Comment: Big decisions need to be made

editorial image

Taking health out of politics is not the same as taking politics out of health.

As Scottish Conservative health spokesman, I’ve argued for several years now that we have to take health out of politics.

The challenges facing Scotland’s NHS are huge and if we are to secure a health service in public ownership and free at the point of need and delivery then we need to agree an all-party strategic plan to achieve this.

Partisan shouting and point scoring will not achieve anything and at almost every gathering of health professionals, the first request made is for politicians to stop kicking the NHS around like a football, get together and agree what needs to be done.

Big decisions need to be made; a new model of primary care (GPs) is required utilising multi-disciplinary teams locally, fewer health boards and variable practices, a national and universal GP attached health visiting service offering advice and support to children during their formative years and up to the age of seven, a fresh approach to mental health and a really effective preventative health strategy which seeks to head off the increasing challenge of conditions like Type 2 Diabetes.

However, there is a twist. Taking health out of politics is not the same thing as taking politics out of health.

When things go wrong or are not going well we have a duty to speak up and stand up for the community.

And frankly things are not going at all well at the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital A&E.

With the closure of the Victoria Infirmary, all of us in Eastwood now depend on this flagship, £842m, new hospital.

Back in June its performance caused sufficient concern for Nicola Sturgeon to send in an emergency improvement team.

However, my requests for a ministerial statement were refused twice before the summer recess.

When we returned and I again raised the issue, I was derided by Nicola Sturgeon for doing so and told all was well.

All was not well. A&E performance has yo-yoed alarmingly while never once managing to achieve the SNP’s own national standard in any week since the hospital opened.

It turns out the emergency improvement team was in and out in a matter of days and that was back in June.

Last week an elderly man died on a trolley following a six hour wait for treatment.This is simply unacceptable.

Supporting a non-partisan approach to the big health challenges may be essential but the management of Scotland’s NHS is the SNP government’s day to day responsibility and increasingly they are failing.

With winter hardly started Nicola Sturgeon needs to stop grandstanding on constitutional issues and her party’s obsession with yet another independence referendum and get on with the job they were elected to do – sort out the problems at the Queen Elizabeth and give us and the dedicated and hard-working staff, a flagship hospital of which we can all be proud and in which we can all have confidence. Now please.