Is the cabinet secretary concerned about the serious capacity issues at the Royal infirmary of Edinburgh, where in March one in five patients waited for more than four hours in the accident and emergency unit? Given that the ERI could, due to staff shortages, soon be taking in extra patients from St John’s hospital, what assurance can the cabinet secretary give that the staff, who are working flat out, will be given the resources that they urgently need in order to serve patients to the best of their ability?
We are not only concerned but have taken action, along with NHS Lothian, to deal with the accident and emergency situation throughout the NHS Lothian area. Additional consultants and nurses have been recruited, which will continue. The fundamental strategic problem with capacity issues in NHS Lothian is a result of the fact that, when the previous Administration planned the construction of the Royal infirmary of Edinburgh, it grossly underestimated growth in the population of Edinburgh by 20 per cent. We are now having to deal with failures resulting from decisions that were made when Sarah Boyack was a minister.
Has the cabinet secretary discussed with NHS Lothian or any other health boards the recent shortage of liothyronine, on which many thyroid patients in Lothian and throughout Scotland are dependent for survival? Will he look into the reasons why one company has a monopoly on supply of the drug, at what happened to stop the drug’s production and at why the NHS is, it seems, being charged a massively inflated price compared to the price abroad?
Elaine Smith raises a very valid point. As she knows, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is the responsible body for the safety, equality and efficacy of all United Kingdom-licensed medicines. On 21 May, it issued advice to healthcare professionals regarding alternative arrangements for a continued supply of triiodothyronine, or T3. The issue is very much a reserved matter, particularly in relation to pricing, but I share Elaine Smith’s frustrations about the inflated prices. We are taking up the issue with the relevant authorities at United Kingdom level.
We have invested in St John’s and I have made it clear—and Tim Davison, who is the chief executive of NHS Lothian, has made it clear—that we are totally committed to 24/7 good-quality services. I absolutely deplore the scaremongering by Neil Findlay and his Labour colleagues about the future of St John’s. It is highly irresponsible of them.