#IWMD 16 – 28 April Remember the Dead:Fight for the Living

It’s 6.00 am and the radio alarm wakes you up to start another day, you shower, think about the day ahead.

Think about what was discussed at work the day before, think about what you have to do before you get to work. Perhaps you have to drop-off the kids at school, get a birthday card, make an appointment to get that boiler fixed.

Time is getting on,  breakfast, if there is time, say your good byes and then you are on your way to work.

Planning out what needs to be done, where you have to be and hoping that this is the day you get around to that task that’s been on your list for what seems like forever.

Then, the phone rings and there is the start of one of the most difficult conversations that someone has ever had ‘Could I speak to….., I’m sorry to tell you….’

I don’t know if that is how the day began, or how someone received the news that their loved one, partner, husband, wife, father, mother, friend or relation had gone to work and wouldn’t be coming back.

But I can imagine that such conversations took place.

Figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that in the year up to 2015, 142 people died in the course of their work.

Behind these numbers we can see that most fatalities took place for those working in construction where 35 people died, in agriculture 33 people died, in manufacturing 16 people died and there was one death in mining and quarrying.

Although, in most sectors the figures have stayed the same or are improving the figure for services, which includes deaths associated with railways is increasing with 51 deaths which is 21% higher than the rate for the past five years.

The figures produced by the HSE also include those for members of the public who died in relations to accidents connected to work and show that there are 123 people who died including 21 (17%) occurring on railways. Suicides are included in this figure but the way that suicides are reported has changed.

The increase in deaths for those working in services underlines concerns recently expressed by the TUC.

Over a ten-year period 2009/10 to 2019/20 the HSE will see its budget almost halved.

Such a cut in funding casts real doubt that the HSE will be able to achieve what it sets out in a new strategy called “Helping Great Britain work well”.

Once again workers will come to rely on Union Health & Safety reps to ensure that their places of work are safe environment to work in.

That is why this Thursday,  on International Workers Memorial Day around the world many of us will gather to remember those who have died in the workplace and to pay tribute to the work done by Union Health & Safety Reps.

I will as I have for the last few years be attending the memorial event at Bonnyrigg, Midlothian.

But, this year I will be attending an additional event on Sunday 1st May at the Miners’ Memorial in Danderhall where a plaque will be unveiled to remember those that died at the Woolmet Colliery.

47 people died at Woolmet including on 12 April 1918, Christina Clark who was 16 year old.

At both those events I will take a few minutes to reflect upon those who left for work, thinking about the day ahead, but never to return.

The details of the events I have mentioned above are:-


Thursday , 28 April, 12.30, Michael McGahey memorial, George V Park , Bonnyrigg, EH19 2AD. Commemorative address will be given by Ryan Boyle, Vice-Chair of the STUC Youth Committee


Sunday, 1 May, 1.00 pm, Miners’ Memorial, Danderhall. More information can be found here.

International Workers Memorial Day Events

A number of events are taking place around the UK and can be details can be found here.





My friend works for the national health…

So, here we are at the end of another year and like a number of people I’ve done a bit of looking back over 2015.

I guess one of the things that comes to mind, is that as you get older, you might have to access medical services a bit more often.

Aside from the occasional visit to the doctor over the years, until this year, my main contact with the NHS had been when my daughter was born.

My experience of the care we received at the time was excellent and the dedication and professionalism of the staff was truly impressive.

It was the same again this summer, when for the first time I had to stay overnight in hospital.

Again, I left the NHS having had a positive experience and being impressed by all of the staff that I come into contact with.

It is the same any time I’ve had to attend my local medical centre, but the service that the NHS provides is increasingly coming under pressure.

In September of this year, Quarryfoot Medical Practice in Bonnyrigg, announced that it would no longer be taking new patients due to recruitment difficulties as it struggled to fill GP vacancies.

Eskbridge Medical Practice in Musselburgh has also experienced problems in recruiting new GPs to replace two doctors who left over the summer.

It would appear that this experience is not unique to people staying in Midlothian and Musselburgh.

A few months ago the Labour Party published a consultation paper called ‘Fit for the Future’ which highlighted some of the issues that primary care is facing in Scotland.

The consultation which is being led by Dr Richard Simpson MSP is based on a survey of GP practices and states from the outset that:-

No party or organisation has a monopoly of wisdom. This paper seeks to start a discussion which will secure the future of general practice in this country, and ensure better care for Scots for decades to come.

The 330 practices out of 990 which responded to the survey highlighted a number of different issues, but there are 3 which underline the issues experienced by people living in Midlothian and Musselburgh these are:-

  • a growing level of practises being taken over by Health Boards as GP partner vacancies remained unfilled;
  • a growing number of vacancies for GP partners [92/330];
  • a growing number of practices who were restricting new patient registrations either to a specific number weekly or to members of existing registered households. This on top of more restrictive geographical practice boundaries. E.g. 23 Edinburgh City practices operating restrictions had introduced these since 2014.

There are no easy solutions to these problems and the paper is seeking views on a number of immediate and medium term actions.

The immediate actions include:-

  • training more GPs;
  • cutting down red tape for substitute GPs;
  • ensure practices notify Health Boards on unfilled posts.

Health will be a key part of the debate we have about Scotland during the forthcoming election campaign.

My hope is that ‘Fit for the Future’ will help to shape that debate and it will help all parties to reach a consensus as to the way forward.