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Bereaved mum demands action after critical Foreign Office report

The mother of a man from the Borders who died abroad has welcomed a report critical of the way British diplomats treat families going through bereavement.

The inquiry said many relatives found Foreign Office staff to be rude, incompetent and insensitive. Julie Sheppard from near Selkirk is one of the main campaigners for change. Our reporter Matthew Taylor has the story.

Foreign Office respond to report concerns

The mother of a man from the Borders who died abroad has welcomed a report critical of the way British diplomats treat families going through bereavement.

Julie Sheppard said staff were unhelpful when the body of her son Andrew was returned from France without his heart or his brain. A Foreign Affairs Select Committee report shows many relatives found consular staff to be 'rude, incompetent and insensitive'.

The Foreign Office offered the following statement:

"We are always looking to improve our services, and we have already freed-up staff on the ground to focus on those who most need assistance, developed online services and improved our crisis response so we can get faster support to those who urgently need it."

– Statement from the Foreign Office

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'They want you out of their hair as quickly as possible'

Julie Sheppard's son Andrew Watt, who was from Durham, was found dead in a lane in France in 2010. Credit: ITV Border

A family from the Borders has welcomed a report that criticises the way consular staff abroad treat bereaved relatives.

Julie Sheppard's son died from a heart attack while in France - but she says she got no assistance.

The Foreign Office said it meets every family, but the report highlighted concerns that some of its staff were insensitive and incompetent.

Read: Grieving families protest outside Foreign Office

"They basically want you out of their hair as quickly as possible. It's really unpleasant as a mum losing her son, to feel uncomfortable about ringing up because you feel you're a nuisance."

– Julie Sheppard, Andrew's mother

Full report: Health staff strike over pay

Health staff across Cumbria have taken part in a strike over pay. Planned operations were postponed and clinics cancelled as workers from several unions walked out for four hours this morning.

It was part of an England-wide day of action. The UK government says it can't afford to give all staff the 1 per cent pay rise they're calling for. Katie Hunter reports:

NHS staff protest over pay dispute

Health staff outside the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle join national strike. Credit: ITV Border
Staff including nurses, midwifes and radiographers, walked out for 4 hours in another protest over pay. Credit: ITV Border

Health workers across Cumbria staged a fresh round of industrial action this morning in an ongoing bitter row over pay.

The Society of Radiographers joined 10 other unions to protest at the government's decision not to accept a recommended one percent pay rise for all NHS workers. According to the society, this is the first year since 1982 that radiographers have gone on strike over pay.

The Government says it can't afford the pay rise without risking jobs.

"It's since 2008 that we haven't had an increase in pay, apart from our incremental pay rises as you progress through your career. We don't have anywhere else to work - the NHS is the sole provider, really, of jobs for radiographers. Jobs in the private sector are almost negligible unless you want to go and work for agencies, so we can't go and find a better paid job elsewhere, we have to work for the NHS. "

– Bernice Nicoll, Deputy Principal Radiographer, Cumberland Infirmary

NHS staff strike over pay

Workers have walked out on strike, in protest at the Government's decision not to give them a recommended 1\% pay rise Credit: PA

Health workers across Cumbria will stage a fresh round of industrial action this morning in an ongoing bitter row over pay.

Staff including nurses, midwifes and radiographers, will walk out for 4 hours in another protest at the government's decision not to accept a recommended one percent pay rise for all NHS workers.

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Rise in Cumbrian patients treated by Northumbria NHS Trust

When people need an operation they generally want to be treated as close to home as possible. But figures obtained by ITV Border show a big rise in the number of planned operations on Cumbrian patients taking place in Northumberland.

The biggest increase is in orthopaedic procedures. One former consultant has told this programme it reflects "chaotic management" at North Cumbria University Hospitals. The Trust denies that and explains that it's helping to reduce waiting lists. Katie Hunter reports:

HIV - the dangers of late diagnosis

It's estimated that a quarter of people in the UK living with HIV are unaware of their infection. Credit: PA

People who are worried about HIV are being encouraged to take a test early as new figures show that many Cumbrians with HIV wait too long for a test.

People living with HIV can expect a near normal life-span if they are diagnosed promptly. However, waiting longer can mean the treatment is far less effective.

Although HIV is far less prevalent here than in other parts of the UK, 62 per cent of those who go for a test are deemed late - well above the national rate for the same period (2011 to 2013) of 45 per cent.

A late diagnosis means the immune system may already be significantly compromised. Someone who is diagnosed late is 10 times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis, and could have significantly reduced life expectancy.

The county’s public health chiefs are using next week’s National HIV Testing Week to highlight the dangers of late diagnosis.

While the vast majority of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men do not have HIV, latest data shows the infection route for the majority of all HIV diagnoses in Cumbria was men who have sex with men (56.8%).

The results also show that:

  • Heterosexual contact between men and women accounts for 33.1% of all diagnosed HIV infections in Cumbria
  • Injecting drug use (2.2%)
  • Blood and tissue (2.2%)
  • Undetermined (4.3%)

Many people, but not all, who are infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness that occurs two to six weeks after infection. After this, HIV often causes no symptoms for several years.

It is estimated that a quarter (26,100) of people in the UK living with HIV are unaware of their infection.

This has implications for wider public health since these people don’t know they have HIV, they are not accessing treatment and care. As a result, their long-term health is at avoidable risk and, they remain at risk of passing on their infection.

HIV testing is available free of charge from sexual health clinics and GP surgeries across Cumbria.

For more information on HIV visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/HIV

Two 'serious but stable' after crash

Two people are in hospital with serious injuries after a crash between two cars near Carlisle.

It happened at half past 7 last night (Nov 20th) just east of the Thursby roundabout on the A596.

The police say a silver Vauxhall Vectra, driven by a 22-year-old man from Maryport, and a silver Ford Mondeo, driven by a 67-year-old woman from Carlisle, were travelling in opposite directions when they collided.

Both were taken to hospital in Carlisle where they remain in a serious but stable condition.

The road was closed for four and a half hours.

Parents urged to vaccinate children ahead of Xmas

The vaccination needs to be given every year, so if parents vaccinated their children last year they won’t be protected this winter. Credit: PA

Parents are being urged, by Cumbria County Council, to take advantage of a free flu spray vaccination for their children ahead of Christmas.

“The last thing parents want is a house full of flu during the Christmas period. The best way to tackle it is for parents to get their child to a pharmacist or their GP for a free nasal flu vaccination.

The question you have to ask is ‘why wouldn’t I have my child vaccinated?’ It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s not painful and it’s really effective. So our advice is simple – get your child vaccinated every year, for their health as well as yours. Contact your GP or local pharmacy now or visit the county council’s website for details.”

– Cllr Ian Stewart, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member for Public Health

Rather than an injection the children’s flu vaccine , known as Fluenz, is sprayed into the child’s nostrils.

The vaccination needs to be given every year, so if parents vaccinated their children last year it's said they won’t be protected this Winter.

For the second year running, Cumbria is one of the pilot areas for the immunisation of all primary school-aged children.

According to Cumbria Council, parents of primary school pupils in Cumbria received a letter from their schools inviting them to contact their GP or local pharmacy to ask what their arrangements are for providing the flu vaccine for children.

For details on which pharmacies are issuing the free flu vaccine visit www.cumbria.gov.uk/fluvaccine/protect.asp

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