News at Stirling The University of Stirling's Communications and Media team aims to work positively and closely with the media, providing a service that will help media professionals to cover news, personalities and events at the University in an informed manner. News at Stirling Electronic cigarettes show promise in helping people stop smoking but experts from the University of Stirling believe they could also help smokers and vapers control their weight.

A review of existing research published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research has found nicotine has an inhibitory effect on appetite and assists with weight control.

Researchers believe that e-liquids with food flavourings may replicate some of the sensations of eating. This coupled with the vapour in electronic cigarettes and the hand to mouth actions of vaping, could play a role in helping people who want to quit smoking, to eat less.

Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, is among the experts exploring whether vaping with or without nicotine could help people ignore cravings for sweets and other foods.

Professor Bauld said: “Several lines of investigation are worth pursuing in the fight against obesity and this review sets out an initial research agenda for how e-cigarettes could play a part in helping people who smoke or vape control their weight, particularly if they are trying to stop smoking.

“Weight gain prevents some smokers from quitting so we need to explore alternative ways of helping these individuals control their weight, while removing the risks of tobacco use. The benefits of e-cigarettes for smokers have been shown to far outweigh the harms, as vaping carries around 5% of the risk of smoking. However, this paper is not suggesting that we should promote e-cigarettes to non-smokers or non-vapers for weight management.

“Our health care systems are currently struggling to cope with caring for people with chronic conditions caused by obesity and smoking. Even controversial approaches that could contribute to current efforts to address this are worth investigating.”

The research, which is in early stages, does not examine e-cigarettes as a weight loss method for people who do not currently vape or smoke, only for overweight individuals who already do so or are considering vaping for smoking cessation. Questions around longevity of vaping for weight loss or weight maintenance are also yet to be scrutinized.

Associate Professor Glover of Massey University in New Zealand, added: “Obesity is set to overtake smoking as the leading preventable cause of disease and early death in several countries. If there is a chance that flavoured vaping could help even a small proportion of people reduce the diabetes, cardiovascular and cancer risks associated with excess weight, the population health gains would be significant.”

With early evidence suggesting that certain e-cigarette flavours show promise as a way of reducing vapers’ food intake, experts believe flavours may become increasingly important in considering any potential health benefits of vaping.

Electronic cigarettes could be used to help combat obesity in smokers trying to quit Tue, 25 Oct 2016 12:52:00 +0000 Researchers from the University of Stirling have explored the true impact of heading a football, identifying small but significant changes in brain function immediately after routine heading practice.

The study from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence published in EBioMedicine is the first to detect direct changes in the brain after players are exposed to everyday head impacts, as opposed to clinical brain injuries like concussion.

Football players headed a ball 20 times, fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. Before and after the heading sessions, scientists tested players’ brain function and memory.

Increased inhibition in the brain was detected after just a single session of heading. Memory test performance was also reduced by between 41 and 67 per cent, with effects normalising within 24 hours.

Played by more than 250 million people worldwide, the ‘beautiful game’ often involves intentional and repeated bursts of heading a ball. In recent years the possible link between brain injury in sport and increased risk of dementia has focussed attention on whether football heading might lead to long term consequences for brain health.

Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Magdalena Ietswaart from Psychology at the University of Stirling, said: “In light of growing concern about the effects of contact sport on brain health, we wanted to see if our brain reacts instantly to heading a football. Using a drill most amateur and professional teams would be familiar with, we found there was infact increased inhibition in the brain immediately after heading and that performance on memory tests was reduced significantly.

“Although the changes were temporary, we believe they are significant to brain health, particularly if they happen over and over again as they do in football heading. With large numbers of people around the world participating in this sport, it is important that they are aware of what is happening inside the brain and the lasting effect this may have.”

Dr Angus Hunter, Reader in Exercise Physiology in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, added: “For the first time, sporting bodies and members of the public can see clear evidence of the risks associated with repetitive impact caused by heading a football.

“We hope these findings will open up new approaches for detecting, monitoring and preventing cumulative brain injuries in sport. We need to safeguard the long term health of football players at all levels, as well as individuals involved in other contact sports.”

Dr Ietswaart and Dr Hunter were supported in the research by Stirling neuropsychologist Professor Lindsay Wilson and PhD student Tom Di Virgilio, consulting with leading Glasgow University Medical School Neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart and a wider multi-disciplinary team.

