9 Sep 2009

Insulin pump Therapy : Scottish Parliament speech, 3rd. September 2009

I congratulate David Stewart on continuing to bring to our attention an issue that is of great significance to far too many people throughout Scotland.

Let me welcome a number of the campaigners who are in the public gallery tonight. They include Fiona Campbell, who is from my constituency. Unfortunately, Dorothy Farquharson from my constituency, who had intended to be present, is unable to be here due to illness. The other campaigners from the west of Scotland include Martyn Cross from Barrhead—in Ken Macintosh's constituency—who is a young beneficiary of insulin pumps.

I must gently chide David Stewart on his pronunciation. In comparing where insulin pumps are available, he said that they are available in Hawaii but not in Highland, and in Houston but not in Highland. I think he meant Houston, Texas, because, as his figures showed, people who live in Houston, Renfrewshire, do not have the same access to insulin pumps, which, as Ross Finnie, Mary Scanlon, Karen Whitefield and others have said, is an absolute disgrace.

In the conversation that I had with the campaigners this afternoon, I was struck by the difference that appropriate access to insulin pumps has made to people's quality of life. Ross Finnie is right—they are not for everyone—but when they are for someone, they can make a huge difference. Fiona Campbell described to me what a huge difference having a pump has made to her—I hope that she does not mind me using her case as an example. For 20-odd years, she had to go into hospital every two to three weeks because of issues to do with her diabetes, but since she has had access to a pump she has had weeks and months when that has not been an issue.

Leaving aside the human benefit to Fiona, if the cost benefit that is associated with that relief were repeated, the benefit to the health service would be huge. It is true that an up-front investment of £2,500 to £2,700 per pump is required, but the long-term benefits to the health service are incalculable, as is the difference that use of a pump can make to the quality of life of the people concerned. The case has been made for those to whom a pump is available.

One thing about this afternoon's conversation that disturbed me is the uncertainty that still exists among clinicians. Fiona was told that it would be dangerous for her to have a pump but, now that she has used a pump on a trial basis, she has been told that it would be dangerous for her to come off it. It is clear that there is an issue for politicians and health boards to address, but that inconsistency of approach suggests that there is also an issue for clinicians.

Fundamentally, what we are looking for, as Mary Scanlon said, is a commitment to progress. The warm words of a year to 15 months ago are appreciated, but now it is time for delivery. The minister and the cabinet secretary should use their undoubted influence so that progress on the matter can be made right across Scotland.