Way back as far as 1913 the Highlands and islands Medical Service was launched and became the Scottish Board of Health later that decade. Small fees were charged although no-one was turned away if they were unable to pay. That service sustained until our National Health Service was established in 1948.
Scotland has a solid history and strong record on community health provision. Our publicly funded National Health Service is a success story. We can be proud of the care delivered to thousands of people across Scotland each and every day of the year. NHS Staff do an amazing job, often in highly stressful circumstances. I know this to be true of staff at Hairmyres Hospital, and of staff in health centres and GP surgeries right across East Kilbride. Of course there can be individual issues, and these must always be investigated – we should demand the highest quality care from our health service.
Our health services are going through a period of change. That’s necessary to meet the demands of the future as more of us live longer lives, and we benefit from the advances being made through research and specialist treatment. That’s why health and social care are being brought together for the first time to make sure that services are more joined-up. This will mean that patients can get home more quickly from hospital, and many people can stay and be treated in their own homes.
Last week saw the publication of an Audit Scotland NHS Overview report which noted the need for change and highlighted improvements needed. That Audit Scotland report also confirmed that the Scottish Government has increased frontline health spending – by 5.8% in real terms since 2010/11. Funding per head in Scotland is higher than in the rest of the UK for the first time. The disingenuous claim from some that expenditure is falling is based on the capital budget – yes, understandably it is falling – like our own Hunter Health Centre, the new Southern General Hospital in Glasgow has been completed!
So, whilst the Scottish Government is dealing with a budget cut of 10%, they are also providing increased funds for our NHS. The service is seeing and treating substantially more people, and waiting times are at historically low levels.
Our NHS has come a long way since the SNP Government took over in 2007, not least stopping the closure of one of Lanarkshire’s Accident and Emergency Departments. Important too was Nicola Sturgeon’s refusal to fund hospitals and health centres by using the Tory and Labour Private Finance Initiative which tied in services to the building costs. Up to the end of this financial year NHS Lanarkshire will have paid out around £666m on these PFI projects despite the capital cost of the three buildings provided being only £172m!
Since 2007 the NHS workforce has increased under the stewardship of Nicola Sturgeon as Health Secretary and now as First Minister. There are almost 2,300 more nurses and midwives. Agency nursing and midwifery costs have reduced by 13 percent since 2007. As stated by Audit Scotland “the number of people working in the NHS is at its highest level”.
The position of Junior Doctors is not being attacked here in Scotland as you can see happening in the English Health Service as reported on the news. In fact our Government is working alongside the British Medical Association to improve the conditions under which junior doctors work.
Work is ongoing to update the way GP surgeries work, bringing GPs and other health professionals together. This is being supported by funding to move towards better recruiting, training and support for GPs across the country. It is recognised that there is more to do – issues around GP contracts, and of course the ongoing National Review into out-of-hours GP services. A range of actions being taken and acknowledgement that we need to up the pace of change.
Yes, Scotland has a strong record on health and a national health service which is precious to us all. I am confident that the Scottish Government is securing its future to make sure our NHS goes on delivering high quality care for generations to come.