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Cancer - The F Word

Back in February, I read in the news about one of the latest scientific breakthroughs of human eggs being matured in the lab for the first time. I was interested to read about the potential implications of this, particularly what it might mean for fertility treatments for those who have been diagnosed with cancer at a young age. The recent blog by my colleague, Lucy Small, highlights the devastating impact a cancer diagnosis at a young age can have on a woman’s fertility. Focus tends to be on treatment, and understandably so, but we must not forget about the potential impact of a cancer diagnosis on fertility, particularly for younger people who receive a diagnosis. The F word is a big deal for many younger cancer sufferers, and not everybody gets a chance to talk about it.

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How old is “young”?

The risk of a “young” person getting a cancer diagnosis is of course quite low, statistically speaking, but exactly how old is “young”? The American Cancer Society suggests that for the purposes of statistics, “young adults” are generally regarded as between 20 and 39 years old. I think it depends on the type of cancer, but with people living longer and with women often deciding to have children at older ages, this might alter our perception of what “young” is. In breast cancer for example, “young” seems to mean under the age of 45. A family history of this in relatives under the age of 50 does increase a person’s risk of developing this disease and would generally warrant enhanced screening in accordance with NHS guidelines. With cervical cancer, the highest incident rates seem to be in the 25 – 29 age group and according to Cancer Research, more than half of cervical cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in women under the age of 45. For young men (aged 25-49), testicular cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, accounting for around 14% of all cases in 2013-2015. These are all ages where people might be planning to start a family.

Cancer Treatment

Undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy carries a risk of reducing fertility. This may not have such a big impact for “older” patients but for younger people who have not yet had, and may want to have children in the future, this impact can be life changing.
For hormonal driven cancers, such as breast or womb, the treatment does not end after the initial chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy and patients may have to undergo hormonal therapies for years afterwards. For example, tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug, can often be prescribed for up to 10 years following active treatment. This carries the risk of inducing early menopause and will have a massive impact on couples considering adding to or starting a family.

Fertility Preservation

Sometimes patients can be offered fertility preservation options before beginning their treatment, but there is no one size fits all approach and much will depend on the individual’s particular circumstances and type of cancer, and even local health care provider (the familiar case of post code lottery). Women can sometimes freeze their eggs before starting treatment, or even ovarian tissue, and men could undergo sperm banking for example. If this is not available on the NHS for a particular patient, some people may have to pay for the cost of going private.
At what is already an incredibly difficult time, it is just another thing for cancer patients to have to think and worry about, particularly for those young adults who have not even contemplated or yet thought about having children. Time may also be of the essence in starting treatment, and patients may have to make the difficult decision to delay treatment to explore and undergo fertility preservation, with the possibility that this could increase cancer risk and impact on their prognosis.

Hope for the future?

Fertility is often something young people take for granted and so may be the last thing a young person receiving a cancer diagnosis thought they might have to think about.
As I understand it, the eggs that have been matured in the lab are technically ready to be fertilised and, if this leads to healthy embryos, this could in theory be used to help women who have had cancer at a young age. There is also potential for the technique to be used to preserve fertility in children having cancer treatment. More investigation is needed before this could be a potential clinical option but hopefully this is a positive step forward for fertility preservation and treatment, particularly for those whose fertility is affected by a cancer diagnosis at a young age.

Surviving Spinal Injury – The Journey

After the success of the Brain Injury Conference in 2016, Lanyon Bowdler hosted another event entitled Surviving Spinal Injury – The Journey which was held at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital, Oswestry.

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Arriving to refreshments, the day of informative talks started off with a welcome from host, and partner at Lanyon Bowdler, Dawn Humphries followed by a brief a history of the development of spinal injury services in from Professor Waigh El-Masri. One of Professor El-Masri’s many achievements was to found and set up Transhouse which is an organisation that offers transitional housing for patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and provides them with the skills they need to live a more independent life after being in hospital. We were lucky enough to hear from Transhouse’s CEO Fae Dromgool later in the day.

