immune system, which can make transfusions a little more complicated.


Voluntarily having blood sucked out of your arm is a terrifying concept to most people and this fear is why many of us choose not to donate.

If you’re thinking of donating and helping potentially hundreds of people, here are some tips to calm your nerves so you can get the most out of your life-saving donation.

Remember to eat!

An empty stomach and low blood sugar can make you feel sick and dizzy and means you are more likely to faint.

Have a snack just before you donate – high sugar snacks are preferable which gives you the perfect excuse to demolish a chocolate bar.

Stay hydrated!
Losing a fairly large volume of fluids can make you feel quite ill, so doctors recommend you drink at least 500ml of water before you donate.

Water is available at blood donation centres so remember to bring your reusable water bottle.

If anxiety can get the better of you in high-intensity situations, it might be worthwhile to take some time to set out your “plan of distraction” for when you’re donating.

Bring someone along with you, whether it’s your mum, your significant other or a friend – you might need a hand to hold.

If you’re donating alone, make a playlist full of your favourite inspirational songs and have your earphones at the ready to jam in your ears and drown everything else out.

Treat yourself!
You might be feeling a little dizzy or tired afterwards so head home, get comfy and spend the rest of your day on the couch with everyone’s friend Netflix.

Remember to eat and stay hydrated afterwards for the quickest recovery.

Don’t feel guilty about resting and looking after yourself – you just helped save some lives, you deserve it!

While they want as many people to donate as possible, nurses from the Edinburgh donation centre encourage you to put yourself first:

“If you get too nervous, it’s not going to work for you – it’ll just make you ill and we’re trying to make people better!”

Credit: Rhi Ramsey EN4 News

Credit: Rhi Ramsey EN4 News

Children’s Mental Health Week rounds off fourth consecutive year

(Credit: Let The People Speak)

Children’s Mental Health Week comes to an end in the UK this weekend after the ‘Place2Be’ campaign received an overwhelming amount of support on social media.

Overseeing school talks and spreading awareness has been the main focus for mental health organisations this week after figures were released late last year showing that one in eight people under the age of 19 suffered from mental health issues.

The ‘mental health of young people and children survey’ conducted by the NHS was launched in November 2018 and provided evidence to suggest that one in five children were victims of cyberbullying, statistics many organisations have highlighted to underscore the importance of awareness campaigns like Children’s Mental Health Week this year.

Place2be‘ has focused this week around their ‘Health: Inside and Out’ campaign which attempts to spread awareness around the physical wellbeing of children and how it can affect their mental state.

However, much attention has now been drawn towards the social media aspect of the campaign after reports surfaced of children attempting to commit suicide as a result of online bullying in the past few months.

According to government surveys, at least 40% of parents are concerned about their child’s wellbeing in relation to online bullying.

Many public figures have been spreading awareness on Twitter using ‘#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek’, sparking high levels of online debate regarding recent issues.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party used the hashtag to push for better access to arts and sports in schools:

Mick Coyle, presenter for Radio City Live in Liverpool, highlighted a public art project that saw 200 pairs of childrens’ shoes laid out, representing the annual suicide rate for young people:

Government proposals have now been put forth as a part of Children’s Mental Health Week and MP’s are now expected to introduce sanctions on social media websites in order to tackle the ongoing cyberbullying crisis.


My low carb life

Avocado salad for lunch (Photo credit: Dave Paul)

In the famous words of Ziggy Stardust, “I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.”

I have no idea what he was talking about, but over the last week, I have committed myself to eat a Keto diet; the one which is low carb and high fat. The very idea of cutting carbs from my diet made my stomach rumble, but I have forged ahead nonetheless.

I should explain a little of what ‘keto’ actually means. Keto is short for Ketogenic diet, where you reduce your carbohydrate intake to 10-15% of your calories and get the majority of your calories from fat. This puts your body into a state of Ketosis, where it starts to burn your body fat for fuel instead of converting carbs which are stored as fat. So you have to lower your carb intake but increase your protein and fat intake. That essentially means I have to stop eating chips, but I can eat loads of butter, cheese, eggs and meat.

