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10 October 2003

AMBULANCE CUTS HIT PATIENT CARE
CUTS in ambulance services in Cowal have led to an increasing number of patients being forced to wait for treatment, in one case it is claimed, a casualty waited four hours.
According to MP for Argyll and Bute Alan Reid, many of his constituents have been made to wait an excruciatingly long time for treatment and one person who required emergency brain surgery had to wait for almost two hours for an ambulance to arrive to take him to Inverclyde Royal Hospital (IRH).
In another incident, Mr Reid said that he received a letter from an elderly woman who had fallen and broken her ankle and had to wait four hours for an ambulance to take her to IRH, while another elderly woman who was seriously ill had to be taken to the hospital in a patient transport minibus.
Just last month, on Saturday September 27, staff at the Barnardo’s shop in Ferry Brae, Dunoon, rushed to the assistance of a gentleman who had fallen in the street. They immediately called for an ambulance and made sure that the gentleman was comfortable while he waited for the emergency service to arrive.
However, as the situation unfolded, it was revealed that the control room staff were put in the impossible predicament of what to do while the sole Dunoon ambulance was attending an emergency in Strachur. They sent an emergency services crew from Inveraray to deal with the call but thankfully, the Dunoon ambulance managed to attend at Barnardo’s before the Inveraray crew arrived.
However, it still took almost an hour for the ambulance to turn up.
Mr Reid said: “This is simply not good enough. Adrian Lucas, Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, is blaming the decisions of the control room staff when it is blatantly obvious that the real problem is there are not enough ambulances in Cowal.
He explained: “The issue of ambulance cover in the Cowal area first came to light last year, when it was revealed that Dunoon Ambulance Station would be going over to one double-crewed accident and emergency vehicle 24 hours a day, with a second vehicle between 8am and 4pm Monday to Thursday. These new arrangements are in place of the old system where there were two on-call ambulances 24 hours a day.
“Urgent action is required and I will keep pressing for answers.”
A source from the ambulance service, who did not want to be named, commented on the difficult predicaments in which control staff were being put.
They said: “At the moment, we have three ambulances in total in Dunoon and Tighnabruaich.
“But in Tighnabruiach, the ambulance can only operate one weekend in every three, again due to staff shortages.”
The source added: “It is ludicrous that an ambulance has to come all the way from Inveraray for an emergency.
“Dunoon Hospital has been downgraded so much that the health board say it doesn’t need as much cover as it used to and if a patient needs any more treatment than an elastoplast, they are sent over the water.
“We are asking anyone who has had to wait a long time to complain to the Scottish Ambulance Service because they don’t seem to be doing anything to recruit new staff so that the second ambulance in Dunoon can be kept in operation.”
An official spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service commented that with regards to the call to Barnardo’s on September 27, an investigation was underway.
The spokesperson said: “Dunoon’s ambulance was attending an emergency in Strachur when the call came in.
“Normally, if the Dunoon ambulance is dispatched then the Inveraray crew is moved down to provide resources.
“In this instance, that didn’t happen and we are investigating the reasons for this. The Dunoon ambulance arrived before the Inveraray crew and the response time was 46 minutes after the call was made.”
*If you have been made to wait a ridiculously long time for an ambulance, call the Observer on 706854.


CASTLE TOWARD SELL OFF
A MAJOR outdoor facility in Cowal looks certain to go under the hammer following a closed-door meeting at Kilmory last week.
Argyll and Bute Council’s Strategic Policy Committee held a meeting last Thursday from which press and public were excluded, at which it was decided to sell off Castle Toward - which has served for nearly 60 years as an outward-bound centre for young people - to the highest bidder.
No-one at Kilmory was prepared to talk about the sell-off plan, but officials are to meet the castle’s current occupants, Actual Reality, next Wednesday, for talks.
The castle’s role as one of Scotland’s premier outdoor centres has been uncertain since Argyll and Bute Council arose from the ashes of Strathclyde Regional Council. At the time of the changeover in 1996 a purge on spending by the principal user, Glasgow City Council, threatened the viability of the Argyll-based centres, and the incoming Argyll and Bute Council, itself strapped for cash, threatened to shut the outward-bound operations in its area.
Up to that time Castle Toward had been operating for 50 years as an outward bound centre, being used largely by up to 4000 children from Glasgow and Renfrewshire.
A rescue operation was mounted by Castle Toward’s then principal, Peter Wilson, and a company was formed, Actual Reality, which kept the castle in use as an outward bound centre, along with the council-owned centre at Ardentinny.
While Actual Reality has had its problems, it has certainly succeeded in terms of increasing the number of users. Its current throughput is around 8,000 youngsters a year, and while the clientele is still drawn largely from the west of Scotland, it has built up a wider reputation. Castle Toward now has international custom, attracting young people from the United States, and even as far away as Japan.
