Meeting of the Parliament
Meeting date: Thursday, May 25, 2023
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Fornethy House Survivors, Portfolio Question Time, Medium-term Financial Strategy, Agriculture Policy, Motion without Notice, Decision Time
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Fornethy House Survivors
- Portfolio Question Time
- Medium-term Financial Strategy
- Agriculture Policy
- Motion without Notice
- Decision Time
General Question Time
Good morning. The first item of business is general question time.
New Acute General Teaching Hospitals
To ask the Scottish Government where the new acute general teaching hospitals will be built over the next 10 years. (S6O-02284)
In February 2021, the Scottish Government published its infrastructure investment plan, which outlined the Government’s priorities until 2026. The timetable for the following five-year period is still to be determined, but I would expect the next plan to be published in late 2025 or early 2026.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that support is growing hourly for my petition to replace Raigmore. Given that there is such an appetite in the Highlands for a brand-new hospital, will the cabinet secretary agree to meet the board of NHS Highland and me to discuss that?
As a Government, we are committed to investing £1 billion over the next 10 years in health capital projects. That will include looking at facilities such as Raigmore when it comes to considering plans for either refurbishment or replacement programmes. We are committed to making sure that we make the right investments, and I engage with NHS Highland—I have just come from a call that involved a discussion with the chief executive of NHS Highland—to look at what further investments are necessary.
Of course, the member will be aware that we have just opened the new national treatment centre in Highland at a cost of almost £50 million and that, over the past two years, two new community hospitals have been provided, one in Aviemore and the other in Skye, at a cost of £18 million and £20 million. We have also agreed to take forward work on the redesign of services in Lochaber, which will see the replacement of the Belford hospital.
I assure the member that we are very much committed to making sure that we continue to invest in healthcare in the Highlands, and we will continue to do that in a way that is planned with the local health board.
It is important that we learn lessons from recent national health service capital investment projects elsewhere in the United Kingdom. As we know, in England, 10 of the 40 new hospitals that were pledged by Boris Johnson have faced lengthy delays as a result of not having the full planning permission that they needed to go ahead. Can the cabinet secretary advise what steps can be taken to guard against similar delays being experienced here, and can he provide any further information about anticipated pressures facing capital investment in NHS hospitals, given the current difficult economic context?
The member is right. To avoid the type of scenarios and problems that have been impacting on the hospital capital investment programme in England, we created NHS Scotland Assure, which has a very specific purpose. It does a thorough analysis and challenges every part of our capital investment programme in health to make sure that there is appropriate governance and that we have the appropriate permissions and so on in place, including planning permission, before capital projects are able to start, specifically to avoid the types of problems that they have been having in England.
The member is also right to highlight that construction inflation has had a significant impact on capital expenditure. If we look at the spring budget that was announced by the UK Government, we anticipate that, by 2024-25, we will see a 16 per cent reduction in our capital budget here in Scotland as a result of the cuts that are being made by the UK Government in capital expenditure. That will, of course, have an impact on our ability to invest in new projects. More of that will be set out in the medium-term financial strategy, which will be published later today by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.
Sudanese Community in Scotland (Support)
To ask the Scottish Government how it can support the Sudanese community living in Scotland, in light of the on-going humanitarian crisis in Sudan. (S6O-02285)
The Scottish Government stands with the international community and communities across Scotland in our shared deep concern over the violence in Sudan. That particularly impacts the Sudanese community living in Scotland, many of whom have friends and relatives directly affected.
On 10 May, I met representatives of the Sudanese community in Scotland alongside representatives from the national health service and third sector support organisations. That meeting was a starting point for dialogue about how we can support the Sudanese community in Scotland, including ensuring that Sudanese nationals who live here are aware of the support services that they can access and, where necessary, raising issues with the United Kingdom Government.
It would be helpful if some of those signposting bits of information could be shared with colleagues, as the situation is on-going.
In my role as committee convener, I met Sudanese health workers online from across the UK, from senior staff and senior consultants to nurses and support services staff in our NHS, each a vital cog in making our NHS work. Some of their colleagues who work for the NHS were in Sudan at the time the crisis arose; others have gone back there to bring friends and family to safety, particularly elderly parents and children, and now find themselves in Egypt and Dubai, unable to obtain family visas.
Can we have a question, please?
Those people are vital workers in our communities. Can the cabinet secretary make representations to the Home Office about the situation?
First, Clare Adamson is absolutely right to highlight the role of Sudanese nationals and people of Sudanese descent who work in our national health service. It is important to understand quite how many there are, and they deserve our recognition and support.
