Pressing pause …

Dear Reader

As you may recall, TaysideHealth was launched in January 2015.  In the 31 weeks that have since passed the blog has attracted 290 followers, received 3,620 hits and been viewed in 44 countries around the world; an achievement of which we are very proud.

Credit for this early success is undoubtedly due to the individuals who kindly accepted an invitation toimage contribute a blog in which they shared their knowledge, skills and experience of health topics for which they have a passion.  Thank you to each and every one.

From today however, TaysideHealth is pausing publication of its weekly blog.  Instead, you may wish to consider following AHPscotblog (Mondays), Ayrshirehealth (Wednesdays), Letstalkaboutdementia (Thursdays) and, or, DGhealth (Fridays).

Thank you for reading TaysideHealth.

‘Til we meet again …



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Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland by Kevin Ditcham

Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) is the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity. Founded in 1982, THT has been at the forefront of the HIV epidemic for the past 30 years.image

When Terry Higgins died with AIDS on 4th July 1982, his friends and partner took the love they had for him and the anger they felt at what he had gone through, and decided to make a change. They founded Terrence Higgins Trust in his name so that others wouldn’t have to suffer the way he had suffered.

From just a handful of people, our charity has grown to become the UK’s leading voice on HIV and sexual health. We have staffed phone lines, stuck up posters and visited schools. We have launched clinics, counselling services, youth groups and websites and we have held the Government to account. For a time we helped people to die with dignity, but for the last 15 years we have helped those with HIV to live their lives to the fullest.

Today there are more people living with HIV than ever before and the latest figures show that there are now over 107,000 with the condition in the UK alone. Of these, a quarter are unaware that they’re infected.

For many people, HIV is perceived as something which has either gone away, is not relevant to them or is something that happens thousands of miles away in developing countries. The reality is that men and women from all walks of life are living with the virus and many more are at risk of infection. It is therefore vital that THT continues to deliver targeted prevention programmes, particularly for young people, and continues to raise awareness of HIV and other STIs, as well as providing direct services to people living with HIV.

Our vision is a world where people with HIV live healthy lives free from prejudice and discrimination, and good sexual health is a right and reality for all.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s mission is to:

  • Maximise sexual health in the UK, and minimise the spread of HIV and STIs, by encouraging people to value their sexual health and by leading innovation to increase access to local sexual health services;
  • Empower everyone living with HIV in the UK to maximise their health and wellbeing by working to ensure the best possible HIV treatment and support services;
  • Lead public and political support for HIV and sexual health issues, and campaign to eradicate stigma and discrimination.

A national organisation helping improve the lives of people in Scotland:

Much has changed since the early days of HIV and as the shape of the epidemic has cimagehanged, so has the Trust. Our existing services across Scotland have been developed and we have introduced new services which are modern and innovative, thus meeting with the changing needs of people living with or affected by HIV and poor sexual health.

We are  a national organisation with stability and infrastructure but have local roots, embedded within communities all across Scotland. We are confident that this ensures a long-term response to the HIV and sexual health needs of the people of Scotland.

THT offer a range of practical, community-based services in Scotland, which include:

  • Support services, such as mentoring for people living with HIV
  • Counselling, advice and information
  • Health promotion work targeting key at-risk groups
  • HIV and STI testing services

imageWe have a strong track record of delivering a successful programme of services in Scotland and with limited statutory income; most of our services in the country are funded through voluntary charitable donations. Voluntary donations recently enabled us to launch a postal HIV testing service for anyone, living anywhere, in Scotland. This was the first of its kind and was only made possible thanks to the generous support of our donors.

This new project, Fastest Direct, was developed following extensive research carried out by THT which showed that some people at risk of HIV would be more likely to test, or to test more regularly, if they could test themselves at home. There are 6,000 people living with HIV in Scotland and it’s estimated that 24% of this population remain undiagnosed. People who are diagnosed with HIV today can expect to live a long and healthy life. However, late diagnosis can make it harder for treatment to work effectively and increases the risk of onward transmission due to lack of knowledge of one’s HIV status. It has been estimated that a large proportion of overall HIV transmission is due to people who are not aware of their diagnosis. By improving the availability of testing, THT hopes to reduce the levels of undiagnosed HIV in Scotland and in turn reduce the chances of further onward transmission.

