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Health and Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:13 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows SNP Whip, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities) 3:13 pm, 16th January 2020

It will come as no surprise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I intend to dwell on health and social care issues as they relate to my constituents in my own country of Scotland.

Before I do so, however, I should like to remind the House that just because edicts and statements are issued from the Government Benches, it does not mean that they are factually correct. Indeed, I must say that the pejorative language used by Conservative Members, including those representing Scottish seats, when discussing Scotland and its SNP Government, is unjust, mostly fallacious and paints a picture of healthcare in Scotland that neither I, my family nor my constituents recognise. In Scotland, the SNP Government are carrying on with the day job and have abolished prescription charges, which helps many folk in Scotland. To know that they can have the medication they need without worry is a fine thing, and it can save precious NHS resources further down the line.

Satisfaction with the NHS in Scotland remains high. In 2018, 95% of patients rated their overall experience of cancer care positively. [Interruption.] The hon. Member on the Government Front Bench may shake his head, but I can vouch for that, as my husband had cancer treatment in Scotland. Some 86% of patients rated their full in-patient experience positively, and 83% rated the overall care provided by their GP surgery as good or excellent. Scotland’s patient safety record is among the best in the world. Over the past five years there has been a decreasing year-on-year trend in the rate of MRSA and C. diff infection.

Scotland led the UK by introducing a mental health waiting times target. In the Scottish Government’s 2019-20 programme, the budget for mental health increased by £15.3 million, up by nearly 22%. This is the first Government in Scotland to have a ministerial post dedicated to mental health. The SNP is always looking to improve services for all Scots, which is why the Government are undertaking a review of mental health legislation in Scotland. The review aims to improve the rights and protections of persons who may be subject to existing legislation, and to remove barriers to those caring for their health and welfare.

This Tory Government aim to emulate Scotland by abolishing parking charges at hospitals. Since 2008, when the SNP Government abolished charges in NHS car parks, patients, visitors and staff have saved over £39 million.

The Nuffield Trust, an independent health think-tank, has said that although the 3.2% increase in NHS England’s budget is welcome, it must not detract from the reality that the English health service cannot adequately function or improve without significant investment in NHS capital and the workforce. Perhaps NHS England, through adequate Government funding, could emulate NHS Scotland and offer the same bursary to student nurses as we do in Scotland, where from next September nursing students will benefit from a £10,000 bursary, which is double the proposal for nurses training in England.

Of course, nursing students receive free tuition in Scotland. The benefits of this policy are easy to see, with nursing student numbers in Scotland increasing for seven years in a row. Compare that with a 30% drop in applications in England. How difficult will it be for this Government to achieve their promise of 50,000 extra nurses, or is it actually 19,000 fewer nurses? I am not sure; I am a bit confused about that figure. Perhaps I am not the only one.

On the question of social care, in 2011, the Scottish Government became the first in the UK to pay the real living wage to staff, including all NHS workers. In 2002, free personal care for the elderly was introduced by the Labour-Lib Dem Executive, and I give them credit for that, but that was against the wishes of the Westminster parties, which used it to cut social security funding for older people in Scotland—as ever, Westminster never misses an opportunity to cut Scotland’s budget. [Interruption.] Now the SNP, in government, has extended free personal care to all those under 65 who need it, and from the next Parliament the Scottish Government will work to abolish social care charges. [Interruption.]