Aug 112017

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

A private clinic in Aberdeen is supporting a local duo with a challenge that will take them around the moon.

Temple Medical, a private aesthetic clinic, is providing professional medical support as two businessmen take on a gruelling fitness challenge to complete the circumference of the moon in six months.

Chris Robinson, 38, and Sean Gordon, 25, are cycling, running and rowing the circumference of the moon during 2017 – a total of 10,921km, in aid of local charity, Charlie House.

They aim to complete 27km per day between June and December 2017.

Temple Medical, owned and managed by respected GP, Dr Sam Robson, will monitor the pair throughout the challenge using the company’s in-house state-of-the-art body composition analysis equipment, the InBody770.

Temple uses the InBody 770 to help monitor progress on its Alevere weight loss programme, It provides essential feedback on fat % and guides the clinical staff when advising on nutritional changes required to keep patients healthy and on track with their weight loss journey

This machine provides medical grade analysis of their body composition, and is also commonly used to support world-class athletes.

The InBody 770 analyses the body’s water, body fat, bone minerals and muscle mass. The detailed biometric results will be reviewed every six weeks by Temple’s Dr Jo Green. She provides guidance and advice on an ongoing nutritional plan with an aim to ensure the men are eating appropriately to manage the Moon Challenge. Her goal is to keep them in the best physical shape to avoid injury and excessive fatigue. 

Dr Green said:

“27km per day will undoubtedly be an enormous challenge for their bodies, so our main goal is to keep them healthy and ensure that they are able to reach the end of the challenge in full fitness.

“Monitoring them regularly will allow us to keep a close eye on their metabolic rate and ensure that they understand what changes to make to their diet and exercise regime so that they don’t lose muscle.

“Throughout the challenge, they will be doing plenty of cardio exercise but also need to incorporate some resistance exercise in order to build muscle. Their nutritional requirements involve good hydration, good protein and good carbs – if they struggle physically, they will struggle psychologically.”

Chris Robinson said:

“I knew the challenge would be tough on my body and I wanted to make sure I could do the miles without any lasting damage. The In-Body analysis is fascinating. The first report told me I was in better shape than I had thought and gave me a real insight into my current levels of fat and muscle. Temple Medical gave me a nutritional plan and the team is working with my personal trainer to help me get through the long distances that I must cover.

“When the challenge finishes, we will work together to develop a maintenance plan so that I can sustain my fitness levels and improved body composition.  The body analysis and nutritional advice has been essential in helping me achieve the miles every day, and I can already see real benefits in terms of my body shape and energy.”

The inbody machine is instrumental in helping people to reach their fitness goals as part of the Kick Start programme. This entails providing the biometric analysis as described alongside nutritional advice and exercise guidance to help improve their body composition.

Dr Sam Robson, owner of Temple Medical, added:

“Our Kick Start programme gives a real in-depth look at what’s going on inside your body, and how to make improvements for long term health.

“Technology can play a huge part in helping people make changes for the better, and can enable ordinary people like Chris and Sean to take on a huge challenge in a safe manner.

“The reports we provide are very detailed, and at each review session we can see in detail the benefits our nutritional advice and training has had. We’re delighted to be part of the support team for the challenge and we wish Chris and Sean good luck as they set off around the moon.”

Temple Medical is a private medical clinic, concentrating on non-surgical or minimally-invasive procedures addressing problem skin and the effects of ageing. The clinic also offers Alevere weight management and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.

Dr Sam Robson is a member of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, and a fully qualified GP, who has over 13 years’ experience of aesthetic medicine. Temple Medical clinic has been recognised nationally and internationally with several industry awards, including Best Cosmetic Doctor, 2017 and 2015, in the Scottish Medical Cosmetic Awards; What Clinic customer service award 2016, and My Face My Body Best Non-surgical Makeover (2014) and Best Customer Experience (2012).

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Apr 072017

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Mark Milne, who will be taking part in Etape Loch Ness, to raise money for a trust set up for his son, Alfie. The youngster has a rare and incurable disease and the fund provides support to other patients with the condition.

The father of a young boy with a rare and incurable disease is saddling up and getting on his bike to
help parents around the world
whose children have also been struck down by the same debilitating condition.
Mark Milne, whose son, Alfie, is one of an estimated 250 people worldwide to have been diagnosed with lymphangiomatosis, will take on Etape Loch Ness to raise money for research into the disease and to fund patient support services.

The Alfie Milne Trust was launched by Mark and his wife, Tracy, after their son was diagnosed with lymphangiomatosis at less than a year old.

The condition leads to the formation of benign tumours of the lymphatic system which can grow anywhere in the body, and due to their massive expansion can cause severe and life-threatening complications.

Mark (48) will join thousands of other cyclists in completing a 66-mile route around the iconic loch on April 23 – and in doing so he hopes to spread the word about the condition and give patients better access to support services.

The couple from Aberdeen found it hard to get any information about the disease because it is so rare: it is thought that Alfie is one of only 250 estimated cases in the world and one of only 15 in the UK.

They want their fund-raising, which currently stands at over £200,000, will help other patients living with lymphangiomatosis by raising awareness of support services and by providing grants to medical bodies.