Research shows that reluctance to test in a clinical setting can typically be down to time pressure, the stigma of being seen at a GUM clinic or discomfort when talking about sexual history with a medical practitioner. THT developed the postal testing service to enable all people, including those in rural locations and young people, to access HIV testing. So far, it has helped us to access people who have previously been difficult to reach with conventional testing services and health promotion activities, from Shetland to the Borders.

imageLaunched in November 2014, Fastest Direct has been a huge success, with around 700 test kits already sent out,  and we think it is a strong example of the amazing things we can achieve through being efficient with our funds and by being innovative and needs-led. Anyone in Scotland can order an HIV test from We’d encourage you to order one and take a test for yourself!

We recognise assets!

We are a huge believer in asset-based approaches in all aspects of what we do. Whether this is about one to one support with individuals, empowering them to take greater influence in managing their health, or working with volunteers; releasing their potential and capabilities. We recognise that everyone has assets, even if they don’t realise it yet. It’s our mission to work with people in providing the best outcomes for individuals and communities. Volunteers play a huge part in what we do and we really couldn’t achieve so much without them! Volunteers in Scotland support us in working with communities, health promotion work, staffing clinics, doing HIV testing, working on our phone line (THT Direct) as well as talking about HIV with their peers – one of the best ways to challenge the stigma!

If you’d like to find out about our work in Tayside, visit Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. You can also email


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Samaritans by Jo Ahern

For over fifty years, Samaritans of Dundee has been there for people who are in distress and in need of someone to talk to and non-judgemental, unconditional support. Opened in 1962, our branch now has 50 volunteers offering round the clock support via telephone, email, text message and even face-to-face, to anyone who may be struggling to cope.image

What is remarkable is that the service is delivered entirely by volunteers, with over a 1000 in Scotland joining the 20,000-plus members across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The charity is always looking to recruit more volunteers to help us continue this crucial service, and Samaritans of Dundee is no exception. Our volunteers are the lifeblood of Samaritans, and each member of the branch plays a vital part in helping us to support people who are struggling, from those answering the phones, texts and emails, to those who help us by raising money for us at local events and promoting our work in the community. We are a charity, and we hold those people who support us, in many, many wonderful ways, very close to our hearts indeed.

Some of our Samaritans are non-listening support volunteers, and these lovely people help keep our service living and breathing by taking care of our finances, building maintenance, and even kindly making sure that we have teabags, coffee and the ever-essential biscuits for the times that we are on shift, listening to our callers. However, when the phone rings, the coffee goes cold and the tea is forgotten . . . The callers and the calls are what we are there for.

imageOur trained volunteers are ordinary people from all walks of life; they listen and, because our service is totally confidential, it allows our callers to talk about things that they might be too worried about to share with friends or family. They appreciate a safe, non-judgemental environment to explore their options and how they feel – without having to worry about upsetting the other person. For many of our callers we are a sounding board, a place where they can ‘test-run’ their lead up to conversation that they need or want to have. Sometimes, the callers talk to us about events, feelings and subjects that they have never talked about before and may never mention again, but for many people who contact Samaritans, knowing that they have someone they can talk to helps.

For many of our callers, we can be the first port of call when they are feeling low. By giving them the time to talk, they can sort through their feelings and find a way forward that is right for them. Some callers contact us when obstacles, hurts and and painful events have taken a toll on them, but in talking to us, we always hope to reassure them that we are there for them – no matter what . . .

