Tackling Our Long-Term Health Challenges

Sarah Boyack 345Earlier this month, the Scottish Parliament discussed a Labour motion that addressed the ability of NHS Scotland to deal with the increasing levels of demand placed on its key services. The debate was in response to the call from the RCN and the royal colleges for a genuine debate about the way forward for the NHS. In my speech I took the opportunity to raise my worries over the capacity of NHS Lothian to respond effectively to the numerous challenges ahead:

The region covered by NHS Lothian “has people who are experiencing ill health as a result of deprivation; it has people with multiple and long-term health conditions; it has a population that is growing month on month, with no sign of that changing; and its population is changing, with more older people living longer, who will have many more contacts with our NHS, whether with GPs, our care system or our hospitals”

NHS Lothian is now dealing with more patients than ever before, and, on average, those patients are becoming increasingly harder to treat – due to the prevalence of age-related illness and levels of deprivation.

I took the opportunity to stress the need to invest in Lothian’s GP practices, which have become increasingly understaffed and underfunded, in the hope that this may help alleviate some of the strain.   As the first point of contact for the vast majority of us, I believe GP practices must play a larger role in the future of our NHS, but to do this increased resources will need to be provided by the Scottish Government.   I raised this issue directly with the Cabinet Secretary for Health in relation to the £50m GP fund she has available.

If you would like to read my full speech, please click here.

I strongly believe a wider, more preventative approach to health is urgently needed with a focus on poverty reduction, investment in active travel, action on obesity and support for carers. We also need to make the case that investment in our environment has positive health benefits, whether it’s allotments and green spaces or improving air quality. Yesterday, the Lancet published a paper arguing that climate change will set back global health advances by 50 years.