Geraldine O’Neill, co-director of Actual Reality said on Thursday: “We know that the Strategic Planning Committee of the council are considering placing Castle Toward on the open market and we have obvious concerns about the potential loss of the castle and its grounds.”
“For the last six years Actual Reality has maintained the tradition of outdoor education started in the 1940’s when the building was originally taken over by Glasgow Corporation.”
The company now provides opportunities for art, music, leadership and lifelong learning to over 8000 children from all backgrounds every year, including a large number from Argyll and Bute.
She added: “Castle Toward also has a special place in the hearts of many adults, and has many famous supporters from all walks of life, among them Francis Healy of the pop band Travis and Douglas Boyd, the internationally acclaimed soloist and conductor of the London Sinfonia.
The highly successful BBC television programme “The Raven” is filmed every year, with the Castle as the backdrop, with technical assistance provided by Actual Reality staff, and is broadcast throughout the United Kingdom.
Mrs O’Neill praised Argyll and Bute council for their ‘boldness” in allowing Actual Reality to utilise the facilities at Castle Toward in the first place, and said that the council’s continued assistance had allowed the company to expand the range and extent of the activities at the castle. Actual Reality, she said, is now one of the largest employers in Argyll, with fifty-three staff.
She added: “We now have an obligation to many schools and local authorities that rely upon us to provide an important part of their educational output.”
The company, she said, had a full order book and had forward bookings for places at the facility into 2007.
She concluded with a plea to councillors: “We understand that the council has other priorities to consider but we hope that we can find a way to resolve this. We shall be looking at various options with the council at a meeting on 15th October and we have every confidence that they will continue to give us their support.”


INVERECK TO STAY OPEN AFTER MEETING
The future Of Invereck Residential home in Cowal has been secured, after a meeting last Thursday between The Church of Scotland Board of Social Responsibility and Argyll and Bute Council’s Strategic Policy Committee.
After a period of uncertainty over the future of the elderly people’s home, the decision now means that elderly patients will not have to be shifted from Invereck. The board will increase the number of beds by five in Invereck, and also invest £187,000 to ensure that the home meets the quality standard set by the Care Commission and by the board itself. Of the ten homes which had been identified for closure in Scotland, all have been kept open.
Two other homes in Argyll and Bute, Auchinlee in Campbeltown and Clyde View in Helensburgh will also stay open, with Clyde View in Helensburgh staying open until 2007. Discussions will also take place between the Board of Social Responsibility and Argyll and Bute Council about a possible alternative service for older people in the Helensburgh area after 2007.
It is understood that the decision has come at a cost of lost jobs for a significant number of staff at the Church of Scotland homes in Scotland, with a proposed 100 jobs being axed and salaries being cut by up to £3,000. It has been outlined that the post of team leader will be omitted, and while the salaries of senior managers will remain intact at up to £25,000, day care staff will be cut by £542.
Council Leader Allan Macaskill spoke about the decision: “We are very pleased that by working closely with the Church of Scotland the valuable care provided by these homes to our communities will be continued. By agreeing this funding package today we have secured their future.
“It has been made possible because the Council’s social work service has developed new criteria which will allow us greater flexibility in the care fee rates paid, depending on the needs of the elderly people placed in care.”
The Kirk’s Director of Social Work, Ian Manson also spoke of his delight that a deal was struck to keep the homes open : “We are delighted that this brings to an end the long period of uncertainty for the residents, their relatives and the staff of the three Argyll and Bute homes. It also means that through partnership with local authorities we have been able to secure the future of all ten homes which had been facing closure.
“A three year financial recovery plan was agreed by the Board of Social Responsibility in June. A major component of that was a proposed new staffing model. Staff in our residential homes have been advised of the proposals, and we are now entering into a period of consultation and negotiation which will last until mid-December with a view to implementing the final mode in April 2004.
“However, as we move from our existing model to a future one, staff will be involved on an individual basis with regard to their role in the new model, then we will consider redeployment to other Board services, early retirement, and voluntary redundancy, prior to any enforced redundancy of staff members. In this way, we will seek to minimise any negative impact on individual members of staff.”


CHIEF CONSTABLE PLAYS FAIR
NOT many children will take heed if you tell them to ‘play fair’, but when it’s the head of the police force who’s giving out the orders - you do exactly what you are told!
Last Friday, Dunoon Grammar School was treated to a visit by Strathclyde Police’s Chief Constable Willie Rae, who had been invited as guest of honour to speak to First Year pupils at the ‘Playfair’ event which centres on valuing diversity within the community.
Organised by the school’s drama teacher Mairi Thomson, she has been the catalyst for the success of the annual event for a number of years and was delighted when the head of Strathclyde Police agreed to come and take part.
