Scottish Health Campaigns Network

Chairman’s Report 2010 -11

Nationally, it has been another relatively quiet year in medical politics. Perhaps the most important development was the direct elections to membership of two pilot study health boards in Scotland, and I am delighted to report that not only was John Winton successful in his appointment to the Fife Health Board, but he was very clearly the number one on the list of candidates elected. We look forward to seeing the progress of this attempt at democratisation of health board decisions. Perhaps disappointingly the return of the postal ballot was less than might have been expected, but there were problems in relation to the mechanics of explaining to the electorate what was involved in the process.

A Patient Rights Bill is progressing through the Scottish parliament, and the parliament also discussed the provision of healthcare in remote and rural communities.

Disappointingly, the parliament rejected the proposal to introduce minimal pricing per unit for alcohol.

A monitoring group has been set up to oversee the progress of the Vale of Leven “Vision” and it is hoped that this will be more successful than those established in Glasgow to oversee the acute services review both north and south of the river. The situation in relation to the provision of mental health locally at the Vale received a major setback when a fire effectively destroyed the facility, necessitating the transfer of patients to Gartnavel Royal. Again there is monitoring of the effect of this, and it is hoped that this will be transparent and objective.

In Glasgow the full business case for the new South Side Hospital on the Southern General site has been approved and there are firm assurances that this will be completed on time, and within the publicly funded budget of £842 million from the Scottish parliament. The transfer of acute services from Stobhill Hospital to the Royal infirmary has several unresolved problems – not least the quality of the accommodation where some medical beds are to be relocated. Two wards at least will be of the old-fashioned “nightingale” configuration with minimal single room accommodation. Negotiations are continuing about the provision of outpatient chemotherapy at the new Stobhill ACH.

The group has met on two occasions with Nicola Sturgeon, when a wide variety of topics has been discussed and these are detailed in the minutes of the Network.

Unfortunately, the website of the network was infiltrated by undesirable material, and although this has now been sanitised, it is still not fully functional. It is hoped to remedy this in the very near future.

I do not intend to go into any detail in this report on the potentially disastrous effect to the NHS in England if the proposals of the White Paper are implemented. There are however potential effects which could impinge on the Scottish NHS. These include the possibility of the abolition of national conditions and terms of service, but perhaps more importantly, medical education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The private sector which already has a hold on over 20% of general practices in England, is likely to make further inroads into the provision of both primary and secondary healthcare services. Indeed the one pilot study of a consortium of 67 general practices in Hounslow has already contracted with United Healthcare in relation to the provision of services.

Although I have had the privilege, of chairing the Network, it would not function without the support of its members, and in particular I would like to single out James Sandeman, for his note taking at our meetings with the Cabinet Secretary, Malcolm Allan, for taking the minutes of our meetings and dealing with the media, and finally Lambert Sinclair for his work as our treasurer which eases the work of John Winton and Ken Barr as auditors.

Dr Robert LC Cumming

Chairman January 2011