Mark says,

“Before we launched the Trust, I would be the one who would be standing at the finish line at sporting events, smoking a cigarette and watching everyone else do the hard work. But we’ve done lots of events to raise money since 2012 and although I am still no fitness freak, I’ve completed a couple of bike rides,10Ks and half marathons.

“I’m actually going to be doing a 10K the day before Etape Loch Ness, so I’m not sure how I will be feeling for the event. I’ve always fancied doing this one because it is so beautiful up there, and I think the fact that it is on closed roads will make it really special.”

Alfie, who is now aged nine, was a happy and healthy boy for the first eight months of his life. However, his parents noticed that one of his legs was swollen and after x-rays were carried out, doctors also identified a curve in his spine.

After an MRI scan, the family travelled to Great Ormand Street Hospital in London where the diagnosis of lymphangiomatosis was made. The disease was in Alfie’s right leg, pelvic area and in the marrow of some bones, and it was also preventing his blood from clotting.

His health rapidly deteriorated: while he was still in London he suffered internal bleeding, frequently high temperatures and had to undergo countless blood transfusions – he was so poorly that his parents and doctors feared the worst. However, he battled through and some weeks later was well enough to return to Aberdeen to undergo chemotherapy.

From there on, the family has had to watch as Alfie – who was five by the time he took his first steps – has endured numerous stays in hospital, blood transfusions, drug therapies and various treatment plans.

His leg has deteriorated and Alfie has not been able to walk unaided since 2012. However, the family hope there will be a drastic improvement in his mobility after undergoing specialist surgery at the start of the year.

Mark explains,

“Last year we learned about a procedure that could be performed on Alfie’s leg to try and straighten it, with the hope of allowing him to walk unaided.

“Surgery is always very difficult with Alfie’s condition because of the high risks of infection and lymphatic leakage, but after undergoing lots of physiotherapy to prepare him for the surgery, we went ahead with it.

“The surgery was carried out at Great Ormand Street and it went really, really well. It was a success but it’s down to Alfie now to work on the physiotherapy and battle through it to get up on his own feet. As with any condition like this, we have good days and we have bad days.

“When Alfie was diagnosed we really struggled to find out information about his condition because it is so rare. We hope that other families, regardless of where they are in the world, will be able to benefit from the work of the Alfie Milne Trust, so that getting the support they need becomes easier.”

Further details about Alfie’s Trust are available at and donations to Mark’s fund-raising efforts can be made on  

Thousands of cyclists, many of them raising money for good causes including official charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support, are gearing up to take part in Etape Loch Ness on April 23.

Starting and finishing in Inverness, the 66-mile route follows the north side of the loch and then loops round at Fort Augustus to return via the south side. Once past Fort Augustus, cyclists face the toughest challenge of the course – a 4.8 mile climb rising to 380m in height at the Glendoe Summit.

Etape Loch Ness has grown to become one of the nation’s best loved cycling events and places this year sold out in a record 50 hours. Further information about the event is available at and regular updates also appear on social media at and @EtapeLochNess on Twitter.

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May 132016

SCOAP logo 2With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A Scottish charitable organisation launches today which will help buy CBD/ medicinal cannabis oil for people with health conditions.

Individuals who want to use CBD oil but who cannot afford to do so without financial assistance can apply for assistance; donations are also sought.

Believed to be the UK’s first charity helping people in this way, Scottish Cannabis Oil Assistance Programme (S.C.O.A.P.) is now a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO).

One of the directors, Suzanne Kelly said:

“We see this recognition not only as a huge step forward for our fundraising, but as an acknowledgement that medicinal cannabis oil has a part to play in alleviating the symptoms of illnesses such as Fibromyalgia. It was an acquaintance with this particular debilitating condition that sparked the idea for this charity. They greatly benefit from using oil – but the monthly cost is over their budget. 

Medicinal cannabis oil was only recently legalised in the UK, and it is an expensive proposition. The other directors and I hope to start raising funds to help people who might benefit from cannabis oil/CBD. Full details of how to donate or how to apply for assistance can be found on S.C.O.A.P’s website.”

Evidence is mounting in the US and the UK that cannabis oil can help a variety of health problems; more research is still needed. CBD oil currently available here does not contain THC, the ingredient associated with a cannabis ‘high’.

Kelly comments:

“We expect people to come to S.C.O.A.P. after doing their own research and speaking to their medical practitioners. We are not doctors and are not promising any results or cures. However, the anecdotal feedback and growing body of clinical evidence has convinced the directors that helping to get oil to people who want but cannot afford it is a worthwhile endeavour.”

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May 132016

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Ambassador Awards - Prof John Watson

Professor John Watson recieved a special recognition award at the Team Aberdeen Ambassador Awards for his efforts in bringing conferences to the north east of Scotland.

Ambassadors responsible for bringing high profile conferences to the north east were on Wednesday (11 May) recognised at an award ceremony in Aberdeen’s Chester Hotel. The annual Team Aberdeen Ambassador Awards celebrated the efforts of those who brought conferences on a diverse range of topics – including gene regulation, translation, rural sociology and marine technology – to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire over the past 12 months.

