Alex Neil calls for National Care Service to be scrapped

A FORMER SNP health secretary has called for Nicola Sturgeon’s flagship National Care Service to be scrapped. 

Alex Neil said the plans were “nonsensical” and wouldn’t “address the urgent changes needed.”

His comment came as Social Care minister Kevin Stewart defended the draft legislation to establish the service, saying there was no need to “pause” the legislation despite the pleas from unions and councils. 

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf introduced the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill in June promising to “end the ‘postcode lottery’ of care.”

The legislation – which is currently making its way through Holyrood –  will see the government set up ‘care boards’ directly accountable to the Scottish Ministers who will take on functions and staff that are currently managed and run by local authorities and health boards.

It has been described as the most significant reform to public services since the creation of the NHS.

Criticism of the Bill has been mounting in recent weeks.

Recently, the parliament’s finance committee have been picking away at the proposals following a damning analysis from Audit Scotland questioning the lack of detail in the financial memorandum, published alongside the Bill.

The public sector spending watchdog warned that pensions, VAT changes, changes to capital investment costs and health board transition costs could lead to the overall budget skyrocketing.

They warned it could eventually cost the taxpayer £1.3bn. 

Mr Stewart promised that more detail on finance was coming. 

He said the process of “co-designing” the legislation with other organisations meant it was not possible to give an idea of the cost. 

The minister told MSPs: “If we were to make assumptions on some of these issues at this moment in time, we would probably rightly be accused of having already made our minds up around about certain aspects of what we want to do as we move forward.

“And that’s not what we’re about, this co-design is not lip service.”

Conservative MSP Liz Smith said parliamentarians currently did not have enough information in order to properly scrutinise the government’s plans.

She asked: “Do you accept that there is a cause to pause this until there is more detail than is before us just now?”

Mr Stewart said he did not, adding: “What some other folk want at the moment is detail around aspects of the costs in terms of delivery of services.”

He continued: “It would be wrong to make those assumptions around those costs, because the people involved in the co-design would say they have already made their minds up about how they are going to progress with this, because they have attached a financial cost to this already.”

He said the government was in conversations with researchers at the Fraser of Allander Institute, while Cosla had made assumptions about the costs of the changes which he did not recognise.

Ms Smith said the financial memorandum associated with the bill was the “weakest” she had ever seen in Parliament.

Shortly after the session, Mr Neil, who served as health minister under both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon took to Twitter to call for an end to the policy.

He tweeted: “It should be scrapped as its nonsensical and doesn’t address the urgent changes needed, especially a significant improvement in the employment terms and conditions of social care workers.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the committee needed to reject the Bill as it stood rather than hand ministers a “blank cheque.”

“The Scottish Government want to set up a billion-pound bureaucracy and squeeze out local control of care services but they are totally adrift on both the detail and the costs.

“SNP figures past and present are getting cold feet about this legislation. Parliament should not be signing blank cheques for bad bills.

“What the social care sector needs is urgent measures to boost the pay and conditions of staff.

“The finance committee should reject the back of a fag packet calculations being put forward by the government and send them home to think again.”

Meanwhile, Derek Feeley, the chair of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care, whose report ultimately led to the government’s legislation told MSPs on Holyrood’s health committee that there were “huge opportunities” in the Bill.

He said that much of what was “groundbreaking” in the legislation already exists.

“The problem we have is implementation. What we haven’t been able to do is turn those ground-breaking ideas into something every single citizen in Scotland could count on

“That is the missing ingredient.”

He added: “If we could get some of those groundbreaking initiatives implemented at full national scale, Scotland would be way beyond what other countries aaspire to.”

SNP MSP Evelyn Tweed said her party was “determined to make sure these are realised.

“We know that this is a huge task for everyone involved in its creation but we