Although best known for offering a 24 hour helpline, Samaritans’ work extends beyond the branches. Dundee Samaritans support a Prison Listener Scheme at HMP Castle Huntly, training prisoners to become Listeners, so that they can offer confidential support to fellow inmates. Samaritans also head out into the community with ‘Feet on the Street’. We visit shopping centres, supermarkets, community centres, wellbeing fairs, make ourselves available outside nightclubs – and basically anywhere else we are invited to attend or feel that we might be of some use. We have had stalls at freshers’ fairs and colleges and universities, visited with rotary clubs and rural groups, and we have spoken with university groups and societies. Our talks team are always happy to respond to invitations and are always so well looked after by our hosts!

Spreading the word that we are here to support people in distress isimage so important to us, and our national and local campaigns reflect this. Our Talk To Us campaign, which runs annually throughout July, is as genuine and as straightforward as it sounds. We are encouraging people to talk to us. We want to let people know that anyone can contact Samaritans, whoever they are, however they are feeling, and whatever life has done to them. They can talk in confidence by phone, email, text or face to face, about whatever’s troubling them.

You don’t have to be suicidal to talk to Samaritans . . . Everyone struggles at some point, or feels overwhelmed by what’s happening in their lives. It can feel difficult to talk, even to people you feel close to. Our volunteers are here to listen, round the clock, every day of the year, to help you work through your problems.

It might be a life-changing event like a relationship breakdown, redundancy or bereavement. But work, study, family, friends, finances, housing, health, sexuality and loneliness are just some of the things you can talk to us about. You can talk to us, and we will listen.

During July, on the 24th of the 7th month, we also take the opportunity to remind people that they can talk to a Samaritan 24/7, that is every hour of the day and night, every day of the year . . . There is always a Samaritan there to take your call. So please phone. Talk to us . . .

You can contact Samaritans at any time of the day or night by calling 08457 90 90 90 or contacting Dundee Samaritans on 01382 832555. You can also email Samaritans via If you would like to learn more about Samaritans, their work and their campaigns, visit

If you are interested in volunteering with Dundee Samaritans, we would love to hear from you. Contact the Dundee Branch on 01382 832555.

Jo Ahern is the Chairperson at Samaritans of Dundee.

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Listening to Music – a behavioural immunogen? by Jeff Hooper

I am a music therapist working with adults who have a learning disability. For thirty years, I have observed the physical, social and psychological benefits of making music (singing and playing instruments) with often very withdrawn and isolated people. Music therapy is about reaching out and the most special moments are when people connect with me, and with each other, through music. It still thrills me when sharing a guitar draws a moments eye-contact from a very withdrawn person, or when, by first supporting their music-making and then by encouraging them to explore new ways of expressing themselves, imagethere in a growing sense of synchronicity as I play music either with one or with a small group of clients.That’s an active approach to music therapy, but I have always been very aware of the treatment potential of something as relatively simple and, with the advent of MP3 players, remarkably inexpensive as listening to music (or, to give it its correct title, receptive music therapy).

During my postgraduate training (1984-85) I was immediately struck by the way music therapy changed behaviour. It was then I first became aware that music could engage withdrawn and unmotivated people. It was then I first became aware that both singing and playing an instrument provided ways of developing non-musical skills that enhanced social, communicative and physical abilities. At the time (1985), I wrote this about Christine.

“Christine had been a patient in a large institution for mentally handicapped adults for over twenty years, and lacking stimulation from and effect on her environment she had become unmotivated and withdrawn. In music therapy I found that she responded to nursery songs and sang with me as I played on the piano. She had suffered a road traffic accident at six years of age which accounted for this response. It was interesting to observe how her behaviour changed when given a microphone to increase the volume of the sound she produced. Suddenly aware that she was having some affect and success in this situation a volte-face occurred – she became very motivated and less withdrawn”.

However, an afternoon with Mark on my first placement in a large psychiatric hospital made the greatest impression. On that occasion, I noted how people often became more relaxed and less agitated as they listened to music. At the time (1984), I wrote this about Mark.