She told the Observer: “I asked the Chief Constable to be guest of honour at the event as I felt that he would be a great inspiration, and thankfully he said yes.
“The aim of the day is to try and get the point across that everyone is different and that each person has as much right to be treated as fairly as the next.”
After giving a speech to the S1 pupils on why they should accept their neighbours in the community and set their ambitions high, the Chief Constable, accompanied by Chief Inspector for Cowal and Bute Raymond Park, and PCs Mark Wilson and Ben McKeown, got involved with the series of workshops.
The Chief Constable commented: “I have been so impressed with this event, It is a great way for children to learn about living with other cultures within their community and to remind them that no-one should be singled out.”
Chief Constable Rae explained that Strathclyde Police worked closely with education departments across the country to devise strategies to combat bullying in schools.
He added: “It can be a hard transition from primary school to secondary school, so this is a great opportunity to get them all together to learn about why they should tell someone if they’re being bullied.
“But they are all having fun today and watching them in these confidence and trust building workshops, it’s great to know that the kids can express themselves in this way.”
Chief Constable Rae also commented that being invited to Dunoon Grammar School was a treat for him as he was seldom able to get away from his office to participate in such events.
Chief Inspector Raymond Park, who accompanied the Chief Constable to the school, told the Observer: “ This event is unique to Dunoon Grammar School and has been for a number of years.
“Apart from the obvious themes of the day, the big part of the ‘Playfair’ event it is about team building and it is run in conjunction with education and Women’s Aid.”
Argyll and Bute Women’s Aid ran a separate workshop on the day and played out scenarios to the children about spotting the signs of domestic abuse.


FROM OUR FILES by Bill Jardine
One hundred years ago
There was an enigmatic report that clergymen were investigating the case of a missing £1 note from a church collection plate in Innellan. The clergy were consulting with trustees, but were not planning to consult a lawyer, nor, it seems, Mr Sherlock Holmes.
A Tighnabruaich gardener proudly announced that he had just pulled up a cabbage weighing in at a stupendous 20lb.
The navy was embarked on a huge programme of modernisation and as part of what a modern PR person would call a ‘ground-breaking new initiative’ were about to issue sailors with knives and forks. Up to that point sailors had used their fingers and their working knives to eat with.
The absence of trading standards legislation allowed a chemist named Thomson to advertise in the Observer a “Nerve-toning” elixir which gave one health, happiness, and improved the brains and nerves, built muscles, purified the blood and cured just about every known ailment - except corns and bunions, for which one needed Messrs Thomsons’ “Marvellous Corn Plasters”.
Fifty years ago
Lots of bits of the world were still coloured pink, indicating that the British Empire was still in existence.
Provost Black sent the good wishes of the populace of Dunoon to the men of the 1st Argylls who were en route to a piece of the Empire, British Guiana, aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Implacable.
Television had yet to overtake the cinema as the main source of entertainment. The La Scala was starting the week with one of the most successful series of films ever made, The Road to Bali, starring the legendary combination of Crosby and Hope, with the glamour provided in abundance by the incomparable Dorothy Lamour. Later in the week there was a rather more forgettable epic starring Steve Cochran called The Lion and the Horse, with the part of the latter being taken by “Wildfire, the Wonder Horse”.
A local boatbuilding firm, Graham Brothers, (their names were Bob, Tom and Jim, says Peter Collyer, and their premises were in Auchamore Road), had produced a 50 foot mast for a yacht owner in Hong Kong. The vessel in question had been built in China before the war but designed by a Mr Stewart Collie of Hunter’s Quay, and was believed to have been destroyed by the Japanese. However she was found instead to have been stripped and used by them as a harbour launch. Her new owner was rebuilding her to original plans.
The wonder of the age, electricity, was being demonstrated by the Hydro-electric Board in Strachur and Glenbranter. Housewives, no doubt amazed at the prospect of cooking by turning a knob, were invited into a caravan which was decorated like a kitchen, where all manner of succulent dishes were produced by demonstrators.
Twenty-five years ago
Two Dunoon men were the heroes of the hour in a dramatic incident in the South China Sea.
The Glasgow-regis-tered bulk carrier under the command of Captain Connell, and Chief Officer Black, both from Dunoon, went to the rescue of 350 desperate Vietnamese refugees adrift in a 60 foot launch in the South China Sea. In a difficult six-hour operation, all the refugees were brought aboard the ship. They were fed and watered until the ship reached Taiwan, where they were taken ashore and subsequently flown to London.
Mrs Violet Oswald was celebrating her 107th birthday in Invereck. She was the oldest resident in any Church of Scotland home, and was also reckoned to be the oldest person in Scotland at the time.