In the study, scientists measured levels of brain function using a basic neuroscience technique called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). The findings from this National Institute of Health Research-funded study are the first to show the TMS technique can be used to detect changes to brain function after small, routine impacts.

Heading a football causes instant changes to the brain Mon, 24 Oct 2016 00:01:00 +0000 Researchers at the University of Stirling are part of a leading new research project that aims to examine the dynamics behind regional inequalities in Europe and will examine new policy approaches for tackling inequality and promoting a fairer distribution of resources.

The IMAJINE project – Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe – has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme with a grant of just under 5 million Euro.

The study is led by Aberystwyth University in Wales, together with 15 partners from across Europe, including Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, at the University of Stirling.

The project takes a uniquely inter-disciplinary approach to studying regional inequalities, combining the expertise of economists, geographers, planners, political scientists and sociologists working both on European-level analysis and detailed case studies in 11 countries. Elements of the study include analysis of socio-economic statistics on inequalities; an online survey to explore public perceptions of regional inequalities and cohesion policies; investigations into the connections between regional inequalities and migration, and regional inequalities and movements for political autonomy; research on how governments use the distribution of public services and resources to address inequalities; and ‘participatory scenario building’ exercises with stakeholders to explore potential policy options for tackling inequality.

Professor Paul Cairney, said: “My role, in partnership with Professor Michael Keating from the University of Aberdeen, will be to identify how EU Member States and regions can learn from each other and transfer elements of good practice as they seek to use taxation, funding, and public services to reduce territorial inequalities. We will focus in particular on the ‘prevention’ agenda in which governments try to intervene as early as possible in people’s lives to improve their life chances.”

IMAJINE Co-ordinator Professor Michael Woods, said: “Territorial cohesion is a key principle for the European Union, yet since 2008 inequalities between different regions in Europe have increased and there is a growing consensus that we need to re-examine policies for social cohesion and regional development. By taking a broad, multi-disciplinary approach, we hope in IMAJINE to encourage fresh thinking and new ideas.

“We want to explore, for example, whether public perceptions of inequalities match up with the statistical analysis, whether there are connections between regional inequalities and migration flows, and whether more political autonomy for regions could present an alternative way to address perceived injustices. Asking these questions will allow us to work with stakeholders from governments, NGOs and communities to develop policies that imagine a more spatially just future for Europe.”

The IMAJINE project starts in January 2017 and will run for five years.

New research project examines regional inequalities in Europe Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:05:00 +0000 The hunting of mammals is threatening animal populations and posing a major threat to food security, according to new research from the universities of Stirling and Oregon State.

An international research team analysed data on 1,169 of the world’s land-living animals threatened primarily by hunting, collected by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Experts found the ongoing decline of more than 300 species will affect millions of people in Asia, Africa and South America who rely on wild meat as part of their diet.

The animals at risk include large mammals such as the grey ox, Bactrian camels, bearded and warty pigs, and small animals like the golden-capped fruit bat and black-bearded flying fox.

Javan and black rhinoceroses, tapirs, deer, tree kangaroos, armadillos, pangolins, rodents and large carnivores, all of which are hunted or trapped for meat, medicine, body parts, trophies or live pets, are similarly threatened.

Research published in the Royal Society Open Science journal found forests, grasslands and deserts in the developing world are now lacking many species of wild animals and becoming empty landscapes.

Dr Katharine Abernethy, Reader in Biological and Environmental Science and leader of the African Forest Ecology group at the University of Stirling, said: “More needs to be done to effectively address the threat of overhunting especially in the Tropics. Millions of wild animals are harvested every year and this is highly unsustainable, putting both wildlife species and traditional livelihoods at risk.”

Overhunting of mammals is concentrated in countries with poorer populations where hundreds of species of wildlife are sold annually in meat markets and as delicacies in urban restaurants.

Dr Abernethy continued: “Bold moves like increasing poaching penalties, promoting sustainable food alternatives, particularly in urban areas and educating richer consumers, who do not need the meat for food security, on the threat to mammals that are hunted will go some way to alleviating the problem.”

Scientists found hunting endangers more primate species than any other group. 126 species including the lowland gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo and many species of lemurs and monkeys are affected.

Large carnivores and herbivores comprise a small percentage of all mammals listed but tended to be impacted more severely by overhunting. The loss of these large mammals could cause long-lasting ecological changes, including overpopulation of prey, higher disease risks and the loss of benefits for humans.

