Over the last few weeks I have visited a number of employers in the constituency and have been impressed by the commitment of employer to growing their businesses and working with Fife Council to create training, skills and apprenticeship places for young people.
What Fife is demonstrating is that by forming a partnership between colleges and employers and supporting the development of apprenticeships through financial assistance in the early part of the apprenticeship, it is possible to make a big difference giving young people the opportunity of skills that will set them up for their working life. The new approach was brought in last year and already 100 Fife employers have provided nearly 500 places for young people across a broad spectrum of sectors and the council itself now has over 2000 modern apprenticeship places.
It is still the case however that many employers in areas such as construction and engineering are struggling to recruit skilled labour locally with a number of employers explaining to me that they use agencies to recruit from across Europe. This is why I believe we must do more to build stronger links with schools, colleges and business and make sure we can support people locally to get the jobs locally. What Fife Council has demonstrated is that a local partnership will work best and I am campaigning for Skills Development Scotland to be replaced with local partnerships achieving the kind of results for our young people that we know are possible from the work we have seen being undertaken in Fife over these last two years. This would mean that Fife and other local areas would have direct access to significantly more resources at a local level to make a big difference locally.
I am continuing to ask questions of NHS Fife about their capacity to meet the health needs of the people of Fife. I have asked them to explain how they will address the fact that there are over 40 consultant places they have been unable to fill. I have asked them to confirm their use of a private company called Medinet, based in the West Midlands which provides consultants and clinical staff to assist NHS Trusts and in our case Boards solve waiting time problems. I am aware of a consultant employed by an NHS Trust in England who was flown up for the weekend to see patients at the Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline and I am now asking how common this practice is within NHS Fife.
Clearly if there are no consultants available then no matter where they come from and whether it is a private company providing consultants on a weekend basis it is better than no consultant at all. However, this cannot be best practice and a drop-in consultant who has worked their shifts all week seeing their own patients in their own hospital area down south is hardly in the best position to know patients and their issues when providing a flyby drop in session. To top it all NHS Fife have acknowledged that in one case I am looking at the consultation took place without the consultant being able to see the patients health records due to IT access problems.
I am of the view that the NHS was the greatest creation of the 20th century and that the staff are its most precious asset and that is why I am challenging NHS Fife managers as I believe the staff are not being given adequate support and resources and too many people are being let down. I believe in the NHS and I intend to keep standing up for patients and staff.
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