I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer. Last week, I wrote to him and to all other Scottish National Party leadership candidates to ask whether they would support a new acute general hospital for the Highlands and Islands, to replace Raigmore hospital. I know that the cabinet secretary has been very busy and has been unable to give me an answer, but now he has the opportunity. Does the cabinet secretary support my call?
Conservative members might want to listen to the answer. I am very proud of Scottish Government investment in our Highlands and Islands. With regard to Scottish Government support, I announced £5 million of capital investment in upgrading maternity services at Raigmore hospital, and our Highland national treatment centre is getting an investment of £48.5 million. As Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, I have had the pleasure of opening two new community hospitals: one in Aviemore in September 2021, and one on Skye in March 2022.
There is no doubt that Raigmore hospital will require significant investment—through either a full refurbishment or, indeed, replacement—and, of course, we will work closely with NHS Highland to identify the best way forward.
Can the cabinet secretary advise as to when we are likely to see construction of a new Crosshouse hospital in Ayrshire? The United Kingdom Government promised 40 new hospitals in England, the construction of which has been hampered by a lack of cash, is years behind schedule and is
“moving at a glacial pace”,
Indeed, we do not wish to follow that example. Of course, investment in our infrastructure and in health and social care is challenging, because of the Conservatives’ economic vandalism, which means that, at peak inflation, the health and social care budget alone is worth £1.2 billion less, and the Scottish Government budget is worth £1.7 billion less.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran is working on its caring for Ayrshire programme, which is an exciting and ambitious programme that will transform health and care services across Ayrshire and Arran. The board’s vision is that care should be delivered as close to home as possible and supported by a network of community services, with safe, effective and timely access to specialist services. As part of that programme, NHS Ayrshire and Arran is considering its acute healthcare estate, which includes Crosshouse hospital and what that will look like in the future. The Government will be fully supportive of that approach and we look forward to discussing those plans with the board when it is ready to do so.
Earlier this week, the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee heard evidence from health boards regarding external pressures on their service delivery, including the impact of inflation and increased utility costs. Can the cabinet secretary confirm whether the Government has considered how to reduce revenue energy cost as part of the infrastructure investment plan proposals, for example, through capital investments in systems such as district heat networks, which could increase the sustainability of the hospital estates and support surrounding communities?
We have considered that, and there are excellent examples of places where we are introducing such efficient systems. Of course, we have an ambition to decarbonise our entire health and social care estate, and I am happy to make sure that that strategy is forwarded to Paul Sweeney. I also point to the fact that, in next year’s budget, we will increase investment in the health service to a record £19 billion.