To curb the overhunting crisis, researchers suggest more logistical and financial support is needed from richer developed countries and conclude that only big changes and political will can diminish the possibility of humans consuming many of the world’s wild mammals to the point of extinction.

Mammals are being hunted to extinction Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:47:00 +0000 Athletes have great potential beyond sport, according to new research from the University of Stirling presented at the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust’s inaugural More Than Medals conference.

Professor David Lavallee joined the Olympic gold medallist in London as she launched a new campaign to highlight the value and skills of retiring athletes, explaining athletes’ ability to perform to a high level in a diverse range of roles.

Stirling research showed how engaging in elite sport raises employers’ evaluations of potential job candidates and how athletes making the transition into work possess desirable employability skills.

The sport researcher explained that employers should view elite athletes in transition as valuable resources and encouraged them to capitalise on this group’s extraordinary skills and ability to manage challenging economic times.

Professor David Lavallee of the University of Stirling, said: “We are at the dawn of an unparalleled skills crisis across the world and witnessing a significant transformation of the workforce. Jobs are changing rapidly and people are required to adapt and develop to keep up with the needs of the business.

“We wanted to gage whether elite athletes who have made the transition from sport into work have this employability potential and discovered the positive impact athletes can have within the workplace, and their potential to be future leaders and influencers.”

Researchers asked employers to evaluate curricula vitae for a typical entry-level graduate position in their organisation and found candidates engaged in sport were evaluated more highly.

The experts then compared elite athletes who had made the transition from sport into employment with matched employees who had not participated in sport.

Elite athletes were found to be more confident in their ability to carry out broader roles in the workplace through, for example, being more open to organisational changes.

These individuals were better at identifying opportunities, taking action, and persevering until they brought about meaningful change and performed better in the role than their non-sporting equivalents.

The research also highlights athletes’ potential to be future leaders and influencers and to deliver indirect benefits to the performance of their colleagues, which leads to whole teams raising their game.

Professor Lavallee added: “These results demonstrate the value of world-class athletes beyond sport and unlocks something that could have a significant impact on our workforce and bring benefits to businesses.

“In the same way athletes can inspire the nation performing on the world stage, these individuals can thrive in the world of work and have huge potential to motivate others around them. The greatest legacy of Rio could perhaps be the employability skills developed by the elite athletes which our society desperately needs.”

‘More Than Medals’ has been established by the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust to encourage athletes to use their attitudes, behaviours and experiences to work with young disadvantaged individuals after leaving their sport.

Athletes’ potential goes beyond medals Mon, 17 Oct 2016 13:37:00 +0000 The universities of Stirling and Heriot-Watt have launched a new joint undergraduate degree programme which will train a cohort of chemistry and physics secondary school teachers.

Set up with additional funding from the Scottish Government to help tackle a shortage of STEM teachers in Scotland, the innovative programme will combine Stirling’s excellence in education with Heriot-Watt’s reputation for excellence in the sciences.

The first cohort have now started their studies and will lead the way for future generations of STEM-subject teachers.

Dr Sandra Eady, Director of the Initial Teacher Education programme at the University of Stirling, said: “Teachers qualified in the STEM subjects are vital to helping more children engage with science. With a track record in delivery the very best in education training, we will ready our students with the theoretical and practical experience to teach chemistry or physics in secondary schools.

“We believe having the best teachers in place will ensure the pupils they go on to educate will one day attain highly-skilled jobs that are reactive and relevant to the needs of today’s economy. We look forward to working with Heriot-Watt to help deliver this pioneering new course and the next generation of science teachers for Scotland.”

Led by Stirling, students are matriculated at both universities and will benefit from the facilities, support and academic excellence of both institutions throughout their studies.

21-year-old physics and education student Gordon Smith said: “I found out about the new course through Clearing, having previously studied mechanical engineering. I always wanted to do teaching but thought I would have split the science and the education. I had some brilliant physics teachers growing up and want to engage young people in science and bring out the practical side of things.

“I’m looking forward to gradually building up my teaching skills through Stirling: first learning to teach with local school pupils on campus and then going on placements and getting that first-hand experience. I see Heriot-Watt as being beneficial for learning physics and having these concepts broken down across in tutorials so it should be a good mix.”

Gillian Thomson Director of Learning and Teaching in Heriot-Watt’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, said: “We are delighted to be part of such a forward-looking initiative to combat the shortage of STEM teachers in Scotland. The ability to engage young people in STEM subjects through-out the education life-cycle is vitally important to the future prosperity of Scotland."

