How Brexit could effect future treatment of cancer patients and supply of radioisotopes

Brexit could result in a “traumatic failure” to deliver medical isotopes on time to cancer patients, MSPs heard today.

 Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart, who is also Scottish labour’s shadow health minister, explained how the UK leaving the European Atomic Energy Community – known as Euratom – as part of Brexit’s Article 50 process could affect patients under-going treatment.

 He was speaking at his Members’ Debate in Scottish Parliament.

 Medical radioistopes are used in radiotherapy for treatment of cancer and in nuclear medicine for both diagnostic work and therapy.

 The principal radioisotope used worldwide is Technetium, derived from a parent element that has a half-life of 66 hours.  This element is obtained from a small number of research nuclear reactors – none of which are located in the UK.  The Hinkley Point nuclear research facility, planned for 2027, could produce medical isotopes but not until it is ready. 

 The bulk of the UK’s supply is from the EU, facilitated by Euratom Supply Operation.

 “We already have a world shortage of medical isotopes,” said Mr Stewart.

 “A key provider, Canada, has just ceased production. The EU is home to four of the top six producers. The distance to Australia and South Africa means they are problematic providers – supply would be limited by the decay of medical isotopes which would occur during transportation.”

 Mr Stewart said the key issue was that isotopes have short half-lives. That means they decay rapidly and cannot be stored.  This creates an urgent need for constant, reliable and predictable supply.  But this has failed in the past and created global shortages.  Euratom has a central and crucial leadership role –it supervises the supply chains.

“There was a crisis in 2008 with the closure of the Channel Tunnel.  Then again in 2015, industrial action in Calais caused chaos in the transportation of isotopes and therefore the cancellation of treatment in the UK,” he said.

“A clear and present danger to the NHS in Scotland and beyond is the loss of frictionless borders post-Brexit.  This could result in a traumatic failure to deliver medical isotopes on time to cancer patients.”

Mr Stewart said that the scale of use is immense and invaluable.  In the UK, around 700,000 nuclear medicine procedures are carried out each year, with around 70,000 of those in Scotland.  It is essential in diagnosing coronary disease, detecting the spread of cancer to the bones, and biomedical research.

The MSP called for the UK Government to come to an agreement that allows the country to remain a part of Euratom.

He also said that there could be a move to create more cyclotrons in Scotland – this facility (a linear accelerator) produces radioisotopes for PET and CT Scanners. 

“There are three in Scotland – Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen but no spare capacity to other PET Centres such as Dundee,” said Mr Stewart.

“There is a case for a PET Scanner in Inverness, with Highland spending £300K on scans alone. However, a large scale switch is expensive.”

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, David Stewart backs betting shop campaign to tackle killer disease

David is backing a campaign in betting shops to raise awareness about a disease which kills almost 1000 men a year in Scotland.

William Hill, one of the largest retail bookmakers in Scotland, has partnered with Prostate Cancer UK and industry trade association ABB Scotland in a bid to provide potentially life saving information and support to men at risk of developing the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men, with one in eight men likely to get the disease at some point in their lives. However, it can often be successfully treated if caught early enough. Awareness of risk is a man’s chief defence against the disease. Men over 50, men with a family history of the disease and black men are more at risk and should speak to their doctor if they have concerns.

Throughout the campaign, which runs until the end of September, prostate cancer information and leaflets will be available within all 310 William Hill shops in Scotland, awareness posters will be displayed on washroom doors, and all staff will receive training on key prostate cancer messages to bring up in conversation with customers. Volunteers from Prostate Cancer UK, who have lived or are currently living with the disease, will also visit shops and talk to staff and customers about their own experiences.

Fundraising is also be a key component of the partnership. Customers will have the opportunity to buy one of the charity’s ‘Man of Men’ pin badges in store or simply donate via collection tins which will be in each store. The campaign hopes to raise £20,000 in support of the charity and is well on its way to achieving its target.

David Stewart said “I am more than happy as Shadow Health Minister to back this campaign. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and the disease kills one man every 45 minutes in the UK. This is why it is important to target men and I am delighted that William Hill have partnered up with Prostrate Cancer UK to do just that through their network of shops.

Kathleen Feeney, Team Leader – Volunteer Engagement for Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Prostate Cancer UK’s ambition is to stop men dying from prostate cancer and to achieve this it is crucial to reach as many men as possible to help raise awareness of their risk. Partnering with William Hill provides an opportunity to get these important health messages out to a large number of men in Scotland whilst raising funds.”

Garry Fenton, William Hill Regional Manager, said: “It is a privilege for William Hill to be partnering with Prostate Cancer UK, who do such vital work in tackling the disease. We have a significant presence in Scotland and using our network of shops we have a real opportunity to raise awareness of a cancer which is now the third biggest killer in the UK, and encourage as many of our customers, colleagues and members of our communities to seek support if they have any concerns about their health.”