Secondly, I undertake to share with the member and other MSPs the signposting information that individual MSPs might wish to share with Sudanese nationals and constituents.
As asylum and immigration are reserved matters, we will press the UK Government on them. I have written to the Foreign Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice has written to the Home Secretary to call for safe and legal routes and arrangements for family reunion to be put in place. Those arrangements must be flexible enough to enable people who are forced to leave Sudan to safely come to the UK and join family who already have leave to remain here.
I will take a supplementary from Foysol Choudhury. I would be grateful for concise questions and responses.
The situation in Sudan is not improving. Almost 1 million people have been displaced just one month into the conflict, and neighbouring countries are already overwhelmed with refugees. What discussions has the Scottish Government had with the UK Government about the possible influx of refugees coming from Sudan if the conflict continues indefinitely?
Foysol Choudhury will have heard my previous answer, in which I talked about the communication that I have had with the UK Government and my cabinet secretary colleague has had with the Home Office on that question. He is absolutely right to ask what we can do to help families come together in this time of need, and I would be happy to work with him and colleagues across the chamber to do what we can to impress on the UK Government its responsibilities to ensure that that can happen
South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership (Meetings)
To ask the Scottish Government when it last met with South Lanarkshire health and social care partnership, and what was discussed. (S6O-02286)
Ministers and Scottish Government officials regularly meet representatives of all health and social care partnerships, including South Lanarkshire, to discuss matters of importance to local people. The cabinet secretary chaired an introductory meeting with the integration joint board chief officers, chairs and vice-chairs on Wednesday 17 May, and a representative of South Lanarkshire IJB was in attendance. Integration progress and priorities, and seasonal planning were discussed.
Can the minister provide an update on the Scottish Government’s work to support the provision of palliative care as well as on discussions with the hospice sector on a potential budget uplift to help retain and hire new staff?
As the minister knows, Kilbryde hospice in East Kilbride is Scotland’s youngest hospice and it does not yet have the same legacy donations that others do. Would the minister or officials be able to meet representatives of Kilbryde hospice to discuss its unique situation?
The Scottish Government is considering the issues that the hospice sector raised at its meeting in March with the then Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care and Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport, including immediate and longer-term funding issues.
It is the responsibility of the IJBs to plan and commission adult palliative and end-of-life care services for their areas using the integrated budgets that are under their control. My officials are engaging with health and social care partnerships and Scottish hospice sector representatives in relation to the issues and, separately, met Kilbride hospice on 10 May to hear its specific concerns.
Kilbryde hospice and all other hospices are facing a funding crisis, because only a third of their money is given under statute and they have to raise the rest. When will the hospice sector find out for definite how much money it will get from the Government?
As we speak, my officials are working on the concerns of the hospice sector in Scotland. I am looking forward to working more closely with the sector and visiting some hospices to understand directly their concerns.
Healthcare Professionals (Continuing Professional Development)
To ask the Scottish Government how it is ensuring that opportunities for continuing professional development are regularly available to healthcare professionals. (S6O-02287)
NHS Scotland staff have access to good-quality training and professional development opportunities through clinical training and our Turas learning platform. All staff can expect support from their employer to help them to acquire new skills to meet the demands of their post.
Our personal development planning and review policy is being refreshed as part of the once for Scotland policy programme, to ensure that learning opportunities are available to NHS Scotland staff. An agenda for change review is also being conducted, in which protected time for learning is an immediate priority area.
Throughout my time on the Health and Sport Committee and the Public Petitions Committee, I heard consistent calls for general practitioners and other healthcare professionals to receive more information on a range of conditions such as ME, Lyme disease and Huntington’s disease. At the COVID-19 Recovery Committee, there has been a call for GPs to receive specific training so that they can recognise long Covid. However, regular CPD sessions stopped during Covid while our healthcare professionals dealt with that single issue.
The chief executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran told me that we must restore CPD opportunities for GPs if we are to retain them. What will the Scottish Government do to restore CPD opportunities for our GPs in order to give them the tools that they require to ensure the very best healthcare?
We provide a range of training opportunities, and NHS Education for Scotland has a considerable level of online programmes and in-person training available for healthcare professionals, including GPs, covering a range of areas. As part of their CPD work, general practitioners are required to ensure that they maintain their knowledge of new and developing conditions.
As we recover from the pandemic, we want greater progress on the scope for more training provision. That is why some of the work that we are doing through the once for Scotland policy programme and the agenda for change review is to ensure that we provide healthcare professionals across NHS Scotland with a much broader range of training.
