Health in Fife
Last week I along with other Fife MSPs attended the bimonthly meeting we have with the Chairman, CEO and senior management of NHS Fife to discuss issues concerning health and social care in Fife. NHS Fife advised on the steps they have been and are taking to address the issues that arose from the inspection in November of cleanliness at the Victoria Hospital where the majority of wards were found to be in a satisfactory condition but there were major issues flagged up in A&E as well as two wards. The Board and management advise they are satisfied with the progress being made.
I took the chance to raise two other issues that I think need to be addressed. The first was to what extent NHS Fife responds to planning applications for housing development in Fife and do they flag up the need for facilities. For example, the Education Service has had built into the new development west of Wellwood a condition of a new school as this will be required to meet the education requirements of the children that will be moving in to the new houses but what about health. As a result of the Scottish Government housing land supply there are new housing estates to be built in most communities in central and west Fife but it is apparent from the answers I received that the impact of these developments on the health facilities is not being considered as it should. This is something I will be pushing with both NHS and the planners at Fife Council.
The other issue I raised was that of pressure on GP services and indeed pressures to recruit enough GPs. The British Medical Association has claimed that more must be done to improve recruitment and retention of staff stating that a high vacancy rate will translate into a decline in the availability of appointments. I was given an assurance that any gaps can be supported by the use of locums. I had in February written to the Interim Chief Executive Dr Brian Montgomery raising my concern about the numbers of constituents who tell me how difficult it is to get an appointment and I received a response in March stating; “Practices are aware that access is an increasing problem. They regularly review their waiting times, and when resources allow, increase the range of slots available”. He said that 42 of the 58 practices in Fife provide extended hours offering additional routine appointments between 7am to 10pm. Dr Montgomery said that a review was due to report soon and I am following this up and I have written to all Community Councils in my constituency making them aware of this response as the difficulties in getting an appointment to see a GP seem to be common across the constituency.
Debates and questions in the Parliament over these past few weeks have been dominated by the economy and the differences amongst the parties on the way forward. The SNP have a stated aim of full fiscal autonomy whereas my own party wants to see the Barnett funding formula remain. At a time of high oil prices fiscal autonomy may be more attractive but given falling oil revenues the removal of Barnett now would cost Scotland in the region of £7.6 billion which would have a devastating impact on public services and jobs across the whole economy. I am an optimist by nature and I recognise the contribution that oil and gas has and can continue to make but we cannot become a petrol economy wholly reliant on oil.