Around 500 new jobs will be created in the Scottish Ambulance Service when it takes charge of mobile Covid-19 testing units north of the border.

While the armed forces currently run these testing centres, responsibility for them will transfer to the ambulance service from the start of September.

With the number of mobile testing units also due to be expanded from 13 to 18 by July 15, recruitment for new staff is now under way, with the jobs to remain in place for as long as the service is needed.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said transferring control over mobile testing units to the SAS would help ensure they can play a "sustaintable, long-term response to the pandemic".

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The mobile units operate alongside static drive-through testing centres and coronavirus testing in hospitals and care homes.

Ms Freeman said: "I want to thank the armed forces personnel who have been running the mobile testing units in Scotland since they were set up in April.

"Transferring operational delivery to the Scottish Ambulance Service will help to ensure that mobile testing units continue to support testing in local communities and provide a sustainable, long-term response to the pandemic."

She added: "The units play an important role in NHS Scotland's Test and Protect programme which is controlling the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

"But to help that work, it is vital that everyone who has symptoms isolates and books a test immediately. Continuing to supress the spread of the virus is the goal we all share."

Ambulance service chief executive Pauline Howie said: "Our staff have done a tremendous job throughout the pandemic, working hard to keep patients safe, and we will recruit staff to extend our service to support the crucial Test and Protect programme.

"Our staff work at the heart of all Scotland's communities, so using us to take Covid-19 testing forward makes good sense - not only can we maintain the high standards set by the Armed Forces, we can ensure people continue to get good quality face-to-face assistance."

Brigadier Robin Lindsay, joint military command Scotland, said:"The Armed Forces have been proud to provide support to the Scottish Government's fight against Covid-19 over the last few months, across a range of different planning, supply and delivery tasks, including staffing the mobile testing units (MTUs) across Scotland.

"The Armed Forces will continue to work with our Scottish and other partners to ensure a smooth handover of this vital work."

The University of Glasgow will lead a £3.37m project to transform bowel cancer screening in the UK in collaboration with the NHS and Scottish tech companies by developing a precision diagnostic tool that uses artificial intelligence to predict which patients will develop future polyps and tumours.

The INCISE project – made possible with £2.3m of government funding provided through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI)  industrial strategy challenge fund and a further £1.1m from University of Glasgow and industry partners – will improve cancer detection while reducing the number of people needing repeated colonoscopy, a procedure patients find unpleasant, which also carries a risk of complications. It will also improve access to colonoscopy for others and reduce costs to the NHS.

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The UKRI funding is part of £16 million of new funding announced today by Science Minister Amanda Solloway.

Bowel cancer screening is used to find tumours and pre-cancerous lesions, or polyps, in patients without symptoms. The aim of screening is both to identify cancers early, making them easier to treat successfully, and if possible to remove them while they are still polyps.

Professor Joanne Edwards, professor of translational cancer pathology at the university’s Institute of Cancer Sciences, said: “We are thrilled to receive this support and funding from Innovate UK, which will help us develop a programme that will hugely benefit both patients and our NHS.

“By better predicting the needs of individuals, we can help patients avoid procedures that do not benefit them, while reducing the burden and cost to the NHS.” 

INCISE will combine polyp tissue and data from the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Scottish Bowel Cancer Screening Programme to train algorithms that predict patients’ future risk.

Industry partners for the programme include Canon Medical Research Europe, OracleBio, who will develop the deep learning digital pathology methodology, and BioClavis, who will identify the gene signatures that predict polyp behaviour.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “Here in Scotland this will help fund a cutting-edge project led by the University of Glasgow on bowel cancer, which sadly remains the second largest cause of cancer related deaths.

“This all-important funding will allow our world class academic and research teams in Glasgow to develop the specialist technology needed to detect this life threatening disease not only earlier but with more accuracy. This will make a real difference to individuals and their families and help save lives not just in Scotland but the wider UK.”

UKRI is partnering with Cancer Research UK, which is making a £3m contribution to the cancer-focused projects.

Scottish Land & Estates, the rural business membership organisation, has appointed two new vice-chairs to complete its top team.

Dee Ward, who built up and sold an office water cooler business before buying and running Rottal Estate in the Angus Glens, moves from a current role as operations vice chair.

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Andrew Douglas-Miller, a former managing director of Jenners department store and current managing partner of Forneth Estate, near Blairgowrie, takes up the role of SLE’s vice-chair of operations.

The vice-chair positions are a key part of the SLE board, chaired by Mark Tennant, a former chairman of Scottish Financial Enterprise.

Mark Tennant, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “I am delighted to have Andrew join and Dee remain a part of the top team at Scottish Land & Estates at such an important time.”

Mr Ward said: “This is a crucial time for rural businesses as we emerge from the pandemic. In my new role I will be working with SLE colleagues to ensure the requirements of rural businesses and communities in Scotland are taken into account by the Scottish and UK Governments.”

Mr Douglas Miller said: “As many rural  businesses fight for survival over the coming months, Scottish Land & Estates will continue to play a crucial role in offering advice and guidance and in securing government support. My focus will be on ensuring that the service we deliver meets the needs of our current and future members. I am also looking forward to helping to grow our membership across Scotland.”