Twenty individuals received awards for their efforts in promoting the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to their associations, successfully bidding for and hosting 18 conferences in Aberdeen City and Shire over the past year.

Such events have highlighted local organisations’ expertise within a diverse range of subject areas, and have helped to promote the north east as an attractive conferencing destination.

A special recognition award was also given to Professor John Watson of the University of Aberdeen. Throughout his career, Professor Watson has been an incredible ambassador for the region. This special award recognises the wide range of academic events he has brought to Aberdeen over the years, including the European Optical Society 2012, 3DTV 2013 and IEEE Oceans 2007 and 2017 conferences.

Professor Watson says,

“I am absolutely thrilled to receive this special recognition award, and it is fantastic to see so many of my peers’ efforts being recognised as well. Organising conferences on this scale requires the support of a strong team, and we are all grateful for the hard work of our colleagues in helping bring them to fruition.

“As academics, we have wide networks of contacts that span the globe and it is important that we use these to bring our international colleagues to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire for high-profile conferences and events. This not only benefits our own academic institutes by bringing world-renowned experts to Aberdeen, but benefits also the conference venues and has a knock on effect to the leisure tourism industry as visitors discover just what the region has to offer.”

Steve Harris, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, adds,

“Aberdeen is often called the oil capital of Europe, and many know about the large energy industry events which take place in the city. While the energy industry is obviously valuable to the region, it is important to realise and celebrate the diverse range of academic events that also take place.

Ambassador Awards - Winners“From Latin American studies to cement and concrete technology, the breadth of conferences held in the north east over the past year is staggering. It shows that Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have a lot to offer in a diverse range of important research fields. 

The success of these conferences highlights the excellent facilities that the north east has to offer.

“From the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre for large-scale conferences to the hotels and exclusive use venues which host smaller meetings and events, the region has a lot to offer those looking for somewhere to hold a successful conference.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Team Aberdeen Ambassadors for all of the work they have put into promoting the region to their academic colleagues, and we look forward to working with them over the next twelve months to bring even more conferences to the area.”

The full list of winners is:

  • Dr Raif Yuecel & Linda Duncan, University of Aberdeen – Scottish Society of Cytomics Meeting 2014
  • Dr Shauna Cunningham, Robert Gordon University – Diet, Gene Regulation and Metabolic Disease Conference 2015
  • Professor Patience Schell, University of Aberdeen – Society for Latin American Studies Conference 2015
  • Yasa Ratnayeke, Aberdeen City Council – Energy Cities Annual Conference 2015
  • Dr Graham Wilson, Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital – Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland Scientific Meeting 2015
  • Karen Orchard, Aberdeen City Council – HyTrEc Conference 2015
  • Dr Alastair McKinlay, NHS Grampian & Dr Umesh Basavaraju, University of Aberdeen  – Scottish  Society of Gastroenterology Spring Meeting 2015
  • Professor Peter Reid, Robert Gordon University – i3 information: interactions and impact 2015
  • Dr Berndt Müller, University of Aberdeen – Translation UK 2015 Conference
  • Professor Bernadette Connolly, University of Aberdeen – International Student Research Forum 2015
  • Professor David Lurie, University of Aberdeen – 9th Conference on Fast Field Cycling NMR Relaxometry 2015
  • Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland, James Hutton Institute – European Society for Rural Sociology Congress
  • Dr Mohammed Imbabi, University of Aberdeen – Cement and Concrete Science Conference 2015
  • Dr Alasdair Mackenzie, University of Aberdeen – Neuropeptides 2015 Conference
  • Dr Barry O’Neill, University of Aberdeen – 12th International Workshops Methods for the Development and Evaluation of Maritime Technologies
  • Dr Ejaz Pathan & Dr Neil Basu,, NHS Grampian – Scottish Society for Rheumatology Autumn Meeting 2015
  • Elaine Cleary, Junior Chamber International – Junior Chamber International European Presidents Conference 2016
  • Professor John Watson, University of Aberdeen – Special Recognition Award – European Optical Society 2012, 3DTV 2013, IEEE Oceans 2007 and 2017

Team Aberdeen Ambassadors is a collaboration between VisitAberdeenshire, University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University, James Hutton Institute and Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, working together to increase the level of national and international association conferences being held in Aberdeen City and Shire. The Team supports individuals who can influence their own professional association in bringing events to the north east.

For more information, visit

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Apr 012016

Keiran BoothWith thanks to Kieran Booth.

In October last year Barthol Chapel resident Kieran Booth (pictured), was selected by the charity, First Aid Africa, to join their 2016 international expedition team of volunteers. From June 1st, the third-year Robert Gordon University student will be travelling to Kenya to teach life-saving First Aid to schools and communities in remote Sub-Saharan Africa.

First Aid Africa works to provide and encourage access to sustainable First Aid equipment and education, delivering emergency healthcare solutions to benefit the public.

Each year, the charity sends teams of volunteers to rural areas of Uganda, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania to train communities in First Aid skills which they would otherwise not receive. It is a little known fact that injuries kill more people each year in Africa than HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined.