Omelette - Dave Paul

Omelette, olives and cucumber meal. (Photo credit: Dave Paul)

From what I’ve been reading, the diet has many health benefits. There have been a lot of studies carried out that show that keto can actually help diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as giving you lot’s of energy. How can that be bad? It also apparently burns fat faster, and if I want that Christmas body I’ll have to move quickly. Here is how I got on:

Saturday – Day One

The first day was a shopping day. I made a trip to Waitrose because I like to think I’m middle class, and got myself a selection of low carb, high fat, protein-rich foods to eat; Italian meats, butter, cheese and more eggs than Michael Phelps. It seemed like a herculean task at first, but I found I actually had to buy LESS stuff as I was cutting out potatoes, pasta and rice which are basic food items. I then realised that all of my meals will be glorified ploughman’s for the next few months, and decided that there is definitely nothing wrong with that. Bring on the meat.

Sunday – Day Two

Off to a strong start. I made a low carb bread sandwich of mixed meats, pickles, piccalilli, cheese and salad leaves. I took a hit mid-afternoon when I realised that milk has carbohydrate in it. Damn you lactose, you natural milk sugar you. In fact, I found out that pretty much everything has carbohydrate in. Sugar is classed as carbohydrate. Everything has sugar in it. This is going to be harder than I thought.

My ‘builder’s tea’ isn’t the same without milk. And, no biscuit, no point.

Monday – Day Three

I can eat certain vegetables and still stay on keto, as long as I’m careful to choose low carb ones. Celery and spinach yes, carrots and parsnips no. I made a nice salad with meat, avocado, cheese and lettuce. I have decided that I cannot deprive myself of milk in tea and coffee. No milky Lattes though, a basic Americano with milk for me

Tuesday – Day Four

I have eggs for breakfast, again. As an ex-chef, I can’t help but turn out my omelette perfectly cooked and folded neatly onto my plate. I try not to think about the fact that I can’t have cereal, bread, bagels, rolls, toast, porridge, or French toast but I’m not focusing on what I can’t eat. It’s what I can eat that should be my focus. Mmmh, bacon. My breakfast usually keeps me full until dinner, but not today. No crisps. No chocolate. Unless it’s dark chocolate that has over 70% cocoa solids. Then I can have two squares, and still be low carb. I miss Dairy Milk already. Jerky to the rescue! I can eat lots of this, it’s 0% carbs, and I like to chew it like a cowboy as I play video games.
Sausages for dinner but with no mashed potato so I cook up pak choi and spinach and have it with a garlic and double cream sauce. Delicious.

This low carb thing is fine, why aren’t more people on this diet?

Wednesday – Day Five

I thought that lunch at university would be tough to keep low carb. Sandwiches, paninis, wraps; almost all convenience foods you buy have quite a high carbohydrate content in them, so I didn’t think I would be able to manage. To my pleasant surprise, the salad bar at the university is well stocked with low carb options. By avoiding the chickpeas and the jacket potatoes, but having extra cheese and olive oil, I had a lovely lunch and another omelette for dinner. I don’t know how Michael Phelps does it. I have a craving for salt and chilli chips though. Stay strong Dave.

Thursday – Day Six

Weirdly, this diet actually isn’t very difficult. Apart from the aforementioned not being able to get anything without carbs in it pretty much anywhere, you actually end up having to buy less food and saving yourself some money.

The other strange thing is that I am almost never hungry.

Something about not eating carbs that I thought was inevitable was constant hunger, but there was none! I have discovered how many things go with eggs, and being able to eat an entire packet of Italian cured meats and not feel bad about is incredibly liberating.

I think my face has lost some weight, I’m certainly looking thinner. Finally, a diet I can really stick to. I actually think I can finally lose some weight before Christmas and be happy at the same time. YES!

Friday – Day Seven

I got drunk and ate a Burrito at 2 am.

Saturday – Day Eight

The keto diet was fun while it lasted.

Rising Deaths Due to Alzheimer’s

New figures for fundamental occurrences registered in Scotland during the fourth quarter of 2017 were published today by the National Records of Scotland and portray that 12,821 births, 5,975 marriages and 15,198 deaths were registered between the months of October and December.

The number of births was 1.3% fewer than the same period in 2016 and the lowest fourth quarter total since 2000.

The number of deaths registered was 4.3% more than the same period in 2016 and the highest fourth quarter total since 2003.

NRS also released details regarding the cause of deaths compared with the fourth quarter of 2016 as shown below:

In positive terms, deaths from coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease have decreased considerably. However, the number of deaths from cancer and respiratory disease has risen marginally.  There has been a relatively large increase in the number of deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with these deaths now accounting for more than 10 per cent of all deaths compared to 5 per cent a ten years ago. Ben Cooke, an NHS staff nurse said

“With an ageing population, dementia and Alzheimer’s are becoming more and more prevalent.”

