We are pushing health boards and regional transport partnerships to work together, involving local authorities, on improvements to public transport links to health facilities.
Is the minister concerned, as I am, about the gross inadequacy of transport links to acute hospitals throughout the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area? Does he accept that if good public transport links cannot be provided, patients and staff should not be charged for car parking at those facilities?
I agree with Paul Martin's central point about the need for transport links to be available, accessible and affordable to the people who need to travel to attend the health facilities to which he referred. National health service boards are required to work in partnership with our new regional partnerships and to ensure that transport needs assessments are carried out.
If Mr Martin has a particular concern, I will be happy to consider it and to speak to the Minister for Health and Community Care about it. I am aware that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, in conjunction with the local authority and the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, has developed an evening visitor bus service to the main Glasgow hospitals, which I hope will go some way to assist Mr Martin's constituents.
Is the minister aware that some of my constituents, particularly those with mobility problems, rely on the ambulance service, which is under pressure, to transport them to routine medical appointments, many of which are missed when ambulances are diverted to attend emergencies? In light of the unacceptable proposal to downgrade Monklands hospital, which can only place the ambulance service under further strain, can the minister update me on what is being done to improve transport infrastructure in the NHS Lanarkshire area?
I am sorry, but I cannot give Elaine Smith a precise answer to her question today. I will be happy to write to her with details from my department, and I will of course check
As always, Presiding Officer. Following on—[ Laughter. ] I will have to wait for the laughter to die down.
Following on from Elaine Smith's point, I ask the minister to speed up the publication of the transport strategy for the health service in Lanarkshire. When the daft and dangerous decision was taken to downgrade the accident and emergency unit at Monklands hospital, we were promised a new transport strategy that would link health facilities. We have not yet seen that strategy. Will the minister tell us when it will be published?