Having recently completed his Overseas First Aid training course, Kieran (20) is looking forward to the challenges that he will face during his expedition.

“It’s going to be a fairly tiring and demanding experience out in Kenya but I have no doubt it will be equally rewarding. I applied to get involved as I knew it would be something totally different and out of my comfort zone but it feels great knowing that I’ll be helping to provide support and make a real difference in areas where First Aid knowledge and resources are practically nil.”

The international First Aid training has provided the volunteers with knowledge of how to deal with casualties both within the UK and out in Africa.

“It’s been really interesting learning about the ways to treat various injuries but we have had to realise the importance of how administering First Aid overseas can differ from across here in the UK. Many of the materials that would be used to treat injuries in this country simply aren’t available in the parts that we are travelling to and so it’s all about being resourceful and using what little equipment you have in the most effective way. One simple triangular bandage has more uses than I ever thought!”

Kieran will be making the 4500-mile journey to Kenya from the beginning of June to begin a full month of teaching before the next group of overseas volunteers arrive to relieve them.

Ahead of the expedition Kieran is required to raise money for the charity to cover the costs of the various resources and materials required during the trip and beyond.

“There are a lot of worthy charities out there seeking donations and I appreciate it’s difficult for people to support as many as they would like to. I’ve organised fundraisers that I hope people will be keen to participate in – the aim is for people to enjoy themselves, be in with a chance of winning some super prizes and all while helping a good cause.”

‘The BIG North East Quiz Night’ will take place on Saturday 23rd April in the Melvin Hall in Tarves from 7pm – suitable for all ages.

Tickets for ‘The BIG North East Raffle’ are also on sale, which features an array of prizes from businesses across Aberdeenshire and beyond.

Tickets can be reserved for both fundraisers by emailing

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Jan 212016

Cannabis OilWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Scottish Cannabis Oil Assistance Programme is a new entity that will help people with medical conditions purchase CBD oil. CBD oil is now legal in the United Kingdom, and worldwide evidence is mounting that oil may be beneficial to sufferers of conditions such as ME, Fibromyalgia and Epilepsy.

The founders are keen to stress they make no promises to alleviate or disease. They merely want to help people who want to use CBD oil but who cannot afford it.

It is up to anyone with an illness to make the decision to use any oil themselves and/or with their medical practitioner. The THC in cannabis, which results in the ‘high’, is removed from CBD oil products.

Details of the scheme can be found here:

Donors are sought; regular donations or one-offs are welcome. Those who already know they benefit from CBD oil are able to register, and those who want further information will find some answers on the website as well.

The scheme was started after one of the founders, Suzanne Kelly, found that some of her acquaintances were unable to afford CBD oil, but that oil had a very positive impact on these people’s health. Initially helping a few people, it is hoped that more donors will come forward.

Kelly said:

“Research and anecdotal evidence certainly seems to indicate that people with severe medical conditions or with severe nausea (whether from illnesses such as CVS or from medical treatment) are benefiting from cannabis oil use. Quality oil is however very expensive to produce and sell, or import, and is out of reach of some people. 
“I hope that we will recruit more sponsors to help people. One person I know with a debilitating disease tells me oil use decreases their pain and increases their mobility. There are three founders; none of us will take any payment, expense reimbursement of any kind – 100% of donations will be going on purchasing and delivering cannabis oil to those who need it.”

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Jul 162015
Stewart Stevenson, Inverallochy dispensing kiosk2 2015

Stewart Stevenson MSP takes his turn on the new dispensing kiosk.

With thanks to Paul Robertson.

Stewart Stevenson visited the Post Office in Inverallochy this week to take his turn on the new piece of technology which is the talk of the town. The robot kiosk, developed in an Aberdeen University research project, is enabling residents to speak with pharmacists in Fraserburgh via webcam and receive medicines dispensed straight from the machine.

The trial examines how better services can be delivered to rural areas. Should the trial be successful, similar schemes could be rolled out in other parts of Aberdeenshire and across rural Scotland.

The robotic kiosk, which cost around £150,000 to develop, allows customers to speak to a pharmacist at Bairds Pharmacy in Fraserburgh via webcam. The kiosk is filled with a range of prescription and over-the-counter remedies which can then be dispensed as necessary.

Testing the new kiosk at the Inverallochy Post Office, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Rural communities sometimes struggle to retain local amenities so this trial is a very important step in ensuring that such vital pharmacy services can be provided locally and efficiently. It is important to our health, and to the health of our rural town centres, to have facilities on our doorstep.

“I am very proud that this trial is a product of the North-east from start to finish – researched at the University of Aberdeen and delivered for trial in Inverallochy and Fraserburgh. I would encourage my constituents to make use of the new easy-to-use tool and I will follow the project with a keen interest.”

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]


Feb 052015
Chris McGuinness, Gary Cox, Abigail Cox, Dawn Cox, Sharon Sheridan, Brian Sheridan2

ACSHA chairman Chris McGuinness, Gary Cox, Abigail Cox and Dawn Cox hand over the cheque to Sharon Sheridan and Brian Sheridan. (L-R)

With thanks to Eoin Smith.

