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Mary Scanlon: Putting the patients' needs first in Scotland

Speech to the Scottish Conservative Spring Conference

Let's look at the record of the Liberal-Labour Scottish Government over the past four years and check the 1999 Labour manifesto pledges:

Promised to cut waiting lists by 10,000 - they have increased by nearly 15,000

Promised to end mixed sex wards - they still exist

Promised to reduce bureaucracy - that has increased

Median Waiting time up by 10 days

Total true and deferred waiting list - up by over 19,000

Total Outpatients seen in last quarter - down by 83,000

Day cases down by almost 15,000

And the percentage of patients seen within 9, 13 and 26 weeks down by 10%

Bed blocking has increased by 1000

Cancelled operations up by over 4,000 - and over 15,000 patients turned away from hospital for surgery last year.

It takes incredible incompetence to spend £2 billion more and deliver longer waiting lists: longer waiting times: more hospital acquired infections: more rotten teeth and the worst life expectancy in Europe.

The recent Liberal Labour documents 'Recording our Achievements' should be more aptly named ' Cataloguing our Disasters'

In Public Health - again a failure to fund the promised sports co-ordinator in every school - because Councils could not afford the matched funding.

On Hospital Acquired Infections - how often have we heard that it is the 'contracting out of cleaning services' that has led to this increase - costing the NHS £186million a year and taking up 11% of hospital beds - nothing could be further from the truth:

Of the 31 grouped hospital trusts in Scotland 24 have in-house cleaning contracts: a further 5 have in-house contract for cleaning with one hospital contracted and only two Trusts have their cleaning services fully contracted: Shetland and Grampian - and yes you have guessed it - they have the best record in Scotland: In category 1 we have Aberdeen Children's: Aberdeen Maternity: Aberdeen Royal: City Hospital, Aberdeen and Cornhill. In-house contracts may be ideologically correct for Labour and Liberals - but they certainly do not lead to cleaner hospitals.

The Patient's Charter Launched by the Conservatives in 1991 - ignored by Labour since 1997. The Charter put patients at the heart of the health service - this week the Health Minister cancelled the launch of their Patient's Charter. Hardly a signal to partnership in health care!!

Drugs and Alcohol Treatment - yes the money is going in but where is the help: A parent whose son is a heroin addict told me this week - 'when I asked for help - they took away any hope I ever had'.

When people with drug and alcohol problems are told to come back in weeks and months when the system is ready for them - this can never work: the system has to be ready when the patient is ready for detoxification and rehabilitation.

For Care Homes - whether in the public, voluntary or independent sector - they are all expected to achieve the same quality standards, staffing and training - why therefore does Labour and the Liberals support paying £150 more to Council Homes - putting care home out of business and leaving Scotland short of places to care for elderly people?

To reverse this decline: we need Conservative policies:

To empower GP's and the primary care sector to offer more services nearer the patients home: More chronic disease management and an ability to respond to the needs and priorities of their patients - Given that 90% of patient contact with the NHS begins and ends in Primary Care - we also need to make greater use of our local Community hospitals.

To properly integrate IT systems in the Health Service between GPs, Primary Care and Acute Care to ensure the best communications system for patients and health care staff. No longer will Consultant Oncologists have to walk out of a Cancer Centre because he has to type his own letters!

To let the independent sector bid to provide health care - not as a panic measure months before an election when the figures become and electoral embarrassment (as has happened recently) - forward planning - not crisis management - putting the patients needs first!

To gain Foundation Hospitals in Scotland - by setting out quality standards including cleanliness and good financial management - every hospital could gain Foundation status giving them the power to make local decisions based on local information. They would remain part of the NHS and operate as not-for- profit companies with greater freedom. Clinical need would be the priority not political whims. The money would follow the patient and well run hospital would be a well funded hospital.

And when the BMA state that 'the future training of Scotland's doctors and medical advances will be jeopardised - it is time for more Scottish Conservative MSPs in our Scottish Parliament.

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