Holyrood notebook by Rhoda Grant
Last month I was able to secure a member’s debate on NHS recruitment and retention, in which I brought up the desperate problem facing our NHS across the country, but particularly in the Highlands and Islands.
It was an opportunity to hear directly from Cabinet Secretary Humza Yousaf how he intends to address this urgent and worrying situation.
He has reassured Parliament that the Scottish Government is investing in recruiting and retaining health workers on the islands and in rural communities.
However, our care homes are closing, our GPs lack the capacity to manage their backlog of patients, mothers are choosing to be initiated rather than risking the long journey from their homes to the hospital, people are unable to register with dentists and staff are leaving the NHS in droves.
All of these problems existed before the pandemic, but have continued to grow and spiral out of control. However, Mr Yousaf has given assurances in Parliament that he will be meeting with the Caithness Health Action Team this summer – some welcome news.
Petition 1902 was considered by the Public Petitions Committee last Wednesday. The Caithness Health Action Team is calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to allow an appeals process for requests for community involvement under the Community Empowerment Act 2015. They bring up a very important issue, the voice of the community in decisions that affect operation and access to health services in their area. This is definitely one to watch the progress on.
With fuel costs rising to over 200p a liter, people are turning to public transport. However, people are no longer able to commute to appointments due to ongoing strikes on the train and local bus services, which are also being hit by staffing issues.
I had recently pressed the Cabinet Secretary for Health on the issue of patient travel reimbursement. Patients are reimbursed by health authorities, but the systems were last checked nationally in 1996!
I have previously been told that NHS health authorities are free to increase these rates at their own discretion – realistically this is difficult without additional funding from the Scottish Government. However, in a letter from the Cabinet Secretary, he has admitted that the general guidance set by the Scottish Government will be reviewed taking into account the matters I have raised.
I look forward to progress in this area and hope that will happen sooner rather than later.
It was Cervical Screening Awareness Week June 20-26 and I am concerned to hear of increasing waiting lists and lack of communication. We are aware of the situation and are trying to get more information about this issue. Please attend and have your swab taken as they can be lifesavers. If anyone is concerned about having a swab, they can contact Jo Trust at www.jostrust.org for help and advice
Caithness Cares hosted a community event on June 30th. If anyone reading this column is interested in mental health services or would like to learn more about the options and services available, I urge you to keep an eye out for future Caithness Cares events. As mental health problems rise, community groups like Caithness Cares offer people the opportunity to get help and support when they need it most.
Now that summer is finally here I know families will try to fill their days keeping their little ones entertained and with the cost of living hitting everyone hard and looking for free activities this will be welcomed. The Care and Learning Alliance and Early Years Scotland are hosting a range of free play and activity sessions across the region including Wick. Please pay attention to details.
- Rhoda Grant is a Labor MSP for the Highlands and Islands.