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Ministers and Scottish Government officials meet regularly with the leadership of all our national health service boards, including NHS Lanarkshire, to discuss a range of matters. On Friday 2 November, I chaired NHS Lanarkshire’s annual review at University hospital Hairmyres and went through a number of matters with the chair and the chief executive.
Cole Thomson from East Kilbride is six years old. His mum, Lisa Quarrell, is desperately trying to find a cure for the crippling epileptic seizures that leave Cole paralysed and unable to speak. So far, Cole has not been prescribed the medicinal cannabis that could greatly help his condition. Cole has touched the hearts of thousands of people, and a petition led by East Kilbride Community Trust is pushing for urgent action. Time is not on Cole’s side. Will the cabinet secretary do everything that she can do to ensure that Cole gets the medicine that he needs?
I am grateful to Ms Lennon for her supplementary question. I absolutely understand the issues that she raises and the distress and upset that are being caused to the family.
Prescribing of medicinal cannabis rests on regulatory changes from the United Kingdom Government. Those changes came into effect on 1 November, so we very quickly issued guidance to our health boards and practitioners at that time.
I am happy to look at the case further and to speak with the member about the particular questions that it raises, and about what we—the Scottish Government and the health service—can do to assist.
I am grateful for that supplementary question and for Richard Lyle’s support for the decision that I took to review the process for identifying the options that should be consulted on. It is important that I make it clear to Parliament that I have expressed absolutely no opinion on the location.
I have made it clear to NHS Lanarkshire and, I hope, to residents of the area that the Government supports a replacement for the current Monklands hospital. The issue that is being reviewed is the manner in which a view is reached on the choice of alternative locations, the manner in which the decision on those choices is taken, and the manner in which the consultation is held. We want it to be held in such a way as to ensure that the maximum number of voices are heard before the board reaches a view on the recommendations that it wishes to make to me for my decision.
We are finalising the specific terms of the review and who will lead it: I hope to be able to make an announcement on that very shortly. I expect the review to take a relatively short time, because of what it will look at. I am very conscious that the Government, the board and—I am sure—residents of the area want to move quickly to reach a fully informed, genuinely considered and publicly consulted-on view on the recommended best location for the new replacement hospital for Monklands. I will announce the personnel, the remit and the timetable of the review shortly.
In NHS Lanarkshire, the absenteeism rate has climbed for the fourth year in a row, from 4.7 per cent to 5.7 per cent, compared with the Scottish Government target of 4 per cent that the SNP has never achieved. The rising workload that is a result of staff shortages is playing a huge part in that.
The cabinet secretary recently announced an extra 2,600 nurse and midwifery places. Although those additional places are very welcome, they will not even cover the posts that are currently vacant. Does she recognise that workforce planning still falls short of what our NHS requires?
I recently announced an increase—for the eighth year in a row—in the number of nursing and midwifery places. I also announced the continuation of the highly successful return to practice programme for nurses who want to return to practice after a period of absence, as well as an increase in the pre-registration work that the Open University in Scotland undertakes, which is another very successful programme.
Through our work on the number of nursing and midwifery places, we are acting to ensure that we maintain the increase in recruitment that is necessary. We are doing the same with regard to medicine undergraduates. The allied health professions, too, are an important area of work in which we are looking to ensure that we recruit and train in a range of different ways in order to widen access across all the professions.
Our workforce plan is based on the best evidence that we have available, and it continues to be refined as that evidence improves. Our Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill is currently being considered by Parliament and is about to reach the decision-making stage at stage 1. It will assist us in providing further robust evidence for our workforce planning.
I do not accept Mr Whittle’s assertion, and I make the point that the Scottish Government has the most advanced NHS workforce planning in the United Kingdom. Perhaps he could take down south some lessons on how we are doing things.