6 Mar 2015
By Ruth Davidson (The Courier – Friday, March 6, 2015)
I HAVE special reason to be grateful for Accident and Emergency units in Scotland. Thanks to a rather cavalier attitude to personal safety, I’ve managed to break my legs, pelvis, back, ribs and even a couple of bones in my feet over the years. In all those occasions, I’ve been grateful for the incredible professionalism, patience and expertise of the doctors and nurses who put me back together again.
I’m sure many Courier readers have similar stories to tell (although I hope you haven’t all been quite as reckless as me). A&E is our national safety net: open 24-7 to catch us when we fall from the high wire. So it is right, when stories emerge of an A&E crisis in Scotland, that we all should worry.
That there are problems is now unarguable. Earlier this week we found that in Fife, for example, hospitals once again missed the target to get 95% of A&E patients seen within four hours. It follows a series of stories about dirty wards there with trolleys contaminated with blood, and operations which have been cancelled because of the lack of capacity. Across Scotland, the picture is similar. In January, more than 3000 patients spent more than eight hours waiting in A&E. Waits are now longer in Scotland than down south.
It needs to be said at this point that the doctors and nurses on the frontline are performing heroics to keep the show on the road. The head of the British Medical Association in Scotland said recently that the NHS was operating on the goodwill of staff. He’s right. Without that commitment to our most treasured public service – the NHS – would collapse tomorrow.
But we also need to be much smarter as a society about how we sort this crisis out. Time and time again at the Scottish Parliament, I listen on as Labour and the SNP engage in a pointless game of one-upmanship over the NHS. Labour accuses the SNP of letting the service corrode on their watch. The SNP pull out statistics to show that things were even worse under Labour. And after the whole meaningless slanging match is over, nobody is any the wiser.
Let’s listen instead to the professionals. I visited doctors at one of our busiest A&E Units in Edinburgh earlier this week. They told me of some basic common sense ways to improve matters. During some parts of the week, they are able to help elderly patients get quickly in and out of hospital because they’re well-connected to social care nearby. But if that same elderly person goes into hospital at the wrong time in the week – say at weekends – social care isn’t available, and that person ends up being admitted to hospital for days. Then you get a domino effect: beds get filled, operations cancelled, and the whole system backs up.
The Scottish Conservatives came up with one idea to try and help this week. I don’t think doctors and nurses in A&E should be mopping up after drunks on a Friday and Saturday night just because they’re so inebriated they can’t make it home. As many as 21,000 people clog up A&E in Scotland every year just because they’re drunk. So we want to see special treatment centres in our major cities where a drunk person is sent to sober up. It may help reduce those waits and free up time for doctors to deal with genuine cases.
I also think we should listen more to people like Dr Barry Klaassen, an A+E consultant at Ninewells hospital in Dundee. Speaking to the Courier last month, he pointed out how his unit had got on top of long waits by telling people with non-emergency cases that they were in the wrong place, and because of the good work of local GPs who only sent patients to A+E if it was necessary.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said – and the evidence backs him up; last week’s figures showed that Ninewells sees 99% of patients within 4 hours.
What this tells me is something simple. Smarter government and better management can ease the A+E crisis. But we can help too – by treating our NHS with respect.
It’s right that the NHS is free at the point of use. But we still have a responsibility to look after it as well.
I KNOW what happens when party political broadcasts come on the TV. There’s a surge on the national grid as the entire country gets off the sofa to make a cup of tea.
But this being election time, we have to do them. And in the hope of trying to keep people interested, I decided last month to see if I could do something different and a bit more personal.
So me and my partner took a film crew to where I grew up in Fife and persuaded my Mum and Dad to make their big screen debut.
They weren’t exactly champing at the bit to have cameras intrude in the house and to get foisted onto national TV. But I can be quite persuasive.
If nothing else, we got to have a nice walk in Elie harbour and a lunchtime drink at the Crusoe pub in Lower Largo, where much of my mis-spent youth was mis-spent.
And like a true pro, my mum then brilliantly faked surprise as I walked into the kitchen – as if it was every day that a cameraman, spotlights and a producer block the way to the fridge.
We were all a bit self-conscious but I think it made a point.
Too often politics can feel like something that’s done by a remote group of people in Holyrood or Westminster.
Actually, politics is about your family, your home, what goes on in your local pub.
Just don’t expect my parents to agree to sequel any time soon.
So many possible outcomes are being put in front of voters ahead of May’s General Election, people making their ballot would be forgiven for being confused.
Vote him and get her, vote this and get that – the number of permutations being suggested by various parties and commentators is seemingly endless.
With that in mind, my only advice to people would be this; vote for the policies you want, vote for the candidate you agree with and vote for the government you prefer.
We’re putting our arguments forward as the only party who will fight for a strong, united Britain and for a strong economy.
If you agree with those priorities, the Scottish Conservatives are the party for you.