The BSc (Hons) in Chemistry or Physics and Professional Education is a four-year course.

Students start training as science teachers in link-up between Stirling and Heriot-Watt Tue, 11 Oct 2016 11:27:00 +0000 The University of Stirling’s men and women’s golf teams have competed at a prestigious contest hosted by Yale University in Connecticut, enjoying success against some of America’s brightest golfing talents.

The men’s team finished second in the MacDonald Cup, just two shots behind leaders Harvard and five shots ahead of hosts Yale.

Stirling was the only University outside of America to compete and was represented by scholarship athletes Chris Maclean, Andrew Davidson, James Wilson, Jordan Sundborg, Laird Shepherd and Alasdair McDougall.

Laird Shepherd and Chris Maclean finished fifth and sixth respectively on the individual player leader board.

Next was the turn of the women’s team, who took part in the Yale Women's Intercollegiate Event for the first time.

Competing against 18 other university teams from across the USA, the Stirling women earned a respectable twelfth spot ahead of Boston and Brown universities.

The team comprised six international scholarship programme athletes: Chloe Goadby, Tara Mactaggart, Gemma Batty, Penny Brown, Jen Saxton and Sinead Sexton.

Notably, 19-year-old second-year student Chloe Goadby was one of only two players in the field to record an eagle during the competition.

Despite playing some fantastic golf and recording 12 birdies as a team, the formidable world-famous golf course proved more than a match for the Stirling girls, and the rest of the field.

The 1926 course designed by Charles B Macdonald and Seth Raynor remains the number one ranked collegiate golf course in the USA.

University of Stirling high performance golf coach Dean Robertson said: “The men and women’s team have done the University proud over the past couple of weeks proving they can mix it with some of the world’s leading universities.

“Gaining second place was a tremendous result for the men’s team and the women’s team produced some excellent golf during their first appearance in what is normally an all-American event.

"As a group we will reflect and build for 2017 from all we have learned. Our golfers now turn their attention to the BUCS student tour event this weekend at St Andrews."

Golf teams take on USA giants at Yale Mon, 10 Oct 2016 14:48:00 +0000 Singapore Graduation 2016
Official graduation gallery

Students from the University of Stirling’s Singapore Retailing degrees celebrated their successes at the Singapore Institute of Management Global Education (SIM GE), today Thursday 6 October.

Professor John Gardner, Senior Deputy Principal of the University of Stirling, conferred degrees upon 47 graduates of the highly popular BA hons in Retail Marketing.

The course is supported by the Singaporean Government’s Workforce Development Agency and taught at SIM GE by lecturers from Stirling Management School’s Institute of Retail Studies.

13 graduates also completed the MBA in Retailing, a two-year distance learning course in partnership with the Retail Academy of Singapore.

The partnership in Singapore has been further extended with two new programmes set to launch in 2017: BA Sport Business Management and BA Sustainable Events Management. 

Students and graduates’ prospects will be bolstered by Stirling’s excellent job credentials- the University is ranked first in Scotland and third in the UK for employability, with 97 per cent of graduates in employment or further study within six months of completing their degrees.

Professor John Gardner, Deputy Principal of the University of Stirling, said: "Congratulations to all our Retail graduates on their achievements and I wish them every success in the future as they help to shape one of the world’s biggest industries. Our partnership with the Singapore Institute of Management Global Education continues to go from strength to strength and is a key part of Stirling’s global outlook.

"Our students and staff come from across the globe – creating a rich and diverse learning environment; our researchers work with partners worldwide to solve global challenges and our graduates are making a difference around the world – in business, industry, healthcare, education, sciences and the arts. Today’s graduates will add to that legacy of success."

Dr Lee Kwok Cheong, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Institute of Management Global Education, said: "The retail sector has been disrupted in a big way and we are not seeing the end of it as yet. New technologies are rapidly changing and redefining retail store operations, customer experiences and business models. All these developments necessitate a new breed of professionals who possess multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills to tackle existing as well as upcoming challenges.

"Our graduates have laid for themselves a good foundation for a career in retail, having benefitted from the University of Stirling’s strong industry links and SIM Global Education’s brand of holistic education."

Graduate Stories

Ceremony recognises Stirling’s Singapore retail graduates Thu, 06 Oct 2016 12:00:00 +0000 A University of Stirling computer scientist is to be recognised as part of an initiative to celebrate women in maths and computing for their achievements and ability to inspire others.

