Shadow Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health, Sport
Like many of you trying to juggle work commitments and family needs, the summer months have not offered me much of a break with two young children to entertain through the school holidays and, as a GP, supporting my patients in the clinic. That said, the Scottish Parliament’s recess provided some flexibility to get out and meet many wonderful organisations around Glasgow that do valuable work in terms of our community’s health and wellbeing.
The big health policy news to share with you focuses on, unsurprisingly, COVID. Before the end of the last parliamentary session, I wrote a paper that called for the establishment of specialist clinics to support “long COVID” sufferers and so ensure adequate capacity in GP surgeries to deal with other conditions. Having raised this in Holyrood, I followed up with the Cabinet Secretary for Health in what was a very positive meeting. I’ll keep you all updated on progress and the outcome of our next meeting, scheduled for September.
Still with the front line of clinical care, I’ve had a series of related meetings with the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland, the British Medical Association Scotland and the General Medical Council Scotland that focused on the systemic problem of UK doctors from ethnic minorities being disadvantaged throughout their careers – known as differential attainment. As a doctor of Indian descent, this is a topic that is very close to my heart. I have seen the devastation that differential attainment causes and have been pressing for solutions to be found to give everyone an equal opportunity and to ensure patients benefit from an ethnically diverse medical workforce.
Still with health and wellbeing, but on a much more enjoyable note, I loved this summer’s visits to the RSPB Bird Sanctuary in Loch Lomond, the Woodland Trust site in Dumbarton and my meeting with Ramblers Scotland, which appointed me as its paths champion. We’re so lucky to have green spaces right on our doorstep here in Glasgow and I want to encourage people to get out and explore. That said, we can only succeed if there are clear paths for people to walk on, they are well maintained and, above all else, are easily found on Google Maps. Getting out of the office or our home office for a 10-minute walk at lunchtime allows us to clear our heads and return raring to go for the afternoon. Getting out to these incredible open spaces really allows us to relax, think clearly and enjoy nature safely. You might not know this, but GPs in Edinburgh are prescribing trips to the RSPP in Loch Lomond - and they are getting incredible feedback and improvements in patients’ mental health. I hope you agree that this is so uplifting.
This is just a taster of what I’ve been focused on over the last couple of months. I had countless other meetings that have provided much insight and I am eager to go back to Parliament in September to help improve the lives of the Scottish people and my Glasgow Region constituents.
Finally, before signing off, I’d like to share a few thoughts on unity. I visited the Hindu temple in Edinburgh for Raksha Bandhan where sisters tie a Rakhi (string) to their brothers' wrists to confer protection. At this ceremony, there were representatives of the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Police Scotland and the Fire Department - and I was struck by how the Rakhi symbolises unity between siblings, our family, neighbourhoods, the armed forces and those who serve and protect our local communities. As we recover from the pandemic, we must act as one and have a common voice and purpose which, if well directed, can help us emerge strong from the crisis, together - without this, we are destined to fail.