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A moving talk was given by David Chapple, Trustee of Horatio’s Garden. Mr Chapple set up the charity, which creates beautiful and accessible gardens in NHS spinal centres across the country, in memory of his son Horatio. The RJAH look forward to having a garden designed by the charity at the hospital.
The morning programme took on a clinical angle regarding spinal injuries with talks from Dr Clive Bezzina, who spoke about rehabilitation, Mr Naveen Kumar gave a most thorough and in-depth talk on the management of spinal cord injuries. Mr Aheed Osman provided a very detailed presentation on the recent advances in SCI management, covering worldwide research projects.

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Michelle Bunyan provided an informative overview of case management and how it requires a specialist approach when a client has a spinal injury. Jonathan Fogerty, Trustee of the charity SPIRIT spoke about the charity’s international reach which aims to improve the treatment and care of those with SCI, having sustained a SCI himself in his teenage years.

After lunch, host and associate at Lanyon Bowdler, Emma Broomfield welcomed Fae Dromgool from Transhouse to start the afternoon of talks.

Attendees were captivated by the story of Yu Guo who is also a former patient of the RJAH and whose case was successfully won by Lanyon Bowdler’s Dawn Humphries and No5 Chambers’ barrister Chris Bright QC. After a complicated case involving a dancing move, Dawn and Chris secured her a settlement to provide for her future care. Yu Guo took the time to thank Dawn and Chris for all their hard work and expressed how pleased she was with the way they conducted her case.

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Attendees were further treated to a talk from another former RJAH patient, guest speaker Darren Edwards. After being involved in a serious fall on 6 August 2016, whilst rock climbing in North Wales, Darren was left paralysed from the chest down. He shared his journey from being airlifted to Stoke hospital, to founding the charity Strength Through Adversity, which aims to provide opportunities for disabled people in Shropshire to take part in sporting activities.

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A day of enlightening, educational and at times both emotional and entertaining talks, was rounded off by a Q&A chaired by Mr Chowdhury.

I think I can say on behalf of all who attended that the day was a great success and provided an important insight into the legal, medical and practical help that exists for those with spinal injuries. A particular highlight was the demonstration of a robotic walking aid and an insight into how these can assist those with spinal injuries by Stephen Ruffle of ReWalk Robotics.

SARDA Assessment Weekend March 2018

I don’t know if it’s a sign of age but the twice-yearly Search Dog assessments seem to come round more quickly every year. However, they take place over three days from Friday to Sunday and Lanyon Bowdler are good enough to allow me time off for the Friday so I get my full doggy-fix!

We always use a Girl Guide centre at Caeathro, near Caernarfon, for our assessment accommodation as it has plenty of bunk-room for all the assessors that will turn up from Search & Rescue teams from all over the country (and sometimes Ireland). There is also a large kitchen from which the wonderful Hilary can work her magic, she is a former search dog handler and Mountain Rescue member and now much-loved caterer for a variety of tastes. She is completely unfazed by vegetarian, vegans, nut-allergies, dairy allergies, gluten-intolerance and the raging hunger of a day out on the hills, she produces a cooked breakfast, packed lunches and three-course dinners over three days, on a budget, to suit all tastes. There are picnic benches outside for people who want to take some time out, plenty of woodland for exercising dogs and – most importantly – an open fire and squishy armchairs for those long, sociable evenings chatting, drinking and playing cards.

Toast duty

This time we were joined by assessors from the North of England and Kent, who had all made epic journeys to be there whilst facing a miserable forecast for their return journey on Sunday. We made sure to show them some good Welsh hospitality, of course – meaning Harold was on his usual late-night toast duty and dealt manfully with shouts for brown, white, some with butter, some with dairy-free spread……

Ready for assessment

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Up for assessment were Alex and his lovely collie Ben, who have trained hard for a couple of years to be in the position where they were ready to be assessed to join the callout list. Alex is a busy Ambulance Technician and member of Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue on top of training a search dog, and Ben has come a long way from being a slightly nervous dog from a rescue centre to being a really cuddly furry bundle with a real mission in life. Richard and Scout, and Helen and her dog Cluanie, both members of Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, were being re-assessed, as is required of all dogs and handlers every three years. Although assessment is the priority for the weekend other trainee and graded dogs will be working and training where there are spare bodies available, and it’s just as important to bring them on at every stage, especially those dogs and handlers who might be ready for the next assessment in November.

