Cole-Hamilton draws up checklist to give NHS New Hope

Speaking after the most challenging winter NHS Scotland has ever faced and the damning new Audit Scotland report on the state of the health service, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has set out a policy programme designed to offer new hope to patients and staff.

Setting out the proposals, Mr Cole-Hamilton called for the Scottish Government to act on a scale that will bring an end to long waits for treatment, recruit and retain staff and transform mental health services.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have a long history of investing in Scotland’s health, from introducing free dental and eye checks to winning £120 million more for mental health services in last year's budget.

Ahead of the local elections, the party leader is calling for:

  • Clear targets for when the backlog of cancelled operations will be cleared and a timeline for when key healthcare targets will be met.
  • Nicola Sturgeon’s 12-week Treatment Guarantee Law to be adjusted to inform patients of the the average and longest waiting times, which in reality can be years.
  • A Burnout Prevention Strategy to protect NHS staff, to help retain staff and provide new guarantees to guard against overwork.
  • The creation of a new permanent vaccine workforce, with a new class of healthcare professional that could help with any vaccination rollout, from a new booster dose to the flu.
  • An NHS and Social Care Staff Assembly that puts their expertise and experience at the very heart of the recovery and planning of these services.
  • Increased funding to deliver local and accessible mental health support in all parts of Scotland.
  • Support to enable firms to train a mental health first aider for every workplace.
  • A new target to get mental health professionals into A&E departments, GP services and working alongside the police.
  • Mental health first aiders at every stage of education, a further rollout of counsellors to ensure access in all schools and the removal of hurdles to referral.
  • A single point of contact for CAMHS waiting lists so GPs and families can understand if remaining on it offers a real opportunity for care.
  • Proper care for long Covid sufferers,after the party led the first parliamentary debate on the condition and revealed that just 1% of sufferers have been referred to a vital support service.
  • Interim findings to be released by the Covid-19 Public Inquiry within a year, so it doesn’t follow in the footsteps of the seven-year contaminated blood and tram inquiries.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

“Patients and staff are in dire need of new hope. The Audit Scotland report this week confirmed that staff are exhausted, the government’s recovery plans are full of holes and the waiting lists for check-ups to complex operations are getting longer by the day.

“The SNP cannot keep using the pandemic as an excuse for the issues the NHS is facing. 15 years of mismanagement have brought our health service to its knees. At this rate, the underwhelming recovery plan will need upgraded to a resuscitation plan.

“Since I became leader my first priority has been to offer policies that are both radical and credible. It is why I will continue to press the SNP/Green Government for measures including the Burnout Prevention Strategy, which they voted down despite all the warnings from staff.

“I have also asked the First Minister to accept my proposal for a Health and Social Care Staff Assembly that puts their expertise and experience at the very heart of the recovery and planning of these services.

“Patients and staff desperately need new hope and deserve better than ministers who seem determined to instead turn their attentions towards independence. New hope is exactly what the Scottish Liberal Democrats will offer at the elections this May.”

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