A group of hoteliers inspired by the bravery of an Aberdeenshire teenager who is battling cancer has smashed the target of a fund-raising campaign set up in her name.

Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels’ Association (ACSHA) has handed over £45,000 to the Teenage Cancer Trust – more than double the size of the donation that it had initially hoped to make.

ACHSA members rallied round for the charity after learning how it was supporting 18-year-old Abigail Cox – the daughter of hotelier and association member Gary Cox – while she is undergoing treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma.

Abigail has received treatment for her illness – a rare bone cancer affecting children and adolescents – at units run by the Teenage Cancer Trust in Glasgow and Edinburgh. She has now completed a course of chemotherapy and will undergo an operation later this week to remove bone where the tumour started.

ACHSA decided to embark on the fund-raising campaign to show their support for the Cox family from Inverurie, and to highlight the work being carried out the by the Trust. Members handed over the final tally at the Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards, and were joined by Abigail and her parents, who run The Northern Hotel in Aberdeen and Edward’s nightclub in Inverurie.

Abigail said:

“After a long and difficult year of treatments my life will soon be back to as normal as possible.

“The Teenage Cancer Unit at the Western General in Edinburgh really made my stay in hospital as easy and as comfortable as it could be. My year would have been so much more difficult and depressing without them, and I can’t thank them enough.

“You are surrounded by people your own age who can really relate and understand what you are going through and the nurses are always so friendly and positive. They help you to keep a smile on your face. Everyone involved in The Teenage Cancer Unit genuinely cares about you and your recovery.

“They treat you like a teenager and not just a cancer patient. The unit provided the best possible support for both me and my family.”

ACSHA chairman Chris McGuinness added:

“We thought that a £20,000 target was ambitious, so never in our wildest dreams did we consider that we would raise double that amount. I’m really proud of the way in which members have embraced this opportunity to support a charity which has been so instrumental in helping one of our own.

“The presentation was made all the more special by the fact that Abigail and her parents were able to join us on stage. It was great to see that Abigail has been responding well to her treatment, and I know that is in no small part down to the help she has been getting from the Teenage Cancer Trust.

“She has been receiving treatment in the south of Scotland, miles away from family and friends, and the fact that the Trust has been able to treat her in centres specifically for teenagers, alongside teenage patients, has helped her to remain positive.”

In addition to organising collections in hotels and setting up an online fund-raising page, hotel managers staged a Workathon in which they walked between member hotels and carried out tasks from serving drinks to cleaning floors at each venue. Some of the proceeds from ticket sales for the tourism awards was also donated to the cause.

Christine Jason, head of regional fund-raising (North) for the Teenage Cancer Trust, is full of praise for the work of ACHSA members and how they worked together.

She added:

“We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and energy of everyone involved and this has resulted not only in a significant level of funds being raised in the North East but also an increased awareness of our work.  The Association has been instrumental in introducing our work to businesses in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“The money raised through the Association will go towards ensuring every young person with cancer has access to expert support.  It will mean that they are treated in an age-appropriate environment and given the medical and emotional support that they need.”

Aberdeen City and Shire Hotels’ Association represents 43 independently operated hotels and conference venues. These hotels provide around 4,100 bedrooms in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. The Association is committed to improving the quality and standard of hotel services and to furthering the overall standards of excellence and hospitality within the region.

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Sep 052014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryTally ho! It’s all happening in the Deen and Shire. The Fyvie Festival was last weekend, offering a nice day out including the chance to look at the priceless Tiffany window in Fyvie Kirk. Celebrate Aberdeen took place, rain and shine, across the city. Acts such as Youse Dancin’, The Black Gold Bandits, Iron Broo and The Gerry Jablonski Band entertained the soggy crowds.

Anthony Baxter’s film will open in cinemas across Scotland on Friday the 5th. Alex Salmond has been invited to the premier in Aberdeen with a Q&A session and panel.

He’s also been invited to visit the Menie Estate residents; it’s a shame he’s been too busy to visit his constituents there, but give him another few years to fit it in, and I’m sure he will. No word on whether Sarah Malone of Trump will attend.
This week I had planned to write about the menace the city is bravely tackling. Drunk Driving? The few slightly tipsy people occasionally seen in the city centre on weekend nights? Fuel or food poverty?

No, the problem we have all been afraid to face is finally in the spotlight: the sandwich board. These dangerous, frightening health menaces lurk outside sandwich shops (appropriately enough), restaurants, pubs and more: it’s a wonder anyone’s still alive.

The council is taking decisive action against these horrendous trip hazards, you’ll be delighted to know. Of course, the sign draws attention to itself (that’s its purpose you see), and you’d have to be as drunk as an ex-councillor not to see the signs.

A hardened cynic might ask the city why it’s going after sandwich board signs, given that one or two other cities round the world somehow manage to co-exist with these signs. I propose we sent our officers and provosts off on a round-the-world fact-finding mission; they are good at that sort of thing.

I suppose that since the city has smoothed every square inch of pavement and street that it is responsible for, it’s now time to turn its attention to the scourge of society, the sandwich board. I for one feel safer knowing that something will be done about the sandwich board plague. Chalk up another one for ACC; the writing’s on the wall for signs.