Sedate night

It was an unusually sedate night on Thursday when I got there around 10pm, we sat and chatted by the fire, had a couple of glasses of wine and some snacks and caught up with each other but we were all in bed by 1am (I set the record in February, together with two other people, for a 5.30am bedtime, up and training at 7am……). I have given up trying to fend off the snoring in the bunkrooms and have slept in my car for many years now, no mean feat in a Corsa, but this time I decided to try “foetal position in the back seat”, instead of putting the front seat back as far as it will go and wishing there was space in the glove box for my feet – and it worked a treat! I slept solidly for almost four hours until the rain on the roof woke me around 5am, I settled down to enjoy the sound and slept some more until 6.45am when it was time to get up.

Friday morning

People are always milling around by 6.45am, exercising their dogs, sorting their kit and drinking mugs of tea in the morning light, so there is no shortage of company as you assess the weather and pack your kit from the back of the car accordingly. This is always punctuated by dogs rushing up to greet you as they are let out of vehicles from a night’s sleep, investigating the boot of your car for the inevitable treats they know all bodies have hidden there and plying for cuddles – it’s a great time of the day. However, there are also sandwiches to be made and flasks to be filled before breakfast at 7.30am and the briefing at 8.30am.

24 hour cross trail

I was asked to do trailing up at Parc Glynllifon, an area of land belonging to Lord Newborough and where we are very generously allowed to train. In particular I was asked to do a 24-hour cross trail. The idea here is that some missing people will, over an extended period, walk back over a scent trail they might have left earlier, because they are trying to self-rescue or are confused. A trailing dog can distinguish between the older and fresher scent of a missing person who has crossed over their own trail and, if they are following the older trail, they will then turn off at the point the fresher scent crosses the trail and follow the fresher scent. This required me to leave an article of my clothing in a sealed bag and set off at Parc Glynllifon to walk a trail and leave my scent behind me. I left my car keys with a dog handler who then brought my car to collect me because I could not walk back to my car as I would over-lay a fresher scent on top of what I had already walked. It’s pretty unnerving to see your own car being driven past you, let me tell you!

Body-buddy Maya

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Having laid that trail I then went to join the others at Fort Belan, near Dinas Dinlle. This is by Caernarfon Airport where the air ambulance and the Coastguard helicopter are based so there is always the opportunity for some great views if you are a helicopter nerd like me! I was asked if I would like to take my body-buddy, Maya the collie, out with me to replicate a missing dog-walker. Once again Maya, who now knows the word “bodying”, danced along beside me as I laid a trail along the concrete path.

I went down to the water’s edge to throw sticks into the water for Maya before we doubled back up to the sand dunes and dipped in between them to another inlet where I found a lovely spot on the edge of the sand, overlooking the Nantlle Ridge and Yr Eifl with the sea dividing them and lapping just feet away from me. We watched flocks of oystercatchers, enjoying their “peep, peep, peep” as they darted from us in sharp-focus black and white scurries and I poured a cup of my tea, blew on it for Maya as I know she likes tea, then she lapped from it once before turning her nose up, meaning I had to jettison the whole cup. On the second attempt she licked around the rim of the cup. Thanks Maya…….

It was raining gently but steadily so I hunkered down into my bivvy bag whilst Maya pottered around to find various sticks and other debris for me to throw for her.

Well done Ginger

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Ginger and his human Luci were tasked to find me and had a neck-buff in a bag that I had been wearing earlier in the day. I didn’t see it all happen but have it on good authority that Ginger trotted along the concrete I had walked on, then went down to the water’s edge exactly where I had been (and the tide had gone out by then, pulling my scent with it) before heading up through the dunes and motoring along the beach towards me. What was brilliant was that he wasn’t at all distracted when he saw Maya – he was so fixed on my scent and the task of finding me that he ignored her, even when she went up to Luci, which could have caused all sorts of jealousy issues, found me and lay down beside me to indicate to Luci that this was the scent he was looking for. This was probably one of the harder trails that Ginger had done in terms of terrain, junctions and possible scent confusion and he seemed to nail it – even more wonderful was the fact that, when we walked out of the area, he trotted along with his toy in his mouth looking so proud of himself, he KNEW he had done well!