“Mark was on an admission ward, he was about twenty-years-old and amazingly tense – like a coiled spring in fact. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see him relax as the therapist played Bach’s ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ on the piano. His hands, that had been rigid, curved naturally. All the tension left his face and with his eyes closed he moved from side to side in time with the music”.

music-therapy-is-totally-natural-has-no-side-effects-and-its-free_300I was convinced then that receptive, listening, music therapy was a valuable intervention, and I remain convinced. Consequently, I have used receptive music therapy throughout my time as a clinician. I have found that it can alleviate an individual’s anxiety as they first become involved in music therapy and that it can have a calming influence when someone is over stimulated or agitated. I have completed several investigations examining the impact of music therapy, both active and receptive, on people with a learning disability. These investigations culminated in a substantial piece of work that demonstrated some value in introducing calming music into the mealtime environment at a time when people with a learning disability are more anxious.

I am an advocate of receptive music therapy and, as such, I have been encouraged to read how music listening is being used with people at both ends of the age spectrum. At one end of the scale lullabies are being used to reduce the pain experienced by babies with cardiac and/or respiratory problems, while at the other Playlist for Life is transforming the lives of people with dementia and their carers. It helps rebuild relationships by using MP3 players to relay carefully chosen music of special significance to the dementia sufferer. Furthermore, although effectiveness data is mixed, there is a growing belief that post-operative pain can be eased by the distraction of listening to your favourite music and consequently it is recommended in acute pain management guidelines as a way of managing moderate postoperative pain in conjunction with opioids.

The study of health behaviour has focused on behaviours that protect health. These behavioural immunogens are lifestyle choices or patterns of behaviours associated with greater longevity and decreased risk for illness. They are things like not smoking, brushing your teeth, getting regular exercise, using safety belts, good sleeping habits and so on. I wonder, given the widening application of music listening, should it be added to this list so that the interventions presented in these pictures become more common place?

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Togs for Tots by Jordan Butler

What is Togs for Tots? image

Togs for Tots is a non-profit organisation serving Dundee and the surrounding areas. The aim is to be the ‘go-to’ service for families struggling to provide essential clothing and equipment for their children (any baby or child classed as a dependant).

How does it work?

Togs for Tots runs similarly to the foodbank concept: Donations are collected from the general public then matched up with referrals from professional bodies that we work with. Clothes are accepted for all ages of children, in addition to maternity wear, bedding and essential equipment such as prams, cots and high chairs.

How can I refer?

Togs for Tots endeavour to ensure that the right people know about this service so they can refer as they need to. We accept referrals from :

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Charities
  • Non profit organisations
  • Toddlers/ kids group leaders
  • School and nursery staff
  • Volunteers/ befrienders
  • Council staff who work with families
  • Job and government advice centres
  • Social and Support workers

The referral form is online and very user-friendly.  It can be filled out and submitted from any mobile device, without having to attach to email.  All referrals are processed in the strictest of confidence.

Success of the Project

imageThis new project has quickly built momentum in Dundee with hundreds of donations received and a facebook page with 2000 followers. Most importantly, 50 children across the area have been provided for. The project is confident that many more can be helped, by way of spreading the word of this service. Some feedback from our completed referrals:

“Thank you so much! The service was so great and the delivery was super efficient. Will definitely use this referral again.”

“Absolutely delighted with the service you deliver. The referral was quickly received and then distributed. Good quality equipment and clothing was passed over to the family who were over the moon and very grateful.” image

“On behalf of the family I am working with, thanks again. A small act of kindness goes a long way :- )”

Where can I find out more information?

Sign up to our Facebook page or email

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#WhyWeDoResearch Campaign by Michael Keeling


Well here goes … my first attempt at writing a blog and what better subject than the power of social media and the #whywedoresearch campaign.


I was definitely a non-believer with all things social media.  I did not get Friends Reunite, why would I want to be back in touch with people that I haven’t kept in touch with?  I was on Facebook, but I did not really get it, and the thought that social media could be used positively as a professional tool, well it made no sense to me.