The number of marriages registered was 391 (6.1 per cent) less than in the fourth quarter of 2016.  There was a rise of 20 (9.6 per cent) of same sex marriages compared with the same period of 2016.  Thirty-one (13.6 per cent) of the same sex marriages registered in the fourth quarter were changes from civil partnerships.

Figures for the whole of 2017 will be finalised and issued in June.

Disabled Man Died Thirsty

Man with Cerebral Palsy dies from sepsis during bad weather.

On Saturday 3rd March, Cameron Mclean woke up tired and thirsty at approximately 8:30am. His mother was worried after finding him sweating and having difficulty breathing so she phoned an ambulance immediately. Paramedics arrived and proceeded to dig a path in the snow to get to Cameron’s house.

Cameron had Cerebral Palsy, so being wheelchair bound, he was unable to leave the house due to the severe weather conditions. He was then rushed to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary but doctors discovered he had developed the sepsis blood infection, they attempted to save him but tragically, he died at 8:30pm just 12 hours after he complained of feeling tired and thirsty.


Cameron Mclean – Scotsman

Cameron Mclean’s death has left his family in Port Seton devastated. Friends are rallying to raise money for his funeral. Fundraising ideas have included a trolley in the local Co-op Food supermarket collecting funds and a family fun-day and disco planned by the Cockenzie and Port Seton British Legion club, people are doing as much as they can to give Cameron the send-off he deserves. Cameron’s mum’s best friend, Tressa Cherrie, set up a JustGiving page to raise £5000 for the funeral and has been overwhelmed by support from the community.

Clearly, Sepsis can be an extremely serious infection. It is however, gaining more publicity with The Archers’ BBC Radio programme’s portrayal of a character who dies of sepsis raising awareness with regards to the disease.

According to the UK Sepsis Trust, 44,000 deaths in the UK are due to the illness. Ben Cooke, a staff Nurse at the NHS, said that,

“If it’s not treated quickly it can be deadly. Being thirsty is not a common symptom to have with Sepsis.

The UK Sepsis Trust set out guidelines which are specific to sepsis, which are slurred speech, shivering, no urine, severe breathlessness, a feeling of near death and discoloured skin. It’s not an obvious sign, but once sepsis identified, it’s a really dangerous thing to have.”.


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Beast from the East no match for determined NHS Scotland staff

Although the Beast from the East caused havoc for many across Scotland, a new report has shown that NHS staff were not harmed from treating almost nine out of 10 patients in target time.

A red weather warning was issued in parts of Scotland when icy blasts hit the country with snow; but that didn’t stop NHS Scotland from seeing – and either admitting, transferring and discharging A&E patients within the targeted time of four hours.

NHS Sign

Image credit: Getty Images

Although this still falls short of the Scottish Government’s targets of having 95% of patients seen within this time, Health Secretary, Shona Robison, was full of praise for the “tremendous effort” put in by the hospital staff.

She said:

“In the face of the red weather warning, NHS staff worked tirelessly to ensure A&E departments continued to run with almost nine out of 10 patients admitted, discharged or transferred within the four-hour target.

“This was a tremendous effort, and thanks to staff across the NHS who have experienced their busiest winter in a decade and continue to go the extra mile to give people the care they need.”

red weather warning

Red weather Warning is issued for Central Scotland as the country is hit by the Beast from the East. Feb 28 2018 Image Credit: SWNS

Despite the extreme snowfall, the performance of A&E staff on A&E waiting times increased from the previous week, when a lesser 87.5% of cases were dealt with in four hours.

Ethel Hardie, a Community Psychiatric Nurse in the Aberdeenshire area, said that she is amazed by how her team stepped up during the bad weather.

She said:

“Most community teams stepped in to help each other during these times, often staying additional hours past their finishing times, or people who live close to hospital coming in on days off to cover.

“It never ceases to amaze me despite the poor wages, nurses remain dedicated to their patients with little thanks.”

However, despite the efforts put in by NHS staff, some nurses felt that they were being forced to travel in unsafe conditions to get to work.

The community nurse added:

“I think it’s a disgrace that we have to use our annual leave if we are unable to get to work due to weather conditions.

“In this day and age we should be able to use this as paper work day, or work from another facility like teachers do.

