Health and Care
Right now it is difficult to think about health and care in Scotland without the issue of the pandemic dominating. But we are going to have to pull off a really essential juggling act – we cannot take our eye of the ball with COVID-19, but we also need to catch up on all the other health issues which have been relegated in the last year, and at the same time we need to stop kicking the issue of systematic approach to public health into the long grass.
We must keep doing everything we can to bring the COVID-19 crisis to some kind of a manageable end as more and more information becomes available, but we also need to make sure that we understand what Holyrood did well, and what it did badly, so lessons are truly learned before it is too late. This means we need a powerful and independent review into Scotland's COVID-19 performance which does not hide behind a 'four nations' strategy. But while there was no option but to devote enormous resources to Covid, too many people with other urgent health needs have been kept waiting, so we need to catch up. And it must also be the moment when we finally understand that our NHS is about our frontline staff and the enormity of the pressures they have faced.
The provision of NHS dentistry was a real success of the first two terms of the SNP government. However the reality is during the pandemic, people were driven back to private provision. The key issue in NHS provision is availability of NHS provision, and until that is tackled, making it free at the point of need in the future is welcome but will not practically solve the current and immediate lack of available NHS facilities.
Everyone knows that the best approach to health is prevention – and yet there seems always to be a reason not quite to get round to prioritising it. And so still it is health inequality that drives so much of the cost to the NHS and Scotland as a whole, with the economic cost of people facing adverse childhood experiences being £4 billion or more. If we want to tackle health we need to tackle poverty, inequality, housing, employment, food, grassroots sport and so much more.
And it’s not just about health, but about care. From before we're born until our last days, all of us will need support and care at some point. The better we deliver care the fewer problems Scotland faces. When you get it wrong, it looks like the terrible COVID-19 death toll in Scotland's care homes. When you get it right, it means helping people to flourish and live good lives.
Scotland must never forget what the pandemic taught us about what matters to us. We must care more about the people who care for us.
Health is born in a warm home with a full belly.
From the cradle to the grave, Scotland must be there for you.
- No let up in the fight against Covid, informed by a powerful independent inquiry to find out what Scotland must learn from its successes and mistakes.
- To bring forward and invest in a 'catch-up' programme for all the NHS activity which was cancelled because of Covid.
- A mental health recovery plan, recognising the impact of the pandemic on the mental wellbeing of the nation.
- To streamline management structures in the NHS and create greater frontline staff involvement in management.
- To improve pay and conditions for frontline staff and not let it fall behind again.
- To take a public health approach much more seriously so we increase our focus on prevention as well as cure.
- To get serious about poverty and inequality and make health and anti-poverty policies inseparable.
- Investment in new technologies like Artificial Intelligence which are set to revolutionise healthcare.
- To go beyond the current proposals for a National Care Service to make it free at the point of need and owned by the public, and set up a proper review to explore a comprehensive all-ages care service.
- The building of a new generation of world-class modern care homes which are much better for residents and less expensive to run.
- Scotland does not have the powers to properly recognise the unpaid care work that is predominantly done by women and so this should be made a priority for Scotland when it achieves independence.