However, there is something nearly as important as the city’s challenge to the sign menace. This isn’t an Aberdeen or even a Scottish story, so we really should pay it no attention at all. However, I thought looking at the story of little Ashya King and how the police and Southampton Hospital had nobly gone to his rescue would be of interest this week.

A brain tumour landed this child in Southampton General Hospital; which would not fund a particular treatment his parents decided they wanted to try. It could prove life-saving. The hospital were certainly not able to guarantee that the treatment they offered would be the best or the only option.

The parents did their own research (kind of like those meddling parents who invented Lorenzo’s Oil when their child was ill ), and wanted their son to be treated at a clinic abroad, which said they would do the treatment now and worry about payment later (which in itself is rather a strange concept, almost as if treatment and medicine should be available to those who need it regardless of money concerns.I wonder if this might catch on in the UK?).

The parents had a crazy idea, and decided to get their son treated at this clinic, and moved to take Ashya there.

Well, Southampton General Hospital reacted in the only manner open to it: they instantly moved to take Ashya into custody, issued press releases saying that Ashya was in grave danger, called in the police and demanded Ashya’s return so they could get custody of him and continue to deny him the desired treatment.  Sounds perfectly reasonable and measured to me.

Obviously the hospital and its staff know best, just like they do up and down the UK. There might not be a specific law that says you have to keep your child in a hospital which refuses to pay for a treatment which might well help him. However, the police were only too happy to go on a Spanish vacation – sorry – suffer the hardship of going to Spain — to have the sick child put in isolation and his parents locked up, unable to visit.

(You might think that the Spanish police assisted by the dashing, intelligent, sensitive UK police force would be sufficient to stop two distraught parents from absconding from a hospital visit to their cancer-stricken son, but you would of course be wrong).

For some reason (perhaps the outcry of one or two people in the UK) the parents have been released from custody, an extradition order to the UK has been lifted, and if the hospital agrees, he may get treatment after all. We’ll see what happens next in due course; perhaps some related definitions will shed some light on the goings-on to date.

Neglect: (English Noun) to treat an individual or an animal in such a way their needs are not met; to ignore, fail to assist.

Of course, hospitals will only ever care about the patient’s welfare. Money, targets, shutting up whistle blowers and defending lawsuits never enter into it. If Southampton moved to take a boy with cancer away from his parents, it was only for his own health and happiness. I’m sure it consulted its best child psychologists in advance, and confirmed that no mental or emotional harm would come from their actions.

That’s why hospitals call the police on anyone who would disobey them, and that’s why the police and hospitals turn involved families into criminals – all for the patient’s welfare.

Southampton accused the parents of ‘suspected neglect’ for taking their son to get treated.

It may seem strange that in one part of the UK suspected neglect of one child results in police jetting off to Spain, and in another part of the UK like Rotherham it results in 1400 or more young people being sexually abused and absolutely nothing being done about it despite people coming forward, abuse accusations being swept under the carpet and victims discredited, but there you go. I guess you have to expect these minor regional variations in policing.

But let’s look at the august, professional men and women who run things at Southampton General Hospital, and why they have the right to accuse the King parents of neglect.

In 2010 a boy named Matthew Kenway, of Fareham, Hampshire, died at Southampton General Hospital ; he was going to have a routine kidney operation. No one checked his heart was still working; they didn’t hook up a heart monitor. Eventually they realised there was a problem, and still there seems to have been a delay in getting him help. A fatal delay, but it could have happened to anyone really. So, no negligence there then.

With the tiny amount of things that go wrong in the medical profession, and with the support and encouragement given to whistle-blowers (on the rare occasion they are needed), you wouldn’t think there would be such a thing as a website called – yet somehow there is. According to it:

“The family’s solicitor Patricia Wakeford, of Blake Lapthorn, said: “Evidence heard at the inquest raised grave concerns about the quality of care that Matthew received and the processes that were in place at Southampton General Hospital at the time of Matthew’s death. Shortly after 3am, the oxygen monitor probe appeared not to be recording his oxygen levels. The nurse initially thought the machine might be faulty, but it transpired that Matthew’s heart had stopped.

“Eventually, a cardiac arrest call was put out and the arrest team then attempted, for 40 minutes until 4.20am, to resuscitate Matthew but they were unsuccessful and he died. During the course of the two-day inquest, a series of key findings emerged suggesting there were serious shortcomings in the care Matthew received. At post-mortem it emerged that the stent placed in the left kidney was not in the correct place.

These are just the sort of people you want wresting legal control of your son away from you.

I guess anyone can make a mistake. Except Southampton General. This might not be neglect, but there was a wee matter of apparent experimenting on patients. Southampton seems to have been involved in a trial of a new antibiotic made by Bayer; it must have been very exciting for the patients who got this drug.