Carron Shankland, Professor of Computing Science, will receive a Suffrage Science award at Bletchley Park, the famous World War Two site where the enigma code was cracked.

Organised by the Medical Research Council, the awards are presented to 12 female scientists and will be held on Ada Lovelace Day: Tuesday, 11 October. This international day recognises women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Passionate about the promotion of careers in science for women, Professor Shankland successfully led the University to its bronze Athena SWAN institutional award recognising good practice in gender equality in higher education.

She is now working to launch a national network to promote gender equality in Computer Science supported by the BCS, the chartered institute for Information Technology.

Leading by example, Professor Shankland is hopeful that raising the profiles of women in computer science will inspire future generations of girls to get involved: “Hopefully the Suffrage Science awards will allow teachers to use us as exemplars to hold up in classrooms and say ‘Look, here is a woman who is in computing and you could be like her too’.

“To any young women considering a career in computing I say: go for it. Computing is a very exciting discipline, which interacts with almost every part of our lives. You can be a games programmer, a web developer or work with medical sciences to test new drugs. The options are endless.”

Carron’s own research includes creating computational models of biological systems to tackle questions such as ‘how does disease spread?’, and ‘how do cancer cells interact?’

This is the first time the Suffrage Science scheme has awarded to women in maths and computing, having previously celebrated females in the life sciences, engineering and the physical sciences.

Professor Shankland added: “It’s great to give back and help get more women involved in the discipline. At Stirling, we've organised Science Fairs, and a very successful Science Cabaret, under the ScienceGrrl banner, to show that a career in science is creative and exciting and available to everyone.”

The award Professor Shankland will receive is a piece of jewellery, designed by students at the arts college Central Saint Martins-UAL, and inspired by science.

After two years, the 12 winners hand on their jewellery to a recipient of their choice. This scientific “relay” creates an ever-expanding cohort of talented women with a connection, encouraging all to reach senior leadership roles.

Stirling alumna Professor Muffy Calder is among the other award recipients. The former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Scottish Government and current Vice-Principal and Head of College of Science & Engineering at the University of Glasgow, joined Stirling in 1976 and went on to graduate with a BSc in Computing Science.

Computer scientist celebrated among leading women in science Thu, 06 Oct 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Findings and recommendations released in a new report by University of Stirling criminologists, Professor Gill McIvor and Dr Hannah Graham, indicate support among criminal justice practitioners for key changes to the use of electronic monitoring tagging in Scotland. Their study sought the views of criminal justice social workers, Scottish Prison Service staff, sheriffs, the Parole Board for Scotland, Police Scotland, G4S monitoring staff, Scottish Government policymakers, and a third sector organisation.

Currently, the majority of electronically monitored orders made by Scottish courts and prisons do not involve supervision by criminal justice social workers or support from third sector services. Instead, most people are simply tagged and expected to stay at home during curfews of up to 12 hours a day.

Lecturer in Criminology and report co-author Dr Hannah Graham said:

“Our findings suggest that the use of electronic monitoring in Scotland over the last 15 years can be characterised as relatively simple but stable in approach. There’s plenty of momentum among most participants in this study to pursue more innovative and tailored uses.”

“Tagging and curfews alone don’t address the reasons why people commit crime. In line with international evidence, we recommend that tagging needs to be integrated with rehabilitative supports and opportunities to help people change their lives and leave crime behind.”

“One approach to electronic monitoring simply doesn’t fit all. Involving criminal justice social workers will harness their practice knowledge in tailoring community sentences, and could reduce unnecessary uses of court time and resources – for example, do sheriffs really need to decide on requests to change address?”

“Sheriffs are important decision-makers, but there’s a need for greater clarity and consistency between sheriffs and courts across the country about how and why they use electronic monitoring. Whether you get tagged or sentenced to prison should not significantly depend on where you live and who sentenced you.”

The Scottish prison population rate is one of the highest in Western Europe. One in every 700 people in Scotland are in prison. Recent figures show that some Scottish sheriffs and courts use electronically monitored Restriction of Liberty Orders (RLOs) as an alternative to a custodial sentence much more than others, who barely use them at all. In 2015, the rate of Restriction of Liberty Orders imposed by sheriffs in Glasgow was 256% higher than that of their Edinburgh counterparts, with 314 RLOs imposed in Glasgow compared to 88 RLOs in Edinburgh.