ABB Scotland, the trade body representing the majority of retail betting shops in Scotland, is part funding the campaign.
ABB Scotland spokesman Donald Morrison said: “Given the age profile of many of our customers, typically male and over 50, this partnership makes perfect sense. Hopefully, the close relationship between shop staff and customers means we can break down some of the taboos surrounding the disease and encourage customers to have conversations with their GP that they might not otherwise have.”

Carers’ Allowance

MSP David Stewart is asking Highlands and Islands carers for their views after Labour launched a major discussion paper and consultation aimed at maximising the incomes of Scotland’s carers.

With the new carers’ allowance supplement starting to be paid into bank accounts, the Party is inviting carers to set out how best Holyrood can use its new powers over the allowance to bolster the support offered alongside the benefit.

Across Highlands and Islands carers receive the benefit, which now is worth the same Jobseeker’s Allowance each week after the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed to increase its value.

The consultation seeks the opinions of carers on a number of suggestions aimed at increasing support for carers and their families, including maximising incomes and reducing council tax bills.

Other ideas include removing current limitations on other earnings or time spent in education, both of which can currently make someone ineligible for receiving carer’s allowance.

“Carers deserve every support for the valuable care and love they give every day to their relatives and friends,” said Mr Stewart.

“With the carer’s allowance supplement finally starting to pay out, that payment must be the start of the new support, not the end.

“Now is the time to think about the overall package of support provided alongside entitlement to carer’s allowance covering work, study, and across public services.

“That is why Scottish Labour has launched this major consultation to ensure their voices are heard.

“I want the thousands of carers across the Highlands and Islands to have a voice in what kind of support they want and need.

“Scottish Labour has already secured valuable extra support for carers in Scotland – and we stand ready to continue the fight on their behalf.”

The discussion paper can be seen here:

Carers can respond to the discussion paper survey at

A96 – Inverness to Nairn Road

Highlands Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart, has complained to the A96 operating company, Bear Scotland, after learning that temporary traffic lights had been set up just before rush hour at the junction of the A96 Inverness – Nairn Road and the unnamed access road to Whiteness Head, Nairn. The lights had been set up early this morning (Before 8am on 12/9/28), which caused commuters lengthy delays, frustration and chaos.

“ What makes the situation worse” said David Stewart “is the fact that this is the second similar incident on the same stretch of road in two weeks, whereby there were no workmen or no roadworks being undertaken at the site of these temporary lights. Basically no work was ongoing. My office staff eventually managed to contacted Bear, the operating company, based at Perth. The spokesperson did not know why the temporary lights had been set up at that time on a priority ‘A’ class route, but undertook to ascertain the reasons why.

“ It does beggar belief that twice now in two weeks a utility company have set up temporary traffic lights during peak commuter times on the A96 between Inverness and Nairn, where no road works are being undertaken and there are no workmen on site, not even employees of the company who set up the temporary lights and are supposed to manage them.

On the 28th of last month the same thing happened on the A96 at its junction with Barn Church Road. I and many other individuals and organisations involved in road safety, strive to make sure our roads are safer and we do this by addressing driver behaviour and reducing frustration. Then twice in two weeks on the same stretch of road, a utility company, set up temporary traffic lights during peak traffic times on a trunk road, at a location where no road works are being undertaken. It was my understanding that such temporary lights were not to be set up on trunk roads before 9.30am unless in an emergency.


David Stewart continued “ I later learned from Bear Scotland that in fact BT Openreach had discovered through the night that a manhole cover at this location looked likely to collapse and they set up the temporary traffic lights. This utility company did not advise Bear Scotland and they did not have the temporary lights manned through peak rush hour. First of all I am content that the lights were set up in good faith for a valid and urgent reason, but communication with the operating company clearly did not happen, or indeed anyone else including the media. There did not appear to be warnings of tail backs likely given to the motoring public. Had Bear Scotland been informed of this incident they would have ensured that the temporary lights were manned during rush hour.

I hope this information reassures the motoring public that there was a valid reason for this particular set of temporary traffic lights, albeit there was a total break down in communication between BT Openreach and Bear Scotland or indeed anyone else.

The message we should take out of this is that temporary traffic lights will be set up on trunk roads during peak hours in emergency cases only and then if set up, they should be manned at these peak times. If this does not happen then contact should be made with the operating company or Police Scotland Roads Policing Unit.

“Reducing driver frustration continues to be something I and my team at NOSDAT (North Of Scotland Driver Awareness Team) are determined to tackle.

Operating Companies removing Road Kill

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart contacts Transport Scotland to ascertain policy on the removal of road kill by operating companies on trunk routes.
David Stewart said “ I have been contacted by a constituent who has advised that there has been a dead badger on the side of the A96 Auldearn bypass for two weeks now. This is not the first time I have received such contacts. I have previously been advised of dead deer on the verges between Inverness and Nairn. I assumed that the operating company, in this case Bear Scotland, had a responsibility to remove these carcasses within a set period, as part of their contract. I have written to Transport Scotland today to ask this question and ascertain with which body this responsibility lies.
“Considering the operating companies travel along out trunk routes daily, I am surprised that no action is being taken.
“ Of course it is upsetting for animal lovers to see such animal deaths, but I am afraid that is one of the hazards of driving on rural roads. As the dark nights creep in we have to be more aware of the likelihood of wild animals straying onto our carriageways, so I would urge extra vigilance. Wild animals on the road can and do cause collisions. The best advice is to brake and try to avoid a collision without leaving your lane, unless it is safe to do so. If you hit an animal which is covered by The Road Traffic Act 1988 – namely, dogs, goats, horses, cattle, donkeys, mules, sheep and pigs you are legally required to report it to the police.