Doubtless they were all made perfectly aware of the risks of this trial taking place in the hallowed surgical wards of Southampton; to do otherwise might have looked like neglect. Alas, one website isn’t that happy about it:

“This information [about the experimental drug] was not revealed to the hospitals before up to 650 people had undergone surgery, violating their human rights. The trials resulted in nearly half of the people at one test centre in Southampton developing potentially life-threatening infections. At least one patient died, and another developed an infection so severe that his relatives were initially told he would not survive. Nearly half the patients at Southampton Hospitals Trust developed post-operative wound infections requiring emergency therapy. Infection and mortality rates at the five other trial sites were never revealed on grounds of “confidentiality”

“Stephen Karran, a retired consultant surgeon from Southhampton, was concerned about the trial. He pointed out the flaw in the earliest possible stage, and contacted the press after the trial went ahead unaltered anyway. Bayer has confirmed that it knew of absorption problems with the drug before the study began. However, they still used the dangerous drug for two years, are still keeping trial results secret, and have not paid compensation to the relatives of patients injured or killed in the course of its unapproved trials.”

It might have been Bayer’s drug trial, but Southampton Hospitals Trust ran with it. I’d not want to be thought cynical, but often these drug trials involve a wee bit of money going to the institutions involved. The mega international pharmaceutical sector is every bit as benevolent as you would think.

I’m sure Southampton will be happy to explain more about people being experimented on, how informed consent was obtained, when they stopped the trials and how many people were at risk – oh, and how much money they got for this and other experimentations. Keeping people from risk and preventing neglect: that’s what Southampton is all about, as the King family will tell you.

It will be interesting to see what evidence there is that taking the little boy to be treated at a different hospital is tantamount to neglect.

If this ever reaches a courtroom, I hope no serpentine defence lawyer will ask the hospital any questions about neglect past and present. After all, the hospital wasn’t to know the boy was gone for 6 hours, despite his supposedly needing constant care and attention. You and I are of course laypeople, but to some that 6 hour gap in a young child’s cancer nursing might seem ever so slightly neglectful on the part of Southampton.

Communication Breakdown: (English compound noun) A deterioration or cessation of dialogue (also an excellent Led Zeppelin song)

According to the BBC:

“Dr Michael Marsh, medical director at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said he regretted that their communication and relationship with the King family had ‘broken down’.”

The hospital was great at communicating. They communicated to the police and other authorities that they wanted custody of this boy, that he was possibly neglected, and that he was at great risk because a battery in a feeding tube system might die.

What a pity then that their paid in-house media people never noticed the video which spread like c-difficile across facebook showing a happy Ashya and his parents abroad, with no feeding or other problems. They would of course have backed off.

Old Susannah was trying to find out a few things about this feeding tube at the centre of the hospital’s attempt to get custody of the boy: what kind of battery did it have, how often did it need to be replaced, were the parents aware the battery had to be changed, did they try to call or text the parents to tell them about the battery?

Obviously they did all that and didn’t just run to the media and the police, complaining that communication had broken down. I will be very reassured to know how much effort the hospital made to tell the family about the feeding system when they had left.

I also was going ask other questions (What did the hospital think Ashya would be going through stress wise because of the hospital and police actions and how would that affect his emotions and health? Why was there a 6 hour gap between anyone visiting this ill child before they realised he was gone? – and a few other minor points).

Alas! There is indeed a communication breakdown. The hospital’s media team has failed to answer its phone on any of the many times I phone it. I left 3 messages on 2nd September with my email and my mobile number. Yes, a communication breakdown is a serious problem.It’s very good of Southampton to regret having one.

Obviously they don’t regret criminialising a family, adding to their anxiety, having people arrested, refusing to fund treatment, and trying to take custody of someone’s sick child. If they did, they’d have apologised for it. They are sorry however for the communication breakdown. Old Susannah can almost hear that familiar refrain so often given to the media: “we don’t discuss individual cases.”

Except when it suits them.

They told the world the age, sex, condition name of Ashya; they shared his and his parents’ images. It will be a breeze for them to prove in court that they only breached the data protection act after taking every other step possible. The phone log of their calls to the Kings will be a very reassuring document indeed.

Heroic: (English adjective) Having qualities of braveness, courage fearlessness and strength.

In this whole saga, the shining heroic actions of a few people show through. Not only was Southampton brave enough to issue press releases claiming the child was in grave danger and take custody away from the parents to the state, the police showed heroism as well.

They bravely lept to conclusions; they bravely got on a plane to Spain, they courageously raided Ashya’s grandmother’s house for a much-needed intensive search. A Belfast Telegraph article reports:

“Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said last night: “We have been told by medical experts that the battery life on the machine that administers his food is now likely to have expired. We don’t know whether the King family have any spares, the knowledge or any way of recharging the battery. If they don’t without properly administered food, Ashya’s condition will deteriorate very quickly. With each hour that passes our concern for him grows.””

If I didn’t know better, I’d start to wonder if the UK’s police have a shoot/arrest/taser/search/criminalise first and don’t ask questions later approach.

How come the hospital couldn’t tell the police whether or not the family knew how to work the apparatus? When it was shown that the boy was fine and happy wasn’t that the end of it? Thank goodness other such breaches in the Inspector Morse-like investigation techniques of the police are once in a lifetime.

