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In her response of 18 June last year to the Scottish Government’s inquiry into the Vale of Leven hospital tragedy, the cabinet secretary undertook to establish a website on which regular updates would be posted on the implementation of all 75 recommendations. She also undertook to give a report to the Health and Sport Committee at the end of November and to report back to Parliament in November.
My inquiries suggest that no such report has been received by the Health and Sport Committee and there has been no report back to Parliament. More urgently, having checked the website, there is absolutely nothing to update us on any progress on any of the 75 recommendations, some seven months after the cabinet secretary undertook to do so.
Can the cabinet secretary explain why that is? Can she remedy it? Can she explain to Parliament why the follow-through on an inquiry that arose from the deaths of so many people has fallen short?
First, I reassure the member that I certainly have been ensuring that boards, as they were expected to, have taken forward their plans to implement the 75 recommendations. As a matter of urgency, I will absolutely look at the issues that he raises about the website not being kept up to date. It should be.
I am aware that there has been continual communication with the patient groups and I will ensure that that has continued. It is my understanding that it has. That has been a really important relationship that has been built with those patients and the families of those affected.
As regards the end of November report, I will check on that; if it has not happened, I will certainly rectify that as a matter of urgency as soon as question time is finished.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that last week 237 individual patients waited more than four hours for treatment at the accident and emergency department of the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley. Last February, the cabinet secretary sent in a crisis team and promised to fix the problem, but yet again only 81 per cent of patients are being seen within the waiting time target. That is not progress. Everybody knows that there are not enough beds or staff at the RAH.
When will the cabinet secretary provide a long-term solution and the investment needed to fix the problems at the RAH in Paisley?
—since the figures that the member highlighted, there has been huge improvement in the performance of the RAH.
As I said earlier, this week and next week are the two most challenging weeks of the year in the winter period. However, I would have thought that the member would recognise—not for my sake but for the sake of the staff, who have put in so much effort to improve things at the RAH and at all our other A and E departments—the substantial progress that has been made. There has been a huge improvement within the figures over the past few months compared with last year. [Interruption.]
When the cabinet secretary next meets NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, I wonder whether she could raise the issue of podiatry. I have a number of elderly constituents who have been refused simple toenail cutting. One such constituent is in his 90s and cannot bend to attend to his nails. Another suffers from vertigo. When I asked the board to consider that case as a special case, I was told quite simplistically that vertigo does not affect foot health. Clearly it may well do if it means that the sufferer cannot bend to attend to his nails.
Will the cabinet secretary look at the guidelines for podiatry for older people and reform them so that constituents such as mine can get the kind of help and attention that will allow them to remain in their own homes, cut down on the number of falls and give them a better quality of life?
If the member wants to furnish me with more details on a particular case, I will certainly look into that individual case. However, more generally, she will be aware that the Scottish Government personal foot care guidelines were published back in September 2013 and described toenail cutting as personal foot care rather than podiatry care. The reason for that was to ensure that the podiatry service is focusing on those who have the greatest need.
No one at risk of developing serious foot problems would be discharged from the podiatry service. Health boards would emphasise that people who develop more serious foot problems are able to access a podiatry service for assessment and treatment. Basically, the podiatry service has been required to focus its attention on those people who need the service most—people with conditions that have a very serious implication for foot care. Those are the guidelines and they have been in place since September 2013. However, as I said in my opening remarks, if the member wants to write to me about the specific case, I will certainly look into it to ensure that the guidelines are being appropriately applied.
—I say that we have repeatedly said that the staff are doing a fantastic job.
I want to draw attention to today’s Evening Times, and ask a question about that. The headline refers to “Rush Hour gridlock causing travel misery” near the new hospital. This is about staff as well as patients. Staff members are reporting that they are taking up to two hours to get out of the area at night, and that they are often being fined by their nursery schools for failing to pick up their children on time. If the cabinet secretary is so concerned about staff, would she please do something about that?
At the same time, the ambulance drivers—who are, as we now know from our freedom of information inquiry, experiencing waiting and turn-around times at the Queen Elizabeth hospital of up to 30 minutes, which is 50 per cent longer than at any other hospital in Scotland—are reporting substantial delays at rush hour in getting patients to and from the hospital. The A and E waiting times do not reflect those additional issues—
On the subject of A and E waiting times, I am happy to defend staff and to fix and rectify any issues where performance is not as it should be.
Let us take the Christmas week in 2015. There was a 96 per cent performance rate across our A and E departments in Scotland—the best performance for five years—but we have not heard a single word of praise from the Opposition. There has not been one word of praise for staff who delivered a very good performance—
All that I and the staff are asking for is a bit of balance, and a bit of praise when performance is delivered. [Interruption.]
If members do not take my word for it, they should go and speak to staff about how they perceive the attacks on the A and E department. It is not an attack on me but an attack on them.
Richard Simpson raised issues with ambulance turn-around times. I have been very clear with the Scottish Ambulance Service that ambulance turn-around times, particularly at the Queen Elizabeth hospital, have not been good enough. It has assured me that that has not impacted on clinical safety and that it is actively working with Ambulance Service colleagues to address the issue.
We allocated £400,000 last year to the Scottish Ambulance Service to ensure that it was better prepared for winter. In addition, we announced an £11.4 million increase in funding next year—which I hope Richard Simpson will welcome—that will result in the recruitment of around 300 extra paramedics over the next five years to help to improve the situation.
Yes, the turn-around time at the Queen Elizabeth hospital needs to improve. The Scottish Ambulance Service has assured me that that will happen, which I hope Richard Simpson will welcome.
Ms Ferguson—[Interruption.] Order, please. Order.
Ms Ferguson, as you well know, that is not a point of order. However, you have made your point. I am not responsible for what the cabinet secretary says in her answers, nor am I responsible for the questions that members ask.
Is it not your duty, Presiding Officer, to ensure that members treat one another with respect in the Parliament? When a member accuses other members of denigrating staff in the health service, when they have never done so—never in 13 years in this Parliament have I ever denigrated staff, yet the cabinet secretary has accused me of doing so—that is not treating others with respect. It your duty, Presiding Officer—your duty.
Thank you, Dr Simpson. I think that all members are aware that we should treat everyone in the chamber with respect but, as I said, I am not responsible for the content of the cabinet secretary’s answers.
Do I have a point of order at the other side of the chamber? There is a point of order from Rob Gibson.