There has been lots of coverage in the media over the last week about the Junior Doctor contract being imposed on the Health Service in England. I want to reassure readers that this is not the case here in Scotland where our Government works in partnership with the British Medical Association, and has regular dialogue with representatives of all the professions within our Health Service.
It is people who make our Health Service and the Scottish Government has announced £27 million of funding to develop and support our excellent NHS workforce – additional medical school places by widening access, support for nursing students facing financial hardship; in fact bursaries for nursing students in Scotland are being maintained, whilst the UK Government is phasing theirs out. I am particularly pleased at the funding for training for additional advanced nurse practitioners as we have so much talent in the nurses’ ranks, here in East Kilbride and right across the country.
Scotland’s Health and Social Care Services were recently reviewed by the international body, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which analysed the quality of care on offer in the United Kingdom. This report did of course, as you would expect, suggest a number of recommendations for further improvement. It also though highlighted a range of areas where Scotland leads the way. It praised our Patient Safety Programme as providing lessons that other countries can learn from. It noted that our workforce strategy is ‘clear and impressive’, and that health spending per head was 6-7% higher in Scotland than in England and Wales.
If you look across the United Kingdom and how the Health Service operates in other UK nations, our core accident and emergency waiting times have been better than elsewhere for the last nine months, and Scotland has the shortest waiting times on a range of common elective procedures. More to do though, and that’s why listening to staff, patients and carers is so important. The OECD review suggested that other countries could learn from Scotland’s use of feedback as a way of improving responsiveness to patients.
We should always listen, and make decisions informed by the experiences of those who live situations every single day of their lives. Carers, for example, of spouses, children, parents, friends, have such a depth of knowledge. I recognised that anew from carers I met at a Parkinsons UK event. They spoke movingly and eloquently about the current campaign to recognise the need for Parkinsons medication to be administered at the correct time – a problem sometimes in hospitals.
The Carers (Scotland) Bill was passed on 4th February in our Parliament, and the Government has listened. Some of the measures passed are issues that I’ve been hearing about in East Kilbride since I was first elected, so the new legislation is welcome.
All carers will, for the first time, have the right to request an assessment of their need for support and entitle them to consultation over hospital discharge. The Local Authority will be required to provide information and advice as well as publishing a local carer strategy. The Scottish Government has invested nearly £123 million in support programmes for carers, including funding for short breaks and for health boards to provide direct support. Those who provide unpaid caring need support, and must have a life themselves alongside caring. I hope that the steps taken in this legislation will help to provide that.
NHS Lanarkshire have obviously listened to Carers, and have launched a “someone depends on my care” card which alerts emergency services that a patient normally looks after someone who will be missing their support while they are ill. Brilliant idea – simple, straightforward and sensible – well done NHS Lanarkshire. Elaine at the Carer Support Team confirms that these cards are available to Carers via their GP, and Carers’ support groups as well as being given out to Carers that the Team are involved with at Hairmyres. Thank you Elaine.
Talking of listening – the Health Secretary confirmed to me in Parliament on Thursday that NHS Lanarkshire’s proposals for a longer-term solution to the GP Out-of-Hours service must be developed in consultation with staff and the public. So, looking forward to hearing more from NHS Lanarkshire about the way forward to make sure that East Kilbride suffers no disadvantage in the longer term.
Interesting that the OECD report I quoted earlier highlights Scotland as a ‘rare example’ of a country that applies quality indicators to out-of-hours care as well as in-hours care.
To finish, I would stress that whilst the interim NHS Lanarkshire Out-of-Hours service is in place, this applies only to GP services. The A and E service at Hairmyres has not changed, and responds to accidents and to emergencies. I sincerely hope that you don’t require these services.