All that said, I was persuaded to take a look at Twitter and its use to me professionally.  My professional role is that of a Research Nurse, a role that has been invisible to many, and yet so integral to the development of evidence based practice.  So with the help of my daughter, I set up my Twitter account, @keeling_michael and the rest as they say is history!  What a fantastic forum I had discovered, to learn, share and connect with individuals, not just in the same office, the same ward, the same hospital, the same city … But all around the world … and to do this in 140 characters or less!  This was a struggle as I am prone to waffling!

Anyway, there I was, tweeting away, when I came across a tweet from @clairegibbsuk.  Now I knew Claire through Twitter, a fellow research nurse, however this tweet was different.  It had a picture attached, with the #whywedoresearch, and immediately caught my eye as it was a simple concept, a photo of the individual holding a placard explaining in their words, why we do research.


The concept was simple.  Claire, and colleague Abby, came up with the #whywedoresearch with the aim to raise awareness of research and the research team locally within their workplace at the James Paget University Hospitals Foundation Trust.  I was excited!  I could see the potential of the #whywedoresearch and joined in, tweeting from both my account and the Stroke Research account at @strokeythft, asking individuals involved with stroke research locally to share their #whywedoresearch.  The Stroke team embraced the campaign, all members of the team joined in, sharing their words.  In December, I was kindly invited by Claire to become a national collaborator for the campaign.  My answer was a resounding “YES!”


The #whywedoresearch started gaining momentum, more individuals, trusts, charities and organisations got involved.  What started as a local campaign quickly spread nationally.  At which point we decided to create a video and post it on YouTube .   This was a great success and received 400 views in its first week and at present just over 1200 views.

#whywedoresearch continued to grow and further its reach internationally with 14 countries to date involved.  To build cbupon the momentum generated by the last video, we decided to produce another, showing the development from a local campaign to a global campaign, and similar to the previous one Local to Global was launched on YouTube .


As the campaign has grown, we have recruited more collaborators, with the role to champion the campaign in their country, and have recently introduced the ambassador role to champion the campaign locally within the individuals’ organisation.


What has the campaign achieved?  Many positives.  Personally what I feel is amazing is the sense of community #whywedoresearch has created.  Twitter has allowed hierarchies to disappear, for patients, public, individuals, families, organisations, staff all to contribute and join the conversation, and have a voice in why we do research.  It has even been used in a school for learning about research.

We recently had an article published in the Nursing Times; I’ve never been published before!


Nearly 3000 separate accounts have joined in with #whywedoresearch; it now has over 25,000,ooo impressions on Twitter worldwide.  I have been completely bowled over by the enthusiasm for the campaign and humbled by peoples’ generosity in sharing what are often very personal thoughts.  Friendships have developed, as well as professional networks, connecting like minded individuals across the globe.  But above all, #whywedoresearch has created a fun way for all to get involved with raising the profile of research.

It has been an amazing journey, one that has been undertaken in our own time, one that is far from over, so please, feel free to join in the conversation and help raise awareness of research … oh and have some fun in doing so!


Michael Keeling is a Research Nurse working in stroke research developing patient centred services.  He is also a co-administrator for @resnurse @strokeythft #crnurse and National Collaborator for #whywedoresearch

Follow Michael on Twitter: @keeling_michael and join in the campaign at #whywedoresearch

STOP PRESS: Register for the Scottish Research Nurses and Coordinators Network (SRNCN), 30 October 2015 in Dundee #crnurse @SRNCN1

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Bumblebees: Making the Impossible Possible by Teresa Chinn MBE RN

I recently came across this on my Facebook page and felt imageimmediately drawn to it, not only is the picture what some might describe as “colourful content” but also I feel that it’s a very wise little quote.

The reason it caught my eye was that I am starting to believe that the use of social media in health and social care is a little Bumblebee-esque (I’m not sure if that’s a real word, but I am going with it!) in that it works but I am not sure it should!

I’m a nurse, and I have been a nurse for some (ahem) 19 years now and the reason I started tweeting and blogging is purely because of my love of nursing.  5 years ago I was working as an agency nurse and feeling pretty disenchanted, although agency nursing worked for my family (with three children and a husband who worked away having a full time role was pretty impossible) it didn’t really work for me professionally.  All the coming and going, hopping in and out and filling in here and there meant that I really never had anyone to hold a professional conversation with and professional support was non existent.  Then there was the CPD, or lack thereof, CPD was really down to me to source, access and pay for – which at times was tough.