Dog kisses

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The weather had started to clear by then and there is always time in SARDA for some sitting around and eating lunch whilst indulging in doggy cuddles. Search Dog Izzy decided that Body Kerry needed to be the object of her attention that day so as Kerry was enjoying a quiet snooze on a bank in the sunshine Izzy decided she needed a wet kiss – and not just one, no. MANY wet kisses.

Caravan encounter

After lots of canine cuddles it was time to head off to our next area and this time we went to a caravan park where I was placed in bushes next to an empty caravan space – that is a sure-fire guarantee that someone will arrive with their caravan and park there and, of course, it happened within 10 minutes of my nestling into the bush.

I knew that the poor hapless couple would get the fright of their lives as they connected to the hook-up but at the same time some woman poking her head out of the bushes and saying “Er, excuse me….” is likely to have a similar effect so it is a no-win situation. They took it very well though, and seemed to enjoy watching as four search dogs found me in the space of two hours, followed by a fabulous flypast by the Coastguard helicopter as it came back to land nearby.

The sun had come out and was beaming down on me, I had downloaded a brilliant podcast onto my phone (“West Cork”, check it out) and was hooked, so the time flew by and before I realised anything it was 4.40pm and I had to be back at Base for 5pm for the debrief, where we all report back on our perception of how things have gone before the assessors have their meeting. Just time to sort out kit, the lucky ones get a shower then it is dinner at 7pm, followed by washing up then more toast and chat in front of the fire until midnight.

Dramatic weather

I slept slightly less well in the back of my car on Friday night and the temperature had definitely dropped – by 7am it was trying to snow and this did not bode well. After breakfast and briefing I went back to Parc Glynllifon to lay a trail at 90 degrees across the one I had laid the previous morning and this time I had Maya with me.

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The weather turned radiant for a couple of hours so Maya and I sat in a field at the end of the cross-trail, leaning against a fence and waiting to be found. Maya found another stick on the walk there and insisted on carrying it all the way so that I, as her slave, could throw it for her repeatedly for ages. I managed to persuade her to settle down (bribed her with a bit of banana, one of her favourite foods……..) and she put her head on my knees and chilled out whilst I carried on with my podcast, enjoying the view up to the mountains.

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In the afternoon we headed up to Cefn Du, a lonely high forested pass between Waunfawr and Llanberis which passes along the foot of Moel Eilio, and where conditions changed rather dramatically. The wind was howling and snow blowing periodically in from the east, stinging the eyes as I laid a trail first on a narrow path above the slate squarry spoils before dropping down to a track, meeting a gate then heading uphill to an exposed point beneath a ruined quarry building. Luckily I found a small dip and nestled in here against the increasingly ferocious conditions, trying to stay warm for a couple of hours and just enjoying a snooze as Ginger bounced exuberantly onto my stomach. He had trailed me in those conditions, by the scent I had left behind and interestingly for a patch had walked on a parallel track about eight feet above where I had dropped down and walked but he kept peering over the edge to my track and tried on a couple of occasions to get down the steep spoils to where I had walked.

The wind was so strong and funnelling along the track that it must had pushed my scent strongly and scattered it all over the slate, and broken it up on the rugged surface so my smell was everywhere and Ginger was picking up hints of it from where he was, just above. As he reached the gate he didn’t even need to go through it to check if my scent had gone through there, he just turned at 90 degrees and motored up the hill to jump on me and disturb my cosy slumber! After a play with his favourite toy we walked back to the vehicles, a fresh snowstorm bearing down on us from behind before it caught us up and engulfed us.

Conditions were pretty ferocious by now, not the worse I have experienced in my role as a body but enough to make you take shelter behind your vehicle and be glad that in spite of some pretty high-performance clothing you are not out there on your own any more.

Congratulations

As we sheltered the news came through that Ben and Alex had passed their assessment, which delighted us as they have worked so hard for this – and, in fact, within a couple of hours of their official recognition as a Search Dog Team there were called out to their first operational search on Anglesey! Richard & Scout re-graded successfully, as did Helen and Cluanie so it was a brilliantly successful time for all concerned and left Sunday for everyone to relax and have some fun with the dogs, doing training searches and enjoying the snow.