Fire Estate (Modernisation)
To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to modernise the fire estate. (S6O-02288)
Steps to modernise the fire service estate are decisions for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to make. The Scottish Government has provided the service with a capital budget of £32.5 million for 2023-24. The allocation of the capital budget, including the decision on whether to prioritise fleet, equipment or the fire service estate, is a matter for the SFRS.
This month, freedom of information responses to my office confirmed the poor state of Scotland’s fire estate, with about 45 per cent of fire stations assessed as being in either bad or poor condition. Four fire stations are known to have no running water, and many have inadequate showering facilities, although we know that the toxins that firefighters come into contact with are carcinogenic. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is failing its duty of care to firefighters. Will the Scottish Government commit to an emergency funding package to address those issues?
I agree that the safety of firefighters should be our priority. The fire stations with the least facilities are in remote locations and deal with very few incidents. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has introduced procedures to ensure that firefighters in those locations have workable solutions to ensure that contaminated personal protective equipment is dealt with safely.
I recently had the pleasure of holding a members’ business debate to recognise firefighters memorial day and to support the Fire Brigades Union’s decon campaign. There is widespread support from the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Scottish Hazards and many individual trade unions for responsibility for health and safety legislation to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Given the Tories’ race to the bottom when it comes to workers’ rights and the disappointment over Labour’s parking the idea during the Smith commission, does the minister support those calls, and will she press the United Kingdom Government to support them?
The FBU’s decon campaign highlights exactly why health and safety powers need to be devolved to this Parliament as a matter of urgency, so I am happy to support those calls.
Question 6 has been withdrawn.
Libraries (Community Ownership)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions the culture secretary has had with ministerial colleagues regarding what support it can provide to communities to establish and operate community-owned libraries. (S6O-02290)
I regularly meet my ministerial colleagues to discuss many cross-cutting issues, including that of libraries.
The Scottish Government’s current support for libraries is through our annual funding to the Scottish Library and Information Council, which provides leadership, advocacy and advice on public library matters. More broadly, we provide support for communities to take forward meaningful cultural and creative activity through schemes such as our Culture Collective programme.
Strathblane Community Development Trust recently opened the first newly built community-owned public library facility to be opened in Scotland for many years. Services at the Thomas Graham library will be operated in partnership with Stirling Council.
Will the minister join me in congratulating Strathblane Community Development Trust on its efforts? Does she think that that model could be replicated elsewhere?
Absolutely. The opening of the Thomas Graham community library represents an incredible achievement by the community. It is the first time in Scotland that public library services are being delivered by a community and council partnership, and it is important to mark that.
Libraries are a part of Scotland’s social fabric. They have a long-standing reputation as safe places, and they are free and open to all. That means that they are uniquely placed in communities across Scotland and are capable of promoting meaningful change. I know that the Thomas Graham community library is a sustainable model and one that the Scottish Library and Information Council was keen to encourage. I congratulate those involved on the work that they are doing, which I hope will be replicated across the board.
Dental Services (Patient Access)
To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to improve patient access to dental services. (S6O-02291)
We are working closely with the dental sector to ensure that it has the support that is necessary for it to be able to offer access to national health service care for patients. That includes the Scottish Government providing Scottish dental access initiative grants and recruitment and retention allowances to dentists and dental practices in qualifying areas.
The Scottish dental access initiative grant pays out a potential £100,000 for the first surgery, and £25,000 per additional surgery, to practices that set up a new NHS practice or extend an existing NHS practice. The recruitment and retention allowance provides up to £37,500 across three years to eligible NHS dentists.
The current funding model for NHS dentistry is broken. Basic NHS procedures, such as denture-fitting or extraction procedures, are delivered at a loss, and no practices in South Ayrshire are taking on new NHS patients. Morale is at an all-time low and we are seeing an exodus from the NHS dental workforce. What is the minister doing to fix that?
The issue of dentistry has been raised a lot in the chamber over the last wee while, and I recognise that there are concerns about it. However, we are working incredibly closely with dentists to find a suitable process and fee structure that will support them to ensure that we have a sustainable dentistry service in Scotland that also provides NHS care.
I thank the minister for her comment about recruitment and retention. She will recognise that there are particular issues in rural and island areas. Can she provide reassurance that any support for recruitment and retention will not be spent so thinly as to be ineffective in delivering the additional capacity that we need in rural and island areas?
As the member says, funding for retention is important. My officials have looked closely at where that should be concentrated in order to get the best results.
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