In order to connect with other nurses, and after some gentle persuasion from my husband, I started blogging and tweeting, my first blog was “Is there anybody out there?” and rather poignantly reached out and asked if there were any nurses out there like me. Through Twitter conversations and blogging I slowly discovered that there were lots of nurses out there, who, like me, wanted to connect and share ideas, knowledge, information, expertise, resources and support.

Through a few discussions and email exchanges the need for something more structured and organised came to life and @WeNurses  was created – a regularimage Twitter chat around a pre determined subject in order to help share knowledge, ideas, experiences and support.  The first chat we held had 18 people take part and since then it’s just grown and grown and become a really vibrant community of nurses that now number over 34 thousand. The picture below is taken from Symplur’s Healthcare Hashtag Project and shows some of the big numbers behind the community.

However its often not the big numbers that really show the value of the community but the 140 character tweets that tell personal stories of how social media has helped nurses:



The wonderful thing about social media, and Twitter in particular, is that as communities grow more people become aware of them and want to join in or develop a similar thing for their own areas of interest.  The passion that is shared very openly by the WeNurses community has been seen by other professions and as a result there is now a community of professional communities – WeCommunities now includes: @WeMidwives, @WeCommissioners, @WeDocs, @WePharmacists, @WeParamedics, @WeAHPs and of course the many branches of nursing: @WeMHnurses, @WeLDnurses, @WeCYPnurses, @WeGPNs, @WeSchoolNurses and @WeDistrictNurses


I often hear myself saying to people that the reason why Twitter works so well for health care professionals is that it gives us access to global expertise in the palm of our hand and this really is the case.  We only have to look at @WeSchoolNurses to see evidence of this; school nurses are a very small branch of nursing, yet they have a strong voice on Twitter that is on a global scale.  The map below shows the extent and reach of @WeSchoolNurses followers.


                           (Map from Followerwonk)

Due to the open nature of Twitter a conversation is rarely hidden from view and the sharing of knowledge across geographical locations is commonplace. With “open space” conversations anyone from anywhere can join in .. and they do!

So is all this just chit chat? Does it have any real value? What about the evidence base? In a survey of WeNurses followers last year it was great to see that people did find value in Twitter and it affected practice.

image(Graph from Survey Monkey)

In addition to this participants of discussions are now encouraged to use evidence to back up what they are saying, through the use of the hashtag #EBP but often what people are saying, their experience of practice is in itself evidence – practice based evidence.  However, we are always looking for new and different ways of doing things and one such opportunity came up recently to help bring more evidence and research into Twitter.  In conjunction with Cochrane UK, CASP and The Mental Elf we have now launched #WeCATS – which is a Critical Appriasal Twitter Session that aims to take a randomised control trial and do a speedy appraisal of it on Twitter over the course of an hour.  It’s quite exciting and we hope that it will de mystify the whole critical appraisal process.

Holding a conversation in 140 characters with up to 26image0 HCPs over one hour is amazingly powerful, inspiring and innovative stuff.  Connecting of people, sharing of stories, knowledge, information, resources and expertise and discussing that over an hour in limited text shouldn’t work, not only on a professional level i.e. the risk element of putting oneself in a very public space and the worry of “what if I say something wrong” but also it seems a lot like herding cats … totally impossible!

However it works!!  – my gut feeling is it’s like the bumblebee, if we don’t let on that it shouldn’t work then everyone will just keep on going anyway.  Social Media use within health and social care is all about making the impossible possible, so I applaud all of those un- aerodynamic but nevertheless flying bumblebees out there … lets keep innovating, lets keep exploring this space and lets fly high.

Teresa Chinn MBE RN can be followed on Twitter @AgencyNurse

Teresa is also the founder of @WeNurses

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