Stirling criminologists Gill McIvor and Hannah Graham worked on this project with an international research team of academics from England & Wales, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Commissioned by the European Union, this electronic monitoring comparative research is the first of its kind in Europe.

Dr Hannah Graham added:

“Electronic monitoring offers a versatile and flexible tool in trying to reduce Scotland’s swollen prison population, but this is not the only option and its use must be proportionate and not in isolation.”

“In Scotland, there are moderately high completion rates for electronically monitored orders. Most monitored people do not get breached and returned to court or recalled to prison for non-compliance.”

“Instead of simply focusing on when and where a person must be curfewed or excluded from, we can gain valuable insights from how European neighbours, like the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries, use electronic monitoring. In Scotland, we should be considering more imaginative uses which include meaningful activities and community supports. This might involve work, volunteering or education, mentoring, attending an alcohol recovery group or family activities focused on parenting.”

The Scottish report and briefing paper summary are available online at 

Research shows growing support for changes to the use of electronic monitoring tagging in Scotland Tue, 04 Oct 2016 14:00:00 +0000 A new report by the University of Stirling has been published on patients' experience of cancer care in Scotland.

Over 2600 patients provided almost 7000 "free text" comments in response to the first ever national cancer experience survey, funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and the Scottish Government.

An independent analysis by cancer care experts from the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions (NMAHP) Research Unit, found over 2500 positive comments and almost 2000 negative comments, with the rest classed as neutral or factual.

The positive comments praised the good clinical care, good support overall and clear and relevant information.

One man said: "All decisions were fully discussed and explained in a manner which was both sympathetic and sensitive." Another said: "I had very good pre-op and post-op care".

The research team, led by Professor Mary Wells, found the main themes among the negative comments suggested that patients' experiences of care were affected when they did not feel confident in the system or when their needs as an individual were not met.

Poor communication, poor care and lack of emotional support all emerged as issues, and many patients noticed differences in the quality of care they received on cancer wards or high dependency units compared to general wards.

One woman said: "I was sent home from hospital with no care plan. I live on my own and had a difficult time."

This is the second report based on almost 5000 responses to the first ever Scottish Cancer Patient Experience Survey.

The first report, launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Minister Shona Robison in June, found 94% of cancer patients in Scotland were positive about their care.

However among those who needed it, 46% didn't get the care and support they needed from health and social care professionals during treatment, rising to 55% after. Only 22% had a care plan, despite those who had a care plan having a markedly better experience than those who did not.

Professor Mary Wells of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, said: "Getting an account of positive and negative experiences in patients' own words is invaluable to further improving cancer care in Scotland. We now have a unique insight into what matters most prior to diagnosis, during treatment and after people leave hospital.

"It's clear that one bad experience can knock a patient's confidence in the system and badly affect their entire journey. We need to ensure that every contact a patient has, from talking to their GP to travelling to the hospital and getting important letters on time, is joined up.

"We now know that having an established care plan is a major contributor to a patient's overall experience. The differences in care provided between specialist and general wards was also a factor for many people, who felt more isolated on general wards. Given that patients spend a relatively short time in these specialist units, it's important we ensure staff in all settings are knowledgeable, well trained and confident in caring for people with cancer.

"This is a huge challenge in the context of ever more complex treatments and a growing number of people living with and beyond cancer, but it is vital that we equip our staff to recognise and respond to patients' needs, wherever they present within the healthcare system.

"While the majority of cancer patients have a positive experience overall, implementing changes like these will help ensure the thousands of people who are affected by cancer have a more positive experience at what is an incredibly difficult and upsetting time."

Macmillan's head of cancer services in Scotland, Janice Preston, said: "For the first time we have comments from thousands of people with cancer about what they thought was good about their care, as well as where it should have been better. While it is good news the positive comments outweigh the negative, these negative comments represent people with cancer, already going through one of the worst times of their life, whose experience was poorer than it should have been.

"Too many patients don't feel listened to or respected. They don't feel treated as individuals and helped to find the support they need to cope with the wider emotional, practical and financial problems cancer causes. The lack of care after treatment is also a real cause for concern. There is an urgent need to ensure everyone has a good experience of care, moving from our current one-size-fits all approach that sees patients as a set of symptoms to treat rather than as a person who must be asked what they want and need.

