Resumption of Health Services (Optometry)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd June 2020.

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Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

One of my constituents is registered blind and his wife has eyesight problems that need a visit to an eye specialist. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport has been emailed regarding the opening of essential services such as optometrists, but we have had no reply. That lack of response seems to be a running theme with Jeane Freeman, as I have sent her emails on several occasions, none of which she has bothered to reply to.

Will the First Minister tell her health secretary to reply to her emails and, more important, will she recognise that essential services such as optometrists need to open now and that any delay causes undue stress and concern to many of my constituents?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The member raises a really serious issue and I will treat it seriously. The tone of the first part of his question will jar with the majority of people across the country, who, over the past three months, have seen our health secretary work literally around the clock to try to tackle the virus.

I do not know why the Tories seem to be moving away from absolutely legitimate scrutiny—I unequivocally accept that that is their role—and a constructive approach to what appear to be attempts to party politicise this issue. I do not know why they are choosing to do that, but that is not what the majority of people across Scotland want to see. For my part and that of the health secretary, we will just get on with the job of trying to deal with this virus, day in and day out.

We want to see services, including optometry, resume as quickly as possible. As the health secretary has set out in the past couple of days—including yesterday in the chamber—we have to do that with careful consideration and in a framework of decision making, to ensure that those services resume safely, that the health service is still able to cope with the coronavirus, should we see an increase in cases, and that we do not put patients at greater risk by resuming services before we are ready to do so.

Those important considerations are under way and the health secretary will of course keep Parliament and the wider public updated. I understand how difficult it has been for people who have not been able to access the health service in the normal way. That will, in some cases, have been painful for people, and we want to see that situation rectified as quickly but—crucially—as safely as possible for patients across the country.