Old Susannah also guesses that, like the hospital, no one at the police was quite heroic enough to call the family or leave them a message about the battery; doubtless we’ll find out what they did about the battery in due course. It would be cynical to suggest this was all a witch hunt. Much better it turned out the way it did. Let this be a lesson to other parents (or to people in the past who have tried to interfere with hospitals, like these people ).

Mrs King, the grandmother had this to say after her flat was searched (perhaps they would have found the family hiding in the chiller cabinet or under a bed?):

“They (the authorities) are the ones who are cruel because they have taken poor little Ashya who is dying of a brain tumour and they won’t let the parents, my son and daughter-in-law, they won’t let them see him at all.

“It’s terrible, it is so cruel it is unbelievable.”

She added:

“To try and make out that he has been neglected… Why haven’t we got any human rights? They keep on, the EU, about human rights. Where are our human rights? We have got none.”

Before ending this definition of heroics, the police and hospital might well have got away with it, if it weren’t for some meddling kids. Naveed King, elder brother to Ashya has been spending his time campaigning, raising awareness, looking after his other siblings, dealing with the media, raising funds, posting updates on Facebook and other such activities.

Surely he should have been doing his homework instead or playing video games? The other King children held fast as well. Let’s see whether there isn’t some bureauocrat out there ready to criticise Naveed’s impertinence. We can’t have young people running around criticising authorities and sticking up for their families now, can we?

Next week: don’t expect answers from Souuthampton, but I’ll keep asking.

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Jun 102014

Following on from Duncan Harley’s two part article marking the 50th Anniversary of the typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen, Sandra McKay shares with Aberdeen Voice readers her childhood memories of 1964 when she and her mother survived the disease.

1024px-Typhoid_inoculation2I remember standing holding my daddy’s hand, my sister on the other side of him as we watched the ambulance disappear down to the end of our road.
I was six years old and this was the day my mummy was taken into hospital with typhoid.

I thought I would never see her again.

Everyone was talking about it. The Typhoid. Neighbours in the street, people in shops, bus conductors, even children.

Newspapers and television were advising the nation how many more people in Aberdeen had fallen victim to the disease. Families were cancelling holidays. Other towns and cities were urging Aberdonians not to visit.

Our lives over the following weeks seemed empty without our mum.

She had apparently bought cold meat from a shop in Union Street called Lows. My sister did not eat any, as she had been attending a friend’s birthday party. Mum, Dad, and myself ate the meat.

We visited my mummy at the City Hospital in Aberdeen. This was a bleak experience. We had to speak to her through huge closed windows. I found it sad as I watched other families trying to converse with their loved ones in the same way.

The long days continued to pass. I too became very unwell. Mummy was still gone. Daddy was at home looking after us. Schools were off. There seemed to be numerous doctor’s visits and lots of samples were taken.

Eventually I was taken into hospital. I do not remember anything about getting there. All I remember was looking up at lights and screens at night. The first few days must have passed in a blur as I have no memory of this time. However, as I became a little stronger I was allowed to get up and dress. Unfortunately I was given boy’s clothes to wear. This was a less than positive experience for a six-year-old girl.

How time dragged. I can still remember the layout of the ward. Where the clock was, where the ‘clothes choosing’ and dressing area was, how the windows were allowed to open, and more importantly how they had to remain tightly closed. Lockers and beds were dragged into the centre of the ward every morning at cleaning time, 10 a.m.

This movement was exciting to watch. I remember the medicine trolley with the thick brown stuff, and the milky white stuff.  Both were really horrible.

There is no memory of anyone coming in to play with us and time seemed to go on for ever

I remember our family coming to visit me every day. My mummy was with them as she had been given the ‘all clear’ after a stay in hospital of four weeks. I hadn’t been close to her for such a long time. The emotion was difficult for everyone. One day they brought my friend Susan down to visit me.

I can still remember that feeling, tears in our eyes, as young six-year-olds tried in such a grown up way, to deal with the ‘situation’ and the impossible task of interacting through granite walls and huge closed windows. It was easier when everyone just went away.

More long days and weeks passed. I did lots of colouring-in and received lots of crayons and books. I was also given by an older girl in the ward, who was given the ‘all clear’ ahead of my time, two little dollies with a few pieces of clothing. These dollies became really precious to me. Another memory I have of isolation at Ward 2 was the number of ice lollies we were given. Something to do with the fever I think.

There is no memory of anyone coming in to play with us and time seemed to go on for ever. I remember watching the jerky movement of the big minute hand on the ward clock as time passed by. I remember looking through colouring books for a page that wasn’t coloured in.  I remember changing the dollies for the millionth time. I remember not liking the food or the food smells.

Eventually the day came, when I was informed of my ‘all clear’. I was going home. Someone in authority assured me that the little dollies would be fumigated and sent to me with other belongings. This seemed OK with me.

On the day of my release from hospital, the weather was very warm. At my request our family visited the Beach park with the concrete train and rail track. We also spent time at the pony and trap rides which were at Aberdeen Beach during the sixties. I felt very peculiar, as if I didn’t fit in. I just wanted to get home to see if the dollies had arrived.

Unfortunately they never came.

Sandra McKay (Aged six, letter written aged 41, now aged 56)

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