Thrill never wanes

Whenever I come home from training I feel slightly bereft, it’s as though I have left a family behind because we live at such close quarters and with only one common aim for a whole weekend, so I console myself with the smell of Nikwax as I wash, dry and re-proof all my kit (that usually takes the best part of a day), upload my photos and exchange messages with people I have only seen that morning, as though we haven’t seen each other for whole months.

It’s a really special crowd of people and one I am immensely proud to be part of. After 12 years I can honestly say that the thrill never wanes, in fact it becomes more addictive and the people a more entangled part of your own, special and slightly weird family – however, all families are slightly weird so who am I to complain?!

London Landmarks Half Marathon

I was delighted and privileged to be able to take part in the inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon on Sunday 25 March 2018, fundraising in aid of Horatio’s Gardens as a supporting event following on from our enormously successful Spinal Injuries conference, held at the Midlands Spinal Injuries Unit at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital in Oswestry.

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As an enthusiastic runner it was well within my abilities, with the right amount of training in place, to do the distance and comfortably enjoy the day. However, fate conspired against me, with bouts of more snow than I have ever known, a sprained back and glass in my foot, all of which scuppered my training plans somewhat and left me rather less prepared than any sane person would wish.

So a little worried, and very well bandaged up, I proudly put on my Horatios’ vest. (I was also very relieved that the streets of the Metropolis were not still thick with snow.) As I limped down from Buckingham Palace and down the Mall, I was very apprehensive and a wee bit nervous, but was soon engulfed into the swathes of excited runners. Over 10,000 of us lined up at the start, and I have to say the organisation and support from the crowd were phenomenal.

The whole of central London was closed to traffic for the race. The streets were literally lined with so many many supporters, bands, charities and event organisers dressed in bowler hats, as suffragettes, gladiators, Victorians all highlighting the history of the London, together with a random man riding a pink unicorn, ( who finished well ahead of me!). It was just incredible to be running in such a terrifically joyous enthusiastic atmosphere.

Despite wondering if I could actually complete the course, I passed Trafalgar, St Pauls, the Royal Courts of Justice (as a lawyer I had to take a selfie here), the Tower of London, then back up The Embankment, before cornering with a sprint finish to Downing Street, all with tremulous applause who needs to do a full marathon?!!

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Finish it I did, I was inspired by the challenges some of my spinal injured clients face on a daily basis with such strength and fortitude!! Not my fastest run but certainly the most rewarding and memorable event I have ever done.

I am really delighted that so many people sponsored me, thank you all so much, those funds will go to such a worthy cause.

It was a fantastic experience and I am truly honoured to have done it in Hortatio’s memory, here is one final photo of me proudly showing off my medal.

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Cyclists Beware

Cyclists are concerned after reports surfaced at the beginning of March that ministers are set to outline proposals for death by dangerous cycling to become a criminal offence next week.

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This review has come about following the death of a woman knocked over by a cyclist. He was acquitted on manslaughter but found guilty of wanton and furious driving as there was no satisfactory alternative on the statute books.

It is believed that the new offence would carry the same maximum penalty as causing death by dangerous driving, currently 14 years imprisonment, although consideration is currently being given to extend the maximum to life imprisonment.

“Be Wary Who You Appoint As Your Executors”

The role of an executor is an important one; the executor is entrusted by the testator with the administration of their estate, which usually entails collecting in the estate assets, discharging the liabilities, preparing estate accounts and ensuring that the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will. However, the role can also include more delicate tasks, such as organising the funeral/wake (together with an appropriate memorial), or disposing of the contents of a house.

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An executor is an important role

Given the importance of the role, it is surprising how many testators appoint two or more individuals as their executors (often family members such as children) who they know do not get on, or may even be positively hostile towards each other. Unfortunately, this can and does lead to difficulties and delays in applying for the grant and administering the estate. One of the executors may seek to take control of the process by removing financial or other documents from the deceased’s home without their co-executors’ permission and then trying to apply for the grant of probate alone, or by removing articles from the deceased’s home and refusing to grant access to the other executor.

One or both of the executors may decide to lodge caveats at the probate registry in order to prevent the other from obtaining the grant to the estate, leading to a stalemate situation. In extreme cases it can become necessary for the “wronged” executor to apply to the court to remove the other executor from his post altogether, but this is costly and time-consuming.

