Parliamentary Debates

National Health Service 2020 Vision

Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) (SNP): I declare an interest as a patient and as someone who uses the acute and primary services in our healthcare system. I also declare an interest as someone who uses the social care services of the voluntary or third sector. It is important to acknowledge that, both from my own perspective but also on behalf of the rest of the members of this Parliament, because we are all users of those services.

We have just heard from Jim Hume a fairly damning indictment of the health service’s current provision of mental health services. I have seen vast improvements in the delivery of mental health services, but not always through the national health service. I have seen that improvement through the third sector and through different appropriate services, working with organisations such as the Scottish Association for Mental Health. I acknowledge that there is more to be done, but I believe that we are on the right path towards improved services.

Equality happens when we have changes, not just in an approach to a service and how we deliver it but in our life choices too.

Jim Hume: The member says that we are on the right path, but does he not agree that the path is quite a long one if, for example, two fifths of patients with mental health problems are not getting referred by GPs because the services, whether they be talking therapies or services outwith or within the NHS, are simply not there to treat them?

Dennis Robertson: There is a presumption about why GPs do not make referrals, but again that is something that GPs themselves have to identify. If they are not referring because of a lack of resources, they need to consider their duty of care to their patients.

Many good things are happening in the health service, and I certainly think that the 2020 vision is the way forward. When I heard that there was going to be a debate on it, I started to think of all the things that I have been involved in over many years as I look towards the integration of health and social care. I sincerely hope that the cabinet secretary remembers a visit that she made to Elgin as minister for health to open the resource centre for Scotland’s very first fully integrated sensory service for blind, partially sighted, deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the town. I was very proud to be the centre’s client services manager at the time.

Malcolm Chisholm had a point when he suggested that the Government quite often does not blow its own trumpet about the things that are going on. Many schemes and strategies are improving the lives of many in our communities, but that does not necessarily mean that they are having to go to a hospital or general practice. In my constituency, there are many organisations that are involved in self-help, and general practices are referring people to, say, healthy walking groups. In these community-based groups, people come together in their own communities to try to keep themselves fit and active not just physically but in mind. I know that there are such groups all over Scotland, and we must welcome that, but the fact is that they require not funding or resources but a commitment by people to look at their specific needs and how they might address them without having to attend their GP or acute care services.

On Monday, for example, I will have a meeting about eye care with ophthalmologists and Optometry Scotland. For many years, they have been developing a Government-funded service to take patients from the acute sector and put them back into the community. I must give Labour credit here, because it commenced the service. The service, which was continued by the Scottish Government in 2007 and continues to be funded by it, means that patients with certain conditions can go to community optometry practices, which takes patients away from the acute service. However, such practices can also identify whether a patient requires to be fed into the acute service.

For many patients, and this is where I acknowledge that we are all getting older—

During the ageing process, our vision, our hearing and our other physical abilities begin to deteriorate, and it is important that we go to the appropriate service to ensure that we keep as well as possible.


Click here for full debate.