“Hours logged could be monitored via computers.”

Even though staff struggled to get to and from work, the Health Secretary remained positive about the performance of Scotland’s health services.

She said:

“Hospitals saw incredible pressures this week with staff struggling to get in or out of work and patients unable to get home, and this level of disruption will take time to recover.

“However, our A&E departments are still the best performing in the UK, as they have been for the past three years, thanks to our record investment and increased levels of staffing into our hospitals.”

Karen Mitchell, a District Nurse also from the Aberdeenshire are, said she believes that the commitment from NHS staff was the sole factor in keeping NHS Scotland running efficiently.

She stated:

“The beast from the east caused havoc for the NHS across the UK.

“With hospital appointments and operations cancelled, the resourcefulness and resilience of staff ensured patients were cared for throughout.

Staff from Glasgow Royal Infirmary spent the night at the hospital to make sure there was staff there at all times | Image credit: Evening Times

“Community teams were faced with dangerous conditions in remote areas to reach patients – sometimes on foot –  who were vulnerable to ensure patient safety was maintained.

“The team spirit demonstrated commitment to patient care, with as little disruption as possible.

“This proves our NHS is invaluable, and the hard work and commitment of staff is what keeps it running despite pay freezes and staff shortages.”

Staff nurse Claire Woods, who works at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, agreed that NHS staff went above and beyond to provide care for their patients.

“Some staff had to stay the night at the hospital to ensure they were able to be at work the next day, with staff also staying hours after their shifts ended until the next staff member arrived to assure that patient safety was maintained”, she said.

Members of the public took to Twitter to express their support for Scotland’s NHS.  Twitter user @ticgran expressed there thanks to the NHS through a tweet saying: “Well done NHS Scotland. I love the care at home which enable me to stay at home and get amazing treatment.”

Twitter user @ticgran complimented the NHS’s care | Image credit: Twitter user @ticgran

Graham Pattie also took to Twitter to share his praise for the NHS adding: “NHS Scotland. Still out-performing the rest of the UK.”

Twitter user Graham Pattie shares his pride in NHS Scotland on Twitter | Image credit: Twitter user @GrahamP58

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association Scotland (BMA) also expressed their gratitude for the “extraordinary lengths” that the NHS staff went to in order to care for their patients.

They stated:

“Doctors and other NHS staff went to extraordinary lengths to provide care to their patients throughout the disruption caused by the recent extreme weather. Some staff slept in hospitals to continue looking after their patients, while others made long and difficult journeys to reach their place of work.

“The lengths that NHS staff went to shows the dedication they have to their jobs and to their patients and should be applauded.”

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Canadian company Concordia accused of overcharging NHS by millions

Concordia have reportedly raised the price of a life-changing thyroid drug by 6,000 percent over the past ten years.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority have said the firm has “abused its dominant position to overcharge the NHS”. In 2016 alone, more than 34 million was spent on the liothyronine tablets. These tablets help treat hypothyroidism, which affects at least 2 in every 100 people.

Concordia have reportedly overcharged the NHS. Photograph: Reuters

In 2007, the amount paid per pack was around £4.50. By July 2017, this rose to more than £250.

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said pharmaceutical companies who are overcharging these drugs are forcing the NHS – and the taxpayer – to overpay for vital medical treatments.

He said: 

We allege that Concordia used its market dominance in the supply of liothyronine tablets to do exactly that.”

The decision as to whether or not there has been a breach of competition law is yet to be made. The CMA can fine companies up to 10 percent of their worldwide annual turnover if they are found guilty.

He added:

“We will carefully consider any representations from the company before deciding whether the law has in fact been broken.”

Liothyronine tablets help treat hypothyroidism. Photograph: Google

However, Concordia denied any laws were infringed as they stated:

The pricing of liothyronine has been conducted openly and transparently with the Department of Health in the UK over a period of ten years.

Over that time, significant investment has been made in this medicine to ensure its continued availability for patients in the UK, to the specifications required by the medicines and healthcare products regulatory agency in the UK.”

Concordia have said they will cooperate fully with CMA’s investigation.

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New research shows emotional impact of diabetes

Today marks World Diabetes Day. This was first started in 1991 jointly by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organisation.


Research unveiled today by Diabetes UK has highlighted the emotional and mental issues that comes with diabetes.