Not essential to appoint a family member

It is essential that a testator considers very carefully whether the executors he is contemplating appointing in his will are capable of cooperating with each other. If he has any doubts, it is best to reconsider the matter. The will draftsman should also be alive to the issue of potential conflict between executors and, in appropriate cases, be willing to offer the testator advice on the subject, so as to avert any problems occurring later on.

It is not essential for a testator to appoint family members, or friends, as executors. Some testators seem to feel obliged to appoint all of their children as executors, even when they are aware that there is a real potential for conflict between them. No testator wants his or her estate to be locked in a dispute caused by the executors, resulting in legal costs being incurred unnecessarily.

The same importance ought to be attached to identifying suitable executors of the will as to the beneficiaries of the estate, as they are the individuals who will jointly be responsible for carrying out the testator’s last wishes.

Acid Now Listed As A Dangerous Weapon

It seems like very few weeks, or days, go by now without an acid attack story hitting the headlines or being portrayed on television.

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Whether this is because the attacks are on the increase or because they are being reported more by the press, it’s unclear. Worryingly assaults involving corrosive substances have more than doubled in England since 2012. Acid will now be specifically listed as a dangerous weapon for the first time in new sentencing guidelines.

Tougher punishments under new guidelines

People caught with acid or other corrosive substances in public could face up to six months in jail. Under 18s would receive four months' detention and training order. Those that film their crimes and post them on social media could face tougher punishments under new guidelines for England and Wales.

The amended guidelines will not cover situations where the weapon is used to harm somebody - those instances would be covered by guidance on assault, attempted murder or murder.

Courts will also be encouraged to consider in greater detail the age, maturity, background and circumstances of young offenders when sentencing.

In January, some of the UK's largest retailers agreed to voluntarily stop sales of acids to customers under 18 years old. The Home Office said it will shortly announce its response to last year's consultation on new legislation banning sales of corrosives to under 18s and introducing a new offence for possessing corrosive products in a public space.

NHS Staff to Get Pay Rise

It has recently been reported that 1.3 million NHS staff are being offered pay increases which will be staggered over three years. The staff that will benefit from the salary increases are ones who have an ‘Agenda for Change’ contract, this covers nurses, porters and paramedics – all professionals except doctors, dentists and senior leaders.

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Cost £4.2b

As we all know, the NHS is vastly understaffed and the loyal NHS workers have been working harder and longer hours to compensate. When staff are spread thinly this can lead to a drop in morale and makes it easier for mistakes to happen within the service, which of course can not only be costly, but can dramatically alter lives, some unfortunately ending in loss of life.

The agreement was formally agreed yesterday by union leaders and ministers, and will cost £4.2 billion.

Sara Gorton, lead negotiator for the 14 health unions, says: "It won't solve every problem in the NHS but it will go a long way towards making dedicated health staff feel more valued, lift flagging morale and help turn the tide on staffing problems."

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said “Compromises have had to be made” but he predicts the deal will make the NHS a "desirable" employer once again.

It isn't straightforward

There are certain caveats involved and it isn’t as straightforward as all employees getting a £X pay rise. Some staff will receive 6.5%; some will get rises between 9% and 29% if they are currently not at the top of their pay bands, and lowest paid staff such as cleaners, porters and catering staff could have pay rises of 15% and will benefit the most by the salary increase.

The NHS has been under pressure for a long time to retain staff, after it was revealed that one in 10 nurses were leaving the public sector in England every year.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, said the cost of the salary increases would be covered by the Treasury rather than coming out of existing NHS budgets.

He said "The agreement reflects public appreciation for just how much they have done and continue to do".

Reduce high rate of sickness

The pay rise agreement does require commitment from both staff and the Department of Health to reduce the high rate of sickness in the NHS, which of course leads to reduced levels of staff, creating a knock on effect within highly pressured jobs in A&E departments for example, along with others.

It looks like the changes won’t come into effect until summer 2018 after staff have voted, but it makes for some positive news for the NHS staff.

Motoring, Medication and The Law

I was recently asked to defend a client for a drug driving offence. He told me he had tested positive for Diazepam which his GP had prescribed him for pain relief, thereby raising the possibility of running the statutory defence.

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I eagerly filled out the relevant medical authorities and got him to sign a legal aid application whilst waiting for the CPS to forward us the prosecution papers. The papers arrived….my heart sank…”you didn’t mention the other two charges involving cocaine!”

