Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Was happy to attend one of the first staff engagement events yesterday on the Integration of Health and Social Care services. A couple of hundred or so senior NHS and Council staff gathered at the Corn Exchange for a seminar and discussion forum. Tim Davison, Chief Exec of NHS Lothian gave an excellent presentation which very clearly laid out the scale of the challenge - people living longer (a good thing) but with an ever growing range of complex health conditions (not so good) that require care and health service support. And at a time of austerity, no extra cash to increase resources / services. Therefore, doing nothing is not an option. Integration is a first step to try and keep pace with increasing demand for services. Yesterday's event was a useful exercise in bringing together professionals and asking them for their views and ideas on how we face this challenge together. I was impressed by the knowledge of the people present but also struck by some comments that not all professionals are necessarily aware of all the options open to them or how to access alternatives to hospital admission when dealing with patients. Obviously better communications and information exchange will be something that we need to regard as a priority in the months ahead.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Webcam wonders and Headway

Full Council meeting this week. We debated Portobello High School and Trams. Made one feel quite nostalgic, both issues having been around for the best part of decade and neither yet complete. In Portobello's case not even started. Some decent discussion on both though and other items on the agenda and you now can relive those unforgettable moments from the Council chamber by clicking on the Webcam link here. Either watch live or gather round the PC on a Saturday night with friends and family to be entertained, enthused and enlightened. Saturday night TV's crap anyway, until Match of the Day. 

Did my regular Juniper Green Community Market duty yesterday amid some fine, crisp sunshine, then popped along to Headway, the charity which supports people who have suffered brain injuries, either through actual physical events or as a result of health conditions, strokes for example. They are celebrating their 30th birthday, magnificent cake above, which is a fantastic achievement for a charity which started from humble beginnings and has now become a vitally important service through many years of dedication and hard work by volunteers who keep the group going. Among them, founder members Bill and Jean Bryden, who are both due to retire in the next few months. They can both be very proud of their contribution. Their website, is a good source of info for anyone who needs to find out more.

Then, off to Tynecastle for another difficult afternoon. I think I might be a jinx. Turned up at halftime, Hearts were winning 1-0 at the time and promptly proceeded to go 2-1 down. Only a late John Sutton equaliser prevented me from feeling solely responsible for another defeat !

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Michael Marra

I was saddened this week to hear of the untimely death of Michael Marra, surely one of Scotland's greatest song writers. A wonderful entertainer and real old fashioned story teller, Michael's songs are all unique and individual gems. His career spanned much more than his songs of course but it was his live concerts that I remember most fondly. I was fortunate to see him perform in numerous Edinburgh venues over the years, the North Edinburgh Arts Centre, behind the Gunner in Muirhouse, being one particularly memorable experience. Thought the Scottish media were a bit muted this week when the announcement came but pleased to see a number of outlets covering MM's life and career in more depth today. The best obituary I've seen so far is in  today's Herald. If you've got time, scroll down from the article to some of the comments which are equally informative and touching and click on a couple of the You Tube links to experience some of Michael Marra's finest moments. Surely now "Hermless" must be adopted as Scotland's new national anthem ?

Friday, 19 October 2012

Staff Achievements

Was privileged to be asked to speak at the Health and Social Care Dept Staff Awards event at the Usher Hall recently. In the past year more than 240 employees have gained job related qualifications at various colleges in the area. Most of the time and effort had be their own, with support of friends and family and in many cases was the first additional qualifications gained since leaving school. A lot of determination and hard work required but I got a real sense of achievement from the people I talked to. In today's work environment, including health and social care those with the best qualifications will be more likely to succeed so the effort is likely to be rewarded in the longer term. In addition, it's reassuring to know that so many Council workers are so committed to their roles that they demonstrate added commitment to go that bit further. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Dove of Wester Hailes

Took a trip down to Holyrood this morning for pre-arranged meetings with Sarah Boyack MSP to discuss issues various and Michael McMahon MSP who chairs the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee. Didn't come as a great surprise to me that Michael shared my concerns about the impending impact of the changes but he and his colleagues are also concerned about the lack of detail forthcoming from the DWP about implementation and how to cope with the inevitable increase in poor and vulnerable people getting into difficulties and seeking advice on the new systems. As referred to in the post below the Policy and Strategy Committee agreed the report on Tuesday and also agreed to receive further updates including what mitigating measures, if any, we can take to soften the blow when it comes. In life, most problems also offer an opportunity or push you towards a solution. This one doesn't. No matter what angle you come at it, it looks bleak.
Then, off to the Dove Centre (care and social activities for the over 50s), honoured to be asked again to carry out the duties of Guest Chair at their AGM. Always an upbeat affair and great to meet up with old activists and workers from around the Wester Hailes area. The Lord Provost even popped in and delivered an impromtu address and photo opportunity, which seemed to go down well. I'm pleased to report that the Dove Centre continues to thrive, largely due to the fantastic efforts of Caroline and her excellent staff, and amazingly deals with the numerous challenges it faces year after year. The latest of which is that new premises have to be found to house the project. The current (old Rep Council) building has been declared unfit and other options need to be explored. As ever this is a more complex and difficult process than you think it should be. I've offered to help in any way I can and fully expect to get the call.