"The Cancer Patient Experience Survey means there is now an unprecedented level of insight available to health boards on where their cancer care is working well and where it needs improvement. Every one of them must urgently put an improvement plan in place."

New report reveals Scottish patients’ experience of cancer care Mon, 03 Oct 2016 14:13:00 +0000 A University of Stirling scientist is at the centre of ground-breaking research to tackle the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV).

Virologist, Dr Manfred Weidmann, is the only British University scientist involved in a new international collaboration focused on developing a point-of-care detection method for immediate use in fighting the Chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne virus currently transmitted in about 60 countries after having spread to the Americas in recent years.

The disease is difficult to distinguish from other infections transmitted by mosquitoes, such as Dengue fever or Zika virus, but the new detection kit specifically identifies the illness by detecting a Chikungunya virus gene. The rapid point-of-care blood and saliva test detects the nucleic acid of the Chikungunya virus in 15 minutes and could help to provide diagnostics and care to people who live in rural areas with no access to modern medical infrastructure.

CHIKV infection causes symptoms that are similar to Dengue and Zika infection, which sometimes are mistaken for influenza.

Dr Weidmann, from the University’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, said:

“Zika, Dengue and CHIKV viruses are now being transmitted at the same time in several regions of the world and have very similar symptoms typical for a virus infection. Our diagnostic test is able to identify Chickungunya fever and will help clinicians quickly decide on appropriate supportive treatments available.”

Last year, Dr Weidmann played a major role in the development of an Ebola rapid detection and diagnosis test, which is still being used in Guinea by collaborators of the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal.  

The CHIKV project brought together scientists from across Europe, Thailand and Senegal to develop bedside rapid diagnostics for the virus. Following a successful pilot in Thailand and Senegal, evaluation of the detection kit showed its potential to provide an efficient point of care test.

“Our test can go to the limit of detection in just 15 minutes,” added Dr Weidmann. It is very important to have empowered and trained local teams to conduct the on-site tests for themselves. The race is on to tackle these viruses and our detection kit is a step in the right direction.”

The full research can be found here.

Stirling virologist at front line of research into Chikungunya virus Mon, 03 Oct 2016 09:55:00 +0000 Trafficked people in England are often denied healthcare and face significant barriers to access NHS services, reveals new independent research funded by Department of Health Policy Research Programme and carried out by a team led by King’s College London, the University of Stirling, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and The University of Central Lancashire.

To date, little research has been carried out into trafficked people’s experiences of accessing healthcare services or how health professionals meet their needs, but for the first time new research examines trafficked people’s access to health care in England.

Dr Joanne Westwood, Head of Social Work at the University of Stirling, along with a team  of researchers interviewed 136 trafficked people from 30 countries of whom 91 (67%) were female and 45 (33%) male. Participants reported being trafficked for domestic servitude (29%), sexual exploitation (30%), and labour exploitation (for example, agriculture or factory work) (38%). 19% of the participants reported having access to healthcare services while being trafficked, most often via GP surgeries and walk-in centres. However, 80% of women and 58% of men reported never being able to go out unaccompanied, meaning GP consultations were almost impossible.

Traffickers, other trafficked people, neighbours, and friends were named as people who helped the trafficked person register with GPs and to access health services. It was rare for trafficked people to be able to access healthcare services without being accompanied by the people who were exploiting them. For other trafficked people, their first contact with health services was during a medical emergency.

Many responders reported that traffickers restricted access to their services, accompanied them, or interpreted for them during consultations. Requirements to present identity documents to register for care, along with poor access to interpreters, were other barriers to care during and after trafficking. Others were unable to access health services because they lacked the necessary identity documents to register, lacked sufficient English-language skills or had concerns about potential repercussions from traffickers or immigration authorities

The report highlights that GPs and other practitioners would benefit from guidance on how these people can be supported to access care, especially if they lack official documentation.

Dr Westwood, said:

“People who have been trafficked are often scared of bad repercussions if they report their situations. This is why GP’s and other health practitioners need to be alert to signs that their patient may be in extremely exploitative circumstances and offer safe easy ways for victims to disclose their circumstances. The health sector also needs to develop clear options for referral to services that can address people’s health and security needs.

Our findings suggest that future guidance for practitioners recommend that potential victims are seen privately, are offered professional interpreting services; and given clear information, in their own language, about medical care options.”

The full research is available here

Trafficked people encounter significant health care barriers Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:07:00 +0000 University of Stirling high performance swimming coaches Ben Higson and Steven Tigg have been recognised at the Team Scotland Scottish Sports Awards, winning the 2016 Coach of the Year award.

