Legislative Programme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:43 pm on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour 2:43 pm, 16th June 1999

I cannot speak on behalf of the Labour party, but I can speak as a doctor and as someone whose son is an accident and emergency doctor. We have reduced junior doctors' hours already and have agreements in place with junior doctors. I, along with everybody else, will certainly question the Executive to ensure that those agreements are met, and that the health authorities and trusts in Scotland fulfil their obligations to junior doctors, who are still treated extremely badly. The treatment of junior doctors is not just a question of hours. Most junior doctors are dedicated and will work the hours that are necessary to complete the job rather than fixed hours. We should also consider their accommodation and support, and the dignity with which they are treated as employees. The situation is not good at the moment and we need to address it. I am sorry that I cannot give Mrs Ewing a straight answer.

Many groups, such as the National Schizophrenia Fellowship and the Alzheimer action group, have described the legislation in that area as fragmented, archaic or unfair, both on financial matters and on welfare. I have significant experience in that area. As Karen Whitefield pointed out in her excellent speech this morning, it is tragic and extremely upsetting that a couple's joint bank account should be frozen when the husband falls ill and is incapable; we cannot manage such situations. I very much welcome the statement that the proposed bill makes to our country: we care about people and will do something about it.