Wick Airport

Labour’s David Stewart and Rhoda Grant are supporting constituents who want to see Wick air routes ring-fenced and protected for the future.
The MSPs, who represents the Highlands and Islands, have been contacted by local people calling for a Public Service Obligation (PSO) on Caithness air services because they argue the region has been failed by not having good transport links.
A PSO, under EU transport law, is a permitted state aid which maintains scheduled air services on routes vital for the economic development of the region they serve.
Mr Stewart contacted Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, after a recent visit to Caithness where the need for a PSO was raised by constituents particularly concerned about the future of the Wick-Edinburgh route. Mrs Grant has been contacted by a business also worried about fragile air links.
Caithness Chamber of Commerce argued last month that a PSO route to Wick would put Caithness and Sutherland on an equal footing with many remote and rural communities elsewhere in Scotland well-served by air routes.
In his reply to the MSPs, Mr Matheson highlighted Wick’s two scheduled air services, Wick-Edinburgh and Wick-Aberdeen, and said that “given the commercial nature of the current air services serving multiple destinations, it is not possible to impose a PSO on an air service from Wick at present”.
Mr Matheson added: “Should both current services cease we would consider the use of a PSO.”
Mr Stewart stressed that the travelling time from Edinburgh was at least five and a half hours by car and eight hours by public transport, weather conditions permitting.
“The Scottish Government’s reply is disappointing,” said Mr Stewart.
“I’ve been told about the deep concern in Caithness about the future viability of Wick’s air routes and it would be a great pity if we had to wait for a complete failure of the service before the Scottish Government take action.
“I will be raising this in the Scottish Parliament as Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Aviation.”
Mr Grant added that businesses were already challenged by being in a remote, rural area and maintaining of air links were vital for development and jobs.
“Many jobs hang in the balance which are connected to a good air service, from those at the airport itself, to Aberdeen links to the oil and gas industry, to servicing wind energy developments and so on.
“Dounreay decommissioning is ongoing and relies on air transport for travelling contractors and executives. Passengers should not have to travel to Inverness to access vital air services.”

David Stewart has highlighted Pedestrians and cyclists need protecting

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart has highlighted Pedestrians and cyclists need protecting by better markings and signage.
David Stewart said “ For every person walking along minding their own business, there is also likely to be a cyclists not far off. This situation has irritated and annoyed many walkers who write into me to complain. The issue has also exasperated some cyclists who have been verbally abused by pedestrians. However, the issue is not straight forward. It is not as simple as cyclists on the road and walkers on the pavement.
Many of these footways are shared space and there are only signs intermittedly and markings at junctions. There is a distinct lack of circular blue and white signs containing cycle and pedestrian symbols and a similar lack of white markings on the pavement. The outcome, as most of us know is that cyclist feel intimidated legally cycling on some footways and pedestrians feel angered that cyclists are cycling on what they perceive is a pavement.
So what is the answer. Well in my opinion we need far more blue and white signs and far more route marking, even a dividing line between pedestrians and walkers. However, we could go a step further and consider painting all shared cycle routes on shared footways in urban areas a uniform colour across Scotland. Surely this would make the situation better and reduce those incidents of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians by making clear what footways are shared space.
I have written to the Transport Minister, Michael Matheson MSP suggesting this initiative.


MSP contests Health Secretary’s reply that ACAS cannot get involved in bullying and harassment cases

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, is taking the Health Secretary to task after she rejected the involvement of ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – in allegations of bullying and harassment at NHS Highland.
Mr Stewart, who is also Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, asked the Scottish Government if it had been in discussion with ACAS following a briefing from the GMB saying it was raising a Collective Dispute against NHS Highland management and board.
In a written reply, Jeane Freeman said: “ACAS provide conciliation and arbitration services rather than the investigation of bullying and harassment concerns”.
However, Mr Stewart said he would now be contacting ACAS to challenge this.
“The GMB has requested that talks with NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government should begin at the earliest opportunity and, as it was now a formal Collective Dispute, that ACAS intervene too,” he said.
“So many people are now coming forward with their own personal stories of bullying that it is obvious that only an independent investigation will protect them and I believe that ACAS can play a valuable role in discussions around how this could be done.
“The Health Secretary is missing the point. We need to start taking constructive steps to avoid further reputational damage caused by the continual denial of what is evidently an issue in NHS Highland.
“The longer the Scottish Government holds out on launching an external investigation the more damage is being done to NHS staff and the more concern there is from patients.”