I was able to persuade the prosecution to drop the Diazepam offence as my client accepted he had no defence to driving under the influence of cocaine…twice!

The dangers of not declaring medical conditions to The DVLA

It got me thinking about medical matters in general when it comes to motoring law.

I read recently that lots of drivers fail to disclose health problems to the DVLA, putting themselves and other road users at risk.

This could lead to a fine of up to £1,000 or possible prosecution if the driver is involved in an accident.

Mostly this is down to driver ignorance that the medical conditions could impact on driving but concerning none the less.

As well as not notifying the DVLA of medical conditions, it seems that drivers also fail to notify their insurer which could not only invalidate the policy but also lead to serious issues if there was an accident.

How to avoid your licence being revoked or refused

The Government have helpfully provided a full list of medical conditions that should be declared on their website. If in doubt, about whether to drive, drivers should speak to their GP.

Voluntarily surrender of a driving licence may mean people can drive again sooner if the medical condition is addressed and a GP declares the driver is fit to drive again.

If however the licence is revoked or refused for medical reasons, the process is more complicated and may mean the licence is never returned.

In summary, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Marriage Rates Fall Once More

The ONS has published marriage figures for the year 2015. This was the first full year that same sex couples were able to enter into a marriage. In 2015 there were 6,493 marriages between same sex couples. Marriage rates for opposite sex couples in 2015 were the lowest on record since 2009.

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Nicola Haynes, ONS Vital Statistics Output Branch has commented “Despite this overall decline, marriages in older ages rose; the number of weddings increased for men aged 50 and over and women aged 35 – 39 years and 45 and over”.

According to the statistics for 2016 divorce rates have also increased by 5.8% in comparison to the statistics for 2015. However, Nicola Haynes has said “The number remains 30% lower than the most recent peak in 2003”.

Why Should I Make a Will?

Your Will tells everyone what is to happen to your money, possessions and property after you die. If you don’t leave a Will (which is called intestacy), the law decides how your estate is dealt with, and this might not be in line with your wishes.

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The main reasons for making a Will are:-

  • A Will can make it much easier for your loved ones to sort everything out when you die, without a Will the process can be time consuming and more stressful. 

  • To appoint the person or people you would wish to act as the executor(s) of the estate (these are the person(s) who have the legal authority to deal with your estate)

  • If you don’t write a Will everything will be shared out in a particular way defined by the law, which isn’t always the way you might want. 

  • To leave something specific to someone in particular. 

  • Unmarried partners, including same-sex couples who don’t have a civil partnership, have no automatic right to inherit if there is no Will.

  • A Will is especially important if you have children or other loved ones who depend on you financially.

  • To appoint guardians who you would like to take care of your children if you die whilst they are under the age of 18. 

It is advisable to review your Will at least every five years or if you have a change in circumstance. This makes sure that it still adequately provides for your needs and to establish if there have been any changes to the law which might affect your Will.

Some such changes in circumstances that should prompt you to review your Will include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • If you get married – getting married will revoke an existing Will, unless it was made in contemplation of the marriage.

  • If you get divorced – in such circumstances your Will essentially remains valid but will be read as if your former spouse or partner has pre-deceased you. 

  • New children or grandchildren – to ensure they are included in your Will.

  • If someone named in your Will dies before you.

  • If an executor is no longer suitable, loses capacity, or dies – it is important that your executors are able and willing to administer your estate.

 

Lorry, Bus & Coach Drivers Take Note

Although it has received very little press coverage to date, from 5 March 2018, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will be able to fine lorry, bus or coach drivers who break the rules, by exceeding the drivers’ hours limit and not taking the required breaks, up to £300. Additionally, they may also face prosecution or have their vehicle immobilised.

Lorry_Coach_and_Bus_Drivers.jpg

Currently the DVSA are only able to fine drivers for offences committed on the day, they will now also be able to fine drivers for offences that have been committed in the previous 28 days.

£1,500 in a single stop

DVSA traffic examiners will be able to issue fines for up to five separate offences regardless whether the offences took place here or abroad.

This means drivers could be fined up to £1,500 in a single stop, if they have repeatedly broken the rules.

Full details can be found on www.gov.uk.

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