The Scottish Conservatives continue to scrutinise and challenge the SNP-Green government as well as develop solutions aimed at improving lives and livelihoods. In February, we published our blueprint for moving the country out of Covid restrictions and onto recovery. We called this ‘Back to Normality’ and I presented this paper some 2 weeks before the First Minister and her government, supported by the civil service, published its own plan for managing the country out of the pandemic.
Speaking in Parliament and in numerous media interviews, I explained that with the virus retreating it was time to progressively remove restrictions so the country can get back to normality. As well as scrapping the ineffective Covid Passport scheme and getting rid of compulsory mask wearing in schools, I argued that money and resources should be shifted from the Test and Trace system to fund NHS front line services.
Of course, governments should have the flexibility to introduce measures if Covid cases soar again or if a more Infectious variant emerges. But the data so far in February has been favourable. I believe the Scottish Government should be just as decisive to restore freedoms as it was to restrict liberties.
Throughout the month I’ve argued that restrictions are not without costs – particularly among our young people. Research by the Centre for Mental Health concludes that up to 145,000 young Scots will require new or additional mental health support as a consequence of Covid restrictions. The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that over the pandemic the rates of mental ill health among children increased from 1 in 9 to 1 in 6.
Another key area that I worked on this month is Long Covid. Some 5 months after the Scottish Government announced £10 million in funding to support sufferers, there are still no details on what these funds will support nor any treatment targets. The government has a habit of making funding announcements that are light on substance. I’ve also pushed the SNP-Green government to do more for sufferers of chronic pain, on which it has another poor record.
The stats are also poor regarding February’s Accident and Emergency Department waiting times. There was a 31% rise in patients waiting more than 8 hours to be seen and a 56% rise in those waiting for more than half a day.
I held meetings with health professional bodies throughout the month to understand more about the crisis in our health service which is suffering under the current Scottish Government’s management. The Royal College of Nursing reports that two-thirds of nurses are considering quitting the profession while there are already 6,000 nursing vacancies in Scotland. The NHS’s greatest asset is its people, yet the SNP fails to protect and develop its greatest asset. I can only conclude that the SNP is guilty of ungoverned incompetence. It continues to do the wrong thing while thinking it’s doing the right thing.
This brings me onto classroom ventilation. We all agree that this is not only an important infection prevention measure but ventilation also helps students concentrate better. Included in the SNP’s plan, however, was a proposal to chop the bottom off classroom doors – which would not only help circulate air but also spread smoke and flames in the event of a fire.
If I can close this newsletter on 3 health matters that I’ve campaigned on during February.
Kidney failure is up to 5 times more common in people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. Organ donor registration is also low in BAME communities, which means much longer waits for transplants. To find out more, please take a look at the Kidney Research UK website - www.kidneyresearchuk.org/kidneyhealthcheck
Prostate cancer affects 1 in 8 men and it’s estimated that 14,000 men across the UK haven’t yet been diagnosed due to the pandemic. It’s really important to understand the risks and where to find help. You’ll find more information at the Prostate Cancer UK website - https://prostatecanceruk.org/risk-checker.html
Cervical screening every 5 years is vital. The easily transmissible HPV virus causes 99% of all cervical cancers and 4 out of 5 Scots will have HPV at some point in their lives. In Scotland, doctors diagnose 6 patients each week with cervical cancer. Identifying cell changes early saves lives. Please speak with your GP if you haven’t been screened in the past 5 years.