Guest Editorial: Road Safety, Inspiration and Diabetes

David Stewart MSP’s report this month is long – the Editor would usually trim this down, but considered this time around the points being made were important enough to merit inclusion (almost) in full.

David Stewart MSP
David Stewart MSP

I AM DELIGHTED to have the opportunity to write another guest editorial for the ever popular insideMoray.

Road Safety

As most will be aware I have been heavily involved in road safety now for nearly seven years. So it is apt that I start on that subject.

Scotland is falling behind England and Wales regarding the support afforded Police Offices in detecting drivers, driving whilst under the influence of drugs.

Continuing to hammer home my message ‘Don’t Drug Drive’ (DDD) I have said that “Driving under the influence of a drug (including any side effect) is illegal and is controlled by two offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

In Scotland Police Officers only have the Field Impairment Test (FIT) to help detect offences, whilst in England and Wales Police Officers have access to road side drug testing kits (so called drugalysers) which are relatively cheap and have a proven record, helping increase the detection rate in England and Wales from 52% in 2012 to 95% currently.

In Scotland, Police have to prove the driver’s ability was impaired and they do this by elements contained within the FIT test. In England and Wales Police can screen for eight illegal drugs with a ‘low limit’ and eight prescription drugs with a ‘higher limit’, including methadone and morphine. The road side devices can screen at the roadside for cannabis and cocaine with devices at the Police Station being able to screen for the other drugs referred to. Work is on going to develop the roadside devices that can screen for more drugs.

I lodged two Parliamentary Question (PQ’s) asking the Government what plans they had for the introduction of drugs field testing kits (drugalysers) for the use by Police Scotland Officers in the detection of drug drivers and I also asked whether they were considering setting drug driving limits.

In his reply to the specific Parliamentary Question on drug driving limits the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson said “There is long-standing legislation in place that makes it an offence to drive while impaired through the use of drugs.

“The Scottish Government published last year an analysis of responses received to a consultation on introducing drug driving limits and we are continuing to consider the practical implications raised by stakeholders of introducing drug driving limits in Scotland.”

This is an area where I am keen to continue my work relative to road safety.

An inspirational story

This month I tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating and commending George Grant (70) from Forres in securing silver in a race for those aged 70+ at the British Masters (cycle)Track Championships in the Newport Velodrome.

What an achievement and all the more so because of George’s age. To secure silver in such a competitive race at 70 years of age is remarkable and his efforts are just reward for all his endeavour over 55 years in cycling. George is an inspiration to us all and I wish him well.

Forres road junction

Local safety concerns over Market Street junction should be noted.
Local safety concerns over Market Street junction.

This month I was also contacted by a Forres constituent seeking action on a dangerous junction at the Market Street, A96 Forres bypass junction.

I have been watching this particular issue develop and there are some points which appear to me to be relevant.

I note on some social media sites it is claimed that there is no such thing as a bad road or junction, just bad drivers. This is only partly true. Of course driver behaviour is a key component in road collisions, but there are other contributory factors, some of which could include poor road design or layout. Collision statistics are one way of measuring how dangerous a road or junction is, but these statistics do not cater for the many near misses and only calculate the occasions when drivers have been unlucky and have been involved in a collision.

I note that Transport Scotland have come out and said that they have no plans to alter this junction. However, given the local concern in particular and when we bear in mind that one life lost has been one too many, I plan on writing to Transport Scotland asking them to look at this matter again.

It seems to me that a Route Action Plan (RAP) needs to be carried out if not already done and there needs to be some measure or calculations with regard to the number of near misses, of which I am told there are several a day.

Collision statistics on their own are not enough. Based on the outcome of these actions, it can be determined if work needs to be carried out to make the junction safer. For example, at the very least can there be better signage and road markings, do we need to make the junction a turn left only? With a dualling programme underway, although some time off, I cannot see this junction being made in to a roundabout and I would have to question whether there was room to make it into a roundabout in any case.

Whatever we do, we cannot just turn a blind eye to all the concerns raised and just wave away these issues, we need a proper look at all the surrounding evidence and take whatever action is deemed appropriate to prevent collisions and near misses.

Diabetes

Finally – I want to mention a topic I am very interested in which relates to health.
My own interest in diabetes dates back to 1997 when as a fresh faced politician, I was given a tour of the diabetes unit in my local hospital. I met a diabetic nurse who encouraged me to take an interest in the subject.

She told me that diabetes is the main cause of blindness of people of working age, and was responsible for half of all non-traumatic lower limb amputations and that diabetes costs the NHS in Scotland £1/2 billion. My late father-in-law had type 1 diabetes for over 70 years. He lost sight in one eye with the condition, yet he taught me that it is possible to lead a normal life with well controlled and well maintained pen-needle injections.

Last time I asked a Parliamentary question to the Health Minister, I was told there were approximately 280,000 people who were diabetic in Scotland and a further 500,000 who were at high risk of developing Type II. In addition, 46,000 people have the condition but are undiagnosed.

That means there are about 750 undiagnosed diabetes sufferers in each Scottish parliamentary constituency. We also know that, sadly, diabetes is a growing issue amongst our young people, which is why I have championed many healthy eating schemes in schools alongside combatting the levels of sugar in our diets.

Two key issues that I have been involved with are high risk screening for Type II diabetes and the roll out of insulin pumps.

I believe screening for type 2 is vital, but it requires planning that tackles local needs within a national framework, so the key is targeting. We should view screening as a form of prevention rather than as a cure.

That would allow general practitioners or, indeed, diabetic and practice nurses to offer it earlier to patients who are most at risk—normally, people who are over 45, who have a family history of diabetes and are overweight.

Early detection is vital. Diabetes UK reports that most people with type 2 diabetes suffer the condition for between three and seven years before diagnosis .Early detection will reduce the number of patients suffering from complications and it will reduce costs. That detection can be done by a simple and inexpensive urine or blood test that takes about 30 seconds.

The Scottish Government pledged that a quarter of young Scots with type 1 diabetes must have access to insulin pumps by March 2013, and by March 2015, the number of insulin pumps available to people of all ages with type 1 diabetes in Scotland would be more than 2000.

Following a titanic effort by clinical staff and patients this target was reached. It is great that Scottish Government have achieved their commitment, the next phase will be ensuring the sustainability of what has been created.

It is not just enough to make this 25% target of under 18 year olds to be on insulin pumps, the figure of adults is pitifully small. Scotland has made a strong start and is leading the way in the UK however when compared to other European and North American countries it shows that we still have a lot of work to do.

It is important to consider the big picture and compare the cost with that of poorly controlled diabetes – a one-night stay in hospital following admission to accident and emergency for a diabetic emergency costs about £410, one course of laser treatment for retinopathy costs about £850, one procedure of dialysis treatment costs £500 and renal dialysis for one year costs more than £15,000.

The National Institute for Care Excellence guidelines estimate that between 10 and 15% of Scotland’s 27,500 type 1 population is eligible for pump therapy, yet only 2.94% of over 18 year olds had a pump.

We need to monitor what health boards are doing more closely. We need to encourage and badger all health boards to prescribe more pumps. The government must insist that greater pump provision is a national priority.

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