The Royal Marine Hotel at Hunter’s Quay was starring Country Joe Sheriff and his Smoking Guitar. He was, unsurprisingly, a country and western singer.
The band of the US Navy’s Commander-in Chief Southern Europe was giving a concert in the Queen’s Hall.


DUNOON’S SELF HELPERS HELP OTHERS STILL – A look at caring in the community
Dunoon Link Club
THIS week has been National Mental Health Awareness Week. Throughout Scotland during the last five days Mental Health Authorities and agencies have been trying to raise public awareness of the support and help available to both sufferers and carers of the illness of depression and other psychiatric illnesses. In Dunoon, albeit still in a relevantly small way, the town has been fortunate to have its own centre and self-help group for over 12 years now, namely the Dunoon Link Club. This establishment, working out of premises at 98, Edward Street, and run by its co-ordinator Frances Smith, initially offers a ‘place to go’ for those feeling abandoned and isolated with the dramatic effects of such an illness. Over those years Frances, with her team of volunteers, has worked perhaps slowly but diligently to build up the centre to the point that it is now being used as the model for other such clubs in the Argyll and Bute area.
Frances believes the ‘Awareness’ week is a genuine opportunity to raise both the profile of mental illness and the need to do more to assist those affected. Frances said: “In some cases, large parts of their lives are ‘lost’ by those experiencing the illness.” The club, supported by the local council and others, works with the council’s social care authorities to help provide facilities where a return to ‘balanced’ mental health can be achieved.
Frances continued: “I suppose nowadays when any charity like ourselves is being spoken about that quickly the subject of funding will arise.” Over recent years this has been an ongoing concern and a large part of the club’s activities has had to concentrate on fund-raising. It is indeed a matter of great achievement that the club has continued to make progress. At times, the people that it was meant to be helping became helpers. Recently through the Argyll and Bute Supporting People Fund, the club has received sufficient grant assistance for a period to allow Frances Smith to work on a full-time basis and to consider the employment of either one other full-time, or two part-time support workers.
Frances delighted in saying “This is a wonderful development. It has come as a truly marvellous gift. The club has now the potential to expand and to increase its programme of activities. The years that we have been working have shown that in many cases recovery from mental illness can be a very slow road.”
Frances continued: “We need to have the patience, tolerance and the utmost understanding of those circumstances which have led to the ‘mind’ breaking down. We are not doctors or nurses in any way, but we feel that we have an essential part to play in the recovery process.”
The Club is open six days a week at 98, Edward Street, Dunoon. The telephone number is (01369) 701594. Opening hours during the day are: Monday - Friday, 11am to 4pm, and in the evening, 7pm to 9.30pm. On a Saturday, the club opens from 11am to 5pm.
Frances concluded: “We are here to help anyone who has been diagnosed with a depressive or other psychiatric condition. We have a simple and straightforward self-referral system in addition to those users being referred to us by GPs, and from Dochas Lodge which is the new Mental Health Unit here in Dunoon.
Family and friends can also make contact and referrals. We would love to hear from anyone who, for whatever reason, has contracted the illnesses mentioned. We offer in the first instance a ‘safe haven’ and then try to begin the process of picking up the broken pieces of many shattered experiences. Our members are aged from 18 years upward.”
It is to be hoped that the work of the Dunoon Link Club can continue as it has done over its many years. Unfortunately, the incidence of depression as an identified major UK illness has increased steadily in recent times, and the estimate of its progressive growth is sufficient to ensure that self-help groups such as the Link are recognised as much needed units.
The sad events and circumstances around the recent case of the British Sporting Hero, Frank Bruno, and his being admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital, highlighted albeit sensationally the effects of having such a severe illness.
In Dunoon, it is good to be able to report that we have in the Link Club a unit battling back against depression. May they go on to be a winner, and to find many new supporters and fans!
NHS Argyll have been involved in promoting awareness of mental health.
Heather Cléda, NHS Argyll and Clyde Health Promotion Officer said: “This year’s Scottish Mental Health Week (October 6 - 10) campaign was aimed at young people aged between eight and twelve years. It is important that children in Argyll and Clyde receive education in mental health issues including feeling respected and valued, and having various skills such as decision-making, problem solving, communication and handling relationships. Five leaflets have been published by NHS Health Scotland to provide essential information to these young people, including contact details and web addresses. The topics covered were chosen by children as areas of particular concern to them.
“In Argyll and Clyde we distributed these leaflets along with carers guides to a number of Primary Schools and others working with 8-12-year-olds. A number of awareness raising activities are taking place throughout Argyll and Clyde during Scottish Mental Health Week.”
If you would like to receive a copy of the leaflets please contact the NHS Argyll and Clyde Resource and Information Centre on: 0141 842 7370.