16 Nov 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 16 November 2011

Fewer Nurses
There seems to be a growing intolerance from SNP Ministers, of anyone who dares to criticise their actions. Recently, in a Health debate in the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon suggested that Labour concerns about fewer nurses in the NHS, was talking down the NHS. She conveniently ignored the fact that MSPs like myself, are regularly contacted by nurses, who complain about falling staffing levels, increased workload, and concerns about patient welfare. How can we be talking down the NHS if we repeat what nurses say? We would be failing in our duties if we did not respond.
I pointed out that the SNP manifesto claimed that the SNP had increased the number of nurses in the NHS and that in this Parliament, they would continue the progress which had been made.
The facts don’t back this up. From September 2009 to January 2011, the number of nurses in the NHS fell by nearly 2,000. More posts are scheduled to go. This is affecting health care here in Renfrewshire. We know times are tough and that hard decisions will need to be made. But there should be some honesty in the discussion. Let’s cut out the spin. Alex Salmond is trying to use his majority to dampen down debate and scrutiny.
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon should admit that there are now fewer nurses employed in the NHS. They owe an explanation not to the opposition parties, but to the doctors, nurses and staff across the NHS. Above all they owe it to the public, which needs to be assured that the Scottish Government is not gambling with the health and wellbeing of patients.

Remembrance Sunday
On Remembrance Sunday, I joined with thousands of others across the UK, to remember those who fought and died in war and conflict. I remembered my father’s generation who fought in the Second World War, and I reflected on the effects it had on many who survived. And the same is true today. Many young soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many more will carry the consequences for the rest of their lives.
We often debate the rights and wrongs of certain ward and conflicts. Politicians ultimately make the decision to send our young men and women to war. If they are in the armed forces, they don’t have a choice or say in the matter. They do their duty and they do it with courage and honour.
The wearing of the Poppy and attending these events, does not signify support for the glorification of war or killing. It gives us the chance to remember that there were many who laid down their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy. It gives us the chance to reflect that there are many innocents on all sides in wars and that it is ordinary people who suffer. And hopefully to remind us that our duty to those who were maimed and injured does not stop when they leave the armed forces.

Smoking in Cars?
Last week the British Medical Association said there was “compelling” evidence for extending the smoking ban to include vehicles. Not everyone agrees with the ban on smoking in public places. There is no doubt however, that most people welcome smoke free restaurants, cafes and pubs.
There is a particular worry where children travel in cars. Medical evidence suggests that exposure to smoke in such confines space, can put children at risk. My instinct is that we should protect children from harm caused by others. I would be interested to know what my constituents think. Let me know.

Cancer Care Lottery
The Roy Castle Foundation recently published a report on cancer rates in Scotland. Scotland still has the worst rates of cancer in the UK. Once again we see a post code lottery of care in Scotland, for cancer sufferers. I want the Scottish Government to do more to ensure quality of treatment, no matter where a patient lives. The current waiting time to see a cancer specialist should be halved in the lifetime of this Parliament. It’s time for action.