Engagements

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th May 2017.

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Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

2. To ask the First Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the week. (S5F-01299)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Engagements to take forward the Government’s programme for Scotland.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

Barra is one of Scotland’s most beautiful and peaceful places. That peace has been shattered by the actions of Salman Abedi. The family of Eilidh MacLeod is grieving and the family of Laura MacIntyre is just hoping and praying that their daughter will get better. A death like that shatters most communities, but it hits particularly hard in an island community such as Barra. Will the First Minister tell us what extra support the Scottish Government can offer to the people of Barra at this difficult time?

The First Minister:

Kezia Dugdale makes a very powerful point. The death of a young person—in any circumstances, but particularly in tragic and horrific ones such as those we have witnessed this week—is very difficult for any community anywhere to deal with. Barra is a small and very close-knit island community, so the impact of Eilidh’s death and Laura’s horrific injuries will be felt there in a way that is much more intense than would be the case in a bigger community. We must be mindful of that. My colleague Angus Brendan MacNeil is a resident of Barra, and I know from him just how that impact is being felt.

On the support that is being offered, Scottish Government officials have already engaged with the local council to ascertain what support is being made available and to consider whether there are ways in which we can support that. I understand that the director of education, who is himself an educational psychologist, is on Barra, and that a further educational psychologist and an NHS clinical psychologist are travelling there today. Between them, they will focus on the support that the families of, and those who were closest to, the two girls will need. Of course—people will understand and agree with this—their aim will be to keep things as normal as possible for the school that the girls attended, but to make sure that support is in place for the young people who are going need it.

The last point that I will make—as is often relevant in any tragic incident such as this—is that we all think of people in such circumstances in the immediate aftermath, because the media are full of images. However, it is often in the days, weeks and months after such an event that the impact on those closest to people who have died will be felt. I am very conscious that the Government, working with the council, which will be in the lead, needs to make sure that that support will be in place—not just today, next week or next month, but for as long as it is needed.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

I very much welcome that answer, and I thank the First Minister for it.

After attacks such as that in Manchester, political leaders talk about how we cannot let terrorists change our way of life. We can do that by carrying on with the business in this chamber and by holding the Government to account as normal, and that is what I want to do now.

Earlier this week, Target Ovarian Cancer published its pathfinder report, which is the first of its kind in Scotland. It found that 36 per cent of general practitioners wrongly believe that there are no detectable symptoms of ovarian cancer. That is costing lives. Will the First Minister tell us what steps she will take to improve the expertise on and awareness of ovarian cancer among Scotland’s GPs?

The First Minister:

We will pay very close attention to that report in the first instance. Obviously our focus is on prevention and early detection as much as it is on treatment and it is extremely important, particularly with cancer, to make sure that clinicians, particularly primary care clinicians, have the guidance and the information that they need to spot symptoms. I know that GPs and others working in primary care want to be in the best possible position to do that.

Work is regularly done—not simply for ovarian cancer but for other conditions—to look at and review guidance for clinicians. I give an undertaking today that we will do that as far as the ovarian cancer report is concerned because we know—this runs strongly through our detect cancer early programme—that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the outcomes for the patients who have it.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

Thank you for that. Of course, it is not just GPs who lack awareness of the early signs of ovarian cancer. The report shows that 83 per cent of women do not know the main signs or the main symptoms of ovarian cancer.

The First Minister just mentioned the detect cancer early programme, which has been very successful at raising awareness about cancer of the breast, lung and bowel. Given the startling findings of the report and the prevalence of ovarian cancer, does the First Minister think that it is time to extend that detect cancer early programme to cover ovarian cancer, which it currently does not?

The First Minister:

We keep that programme under review. I was health secretary when the detect cancer early programme was first established and a lot of careful thought went into deciding on the particular cancers to focus on in the first period of that campaign. Lung, breast and bowel cancer were selected because of the significant number of people who suffer from those cancers in Scotland.

However, groups representing patients with other cancers regularly make representations for inclusion in that programme and we are happy to consider such representations. Given the report from Target Ovarian Cancer that has been referred to, we certainly welcome the opportunity to discuss with Target Ovarian Cancer how we as a Government can support greater efforts to raise awareness among the public at large and, in particular, among clinicians working in primary care. I would be happy to make sure that the health secretary includes in that discussion the possible future inclusion of ovarian cancer in the detect cancer early programme.