”Out of 8,500 people surveyed, three in five five said that their condition made them feel down, and only three in ten said that they felt in control of their diabetes.”


The charity has called upon the UK Government to radically improve health outcomes for people with the illness. This will by committing to sustain funding at current levels of £44 million, until at least 2021.


The chief executive of Diabetes UK, Chris Askew, spoke of the importance of being able to help sufferers with the emotional consequences of the condition:


“Effective diabetes care requires that a person’s emotional needs are taken into account alongside their physical care needs,” said Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.


Diabetes is a lifelong incurable condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to go too high, of which there are two main types:


Type 1 diabetes is typically developed in childhood, and is due to a lack of insulin which means the body cannot control the amount of sugar that is in the bloodstream. In most cases of treatment, regular injections of insulin are required to help regulate blood sugar levels.


Type 2, the most common type, is where the body does not make enough insulin to work properly or when the body doesn’t react to insulin.

For more information on the symptoms, causes and further treatment of both types of diabetes.



Insulin allows the cells in the muscles, fat and liver to absorb sugar that is in the blood.
Source: Flickr


Diabetes is a key factor in causing disability and creates a greater risk of heart diseases and other health issues. The 2016 Scottish Diabetes Survey estimates that there were around 300,000 people in Scotland with diabetes at the end of 2016.


The main theme behind World Diabetes Day 2017 is Women and Diabetes, about broadening access for women for the healthcare options that they need. According to the International Federation for Diabetes:


‘’There are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes and this total is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040.’’


The IDF believe that more needs to be done to provide girls and women with the support they need in societies where men tend to find getting support easier and quicker, as well as tackling other inequalities such as dieting and physical activity.

‘Trackable’ pill approved in US

A ‘trackable’ pill has been approved in the US by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA].


The Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole) tablets, developed by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, are used for treating schizophrenia and manic episodes. When the pill is dissolved by stomach acid, an electrical signal is activated and sent to a patch worn by the user. This will then send the data to their smartphones.


There is also the option to send relevant medical details to the prescribing doctors and four family members if consent is given by the patient.


This is the first digital pill to be approved and used by patients. Experts believe this will improve patient compliance and ensure they are taking their medicine. However, the company has not yet proven this.


Source: Proteus Digital Health


Some are worried this is the onset of new ways to monitor and abuse privacy.


Ameet Sarpatwari, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, said to the New York Times, “The pill has the potential to improve public health” but, “if used improperly, it could foster more mistrust instead of trust.”


Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd has stressed how unreliable the timing of the data sent may be. Delays can be anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours before ingestion is detected. Sometimes the app won’t detect ingestion at all and, if this happens, the company stresses not to take another dose.


Source: Wikimedia Commons


Mitchell Mathis, director of the Division of Psychiatry Products, said: “Being able to track ingestion of medications prescribed for mental illness may be useful for some patients. The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers.”


Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis are not licensed to consume the medication.


There hasn’t been any word on if the tablets will be prescribed in other countries.

New test to detect liver damage after paracetamol overdoses

A blood test has been created which could help detect liver damage in those who have taken a paracetamol overdose.

Patients who had taken an excessive amount of the drug were previously marginally helped by a test which could detect the specific blood molecules associated with liver damage.

This new development will allow medics to also register the levels of these molecules.

Doctors will now be able to identify which patients need specific treatments and allow others to return home immediately after being treated.

The study was part-funded by the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, along with the Medical Research Council.

Approximately 50,000 people in the UK are admitted to hospital for taking too much paracetamol. Sometimes people have been known to accidentally overdose after taking paracetamol as well as flu & cold medication that also carry the drug.

Dr James Dear, of Edinburgh University, said: “Paracetamol overdose is very common and presents a large workload for already over-stretched emergency departments. These new blood tests can identify who will develop liver injury as soon as they first arrive at hospital. This could transform the care of this large, neglected, patient group.”

50,000 people overdose on paracetamol every year. Source: Google

The findings pave the way for a generation of new developments across liver damage treatments.

A group led by Edinburgh University and Liverpool University trialled the test amongst over 1000 people admitted to hospitals.

Dr Daniel Antonine who worked at the University of Liverpool during the time of the study, said: “This is an excellent example of scientists, clinicians and statisticians working together to tackle an important medical problem. The outcome of studies like these have generated excitement amongst the pharmaceutical industry and drug regulation so that we can further our understanding of the fundamental basis of drug-induced liver injury.”


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