I have worked as a clinical pharmacist in mental health for 20 years. I work with some of the most vulnerable people from all over Highland, and there is no doubt that this experience has profoundly affected my life view.
I campaigned hard for NHS for YES, because I believe that remaining in the union poses a threat to our NHS. Funding cuts, privatisation and lack of universal service are all a reality south of the border and could have a knock on effect here, not to mention the future threat that TTIP poses.
The NHS is a vital service and is facing huge challenges both locally and nationally– we need more representatives in parliament who understand health. Modern high quality health care is complex and expensive. In the Highlands and Islands, we face workforce pressures and an aging demographic. Over the next few years, we will need to do things differently, use technology wisely and staff will need to develop new roles. All this in the face of budget pressures.
We, the people living here, need fast access to treatment, as close to home as possible.
The national recruitment issues for GPs and consultants are compounded in rural areas and out of hours cover is challenging. We need to get under the surface of the issues, think creatively and flexibly to develop solutions. Make the jobs more attractive (e.g. combining with training or research posts, reducing bureaucracy, including fishing rights) and look at different models of care, which fully develop all of the healthcare professionals so doctors are only used where only doctors can do the job.
Health is more than just the NHS – social care, housing and education are vital to good health. Health inequality is closely related to wealth inequality.
I see first-hand the effect of the Westminster attitude to welfare – people with disabling illnesses like treatment resistant schizophrenia being declared fit to work and ending up admitted for several months because the stress of the appeal made them ill. Like many of you, I was disappointed, when the Smith commission did not give us full control over welfare. I believe that the Scottish government would have taken a much more humane approach.
Whilst we are on the topic of health, public health measures are important – the Scottish government has already had some success in changing alcohol and smoking habits, and on the minimum pricing of alcohol, I have yet to meet a health professional who doesn’t support it.