The duo took the prestigious title at a star-studded ceremony in Edinburgh, attended by more than 50 Scottish Olympians and Paralympians from the Rio Games.

Nominated alongside Gordon Reid’s coach Karen Ross and Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, the coaches were recognised for their outstanding success in coaching the University of Stirling High Performance swim team.

The squad has taken 11 European and three Olympic medals this year, making Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence the best performing Scottish University at the 2016 Games.

Ben and Steven put the success down to a long-term approach to development, world-class facilities and the collaboration between the University, Scottish Swimming and sportscotland.

Speaking after the ceremony, Ben said: “It’s a great honour to receive an award of this stature and it speaks volumes about the quality of the programme at the University of Stirling. There are so many people who work with the athletes and contribute to their success - this award is for everyone who has given their support.

“A lot of hard work and dedication goes into coaching a squad to perform consistently, but we have found that openness and honesty with our athletes helps them achieve the goals they want to.”

Steven added: “It’s very humbling to be recognised amongst such esteemed company, across a wide spread of sports and high achievers.  It is an award for our wider team, who work so hard behind the scenes ensuring we, as coaches, have as much information to go on as possible.

“A culmination of great talent, hard work, belief and enjoying every minute of what you do goes in to making the squad a success. Nothing would be possible without the resource we have from the wider community including University of Stirling, Scottish Swimming and the Scottish Institute of Sport – thank you to all of them.”

Four Stirling swimmers coached by Ben and Steven were selected to compete on behalf of Team GB in Rio. Among the success stories was 19-year-old Sports Studies student and swimming scholar Duncan Scott, who won two silvers as part of the 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle relay teams, and was nominated for the Male Athlete of the Year award alongside Andy Murray.

Cathy Gallagher, Director of Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “Ben and Steven’s dedication to our swimming programme is unwavering and the support they give these young athletes to develop their talents and help them perform at their very best, has allowed the team to achieve great things.

“World-class coaching, paired with academic flexibility and support, are key ingredients to help our sportspeople get the most of their time at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence. The role that mentors like Ben and Steven play in this success cannot be understated. Their recognition is richly deserved and we are immensely proud.”

Stirling’s former tennis scholar Gordon Reid also claimed Para-sport Athlete of the Year.

Sporting Excellence swimming duo win Coach of the Year Thu, 29 Sep 2016 09:28:00 +0000 Could rehabilitation programmes for heart disease patients be used to help people recovering from bowel cancer get back on their feet? That’s the question cancer care experts at the University of Stirling have been exploring.

Researchers have found health and exercise sessions currently provided to individuals recovering from heart disease could also help people who have undergone bowel cancer surgery.

The NHS already uses physical activity to help thousands of people with heart problems improve their chances of survival and quality of life, and Stirling scientists now believe it could be rolled out to help people with an entirely different illness.

Dr Gill Hubbard, Reader in Cancer Care in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, said: “People recovering from bowel cancer surgery are not currently meeting the recommended levels of physical activity after they undergo surgery. This could be for a number of reasons, but often patients do not know if they are safe to exercise.

“We wanted to bring together people recovering from heart disease and bowel cancer to see if the same rehabilitation programme could work for both groups. We referred patients with bowel cancer to the cardiac rehabilitation classes and found cardiac patients welcomed those with cancer into their classes. Both groups enjoyed exercising together and supported each other to make a full recovery.”

The rehabilitation programme involves aerobic and body strengthening exercises for about an hour each week for 12 weeks. Evidence clearly shows that these exercises are good for people with heart disease and cancer, and although cardiac rehabilitation exists for people recovering from a heart attack, there is currently no equivalent rehabilitation programme for patients with cancer.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), asked patients to record their physical fitness, quality of life, anxiety, depression and figure before and after the 12-week programme and gathered the views of doctors involved in cardiac rehabilitation.

Dr Hubbard continued: “We found cardiac clinicians were happy to involve cancer patients in their programmes, but to make this work on a much larger scale additional training would be required to fully support cancer survivors. Although a novel idea, we believe marrying these two quite separate groups during the rehabilitation process could vastly improve the quality of life for lots of people who are recovering from bowel cancer but do not have the confidence to exercise.” 

Heart disease exercise programme could work for bowel cancer patients Wed, 28 Sep 2016 15:55:00 +0000