Hospital Waiting Times

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

Mr Kelly is quite right to say that this is a really serious issue. Inevitably, it has been considerably exacerbated by the past 15 months, during which the NHS has had to pivot. During the first wave of the pandemic, the NHS largely paused all but urgent and emergency treatment and some cancer treatments in order to deal with Covid. In the second wave we have begun to remobilise. Over the summer, we and our NHS staff did useful work to enable us to begin to catch up, but that was inevitably reduced when the second wave hit.

In addition to the work on cancer treatment waiting times, which Ms Gougeon highlighted earlier, work is under way specifically to examine those for elective procedures. When this session of portfolio question time finishes I will go straight into a meeting with the current chief operating officer of NHS Scotland, John Connaghan, to look in detail at actions in addition to those that I have just set out.

Should this Government be returned after the election—as I very much hope that it will be—I trust that it will be able to set out a comprehensive remobilisation plan. Officials’ work on that is well under way. All our NHS boards have produced their own immediate plans, which we are bringing together to consider how we might progress in order that people should not have to wait for as long as Mr Kelly has suggested, which would not be acceptable. At the same time, we must ensure that our NHS staff, who have worked so very hard and to whom we owe significant thanks, are given time to take the annual leave that they have postponed and to have the rest and recuperation that they will need in order to progress the work that we want to undertake.

Presiding Officer, I ask whether you could allow me a moment’s flexibility to say a few things, since—unless there is another supplementary for me to answer—I think that these will be the final words that I say in the chamber. I would like to make a couple of points and to thank a number of people.

I have been very privileged to be here. I have been especially privileged to have held two ministerial offices. If my voice is now shaking, it is because, unusually, members are all being very nice to me, for which I am very grateful to them. [


.] I have learned a great deal, certainly from my work in establishing the social security service, and undoubtedly also from working with the health service. I am honoured to have been the health secretary and to have played my part in working with those in our health service.

In particular, I thank my constituents in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley—undoubtedly the most beautiful constituency in the whole of Scotland, with the most talented people. I hope that Elena Whitham will follow me in representing it. My thanks go to them for electing me in the first place and also to my constituency team, without whom none of this would have been possible. My thanks go, too, to our civil servants and advisers, who—despite sometimes being maligned, albeit unintentionally—do a fantastic job, and to our team of clinical advisers, who I think are second to none.

Finally, there is a group of people who are rarely mentioned, but without whom cabinet secretaries and ministers would flounder, and that is our private office staff. I have been fortunate to have two quite remarkable private offices, to whom I owe a great deal of thanks.

Lastly, Presiding Officer, I offer my very best wishes to you in your retirement, after many years of outstanding service to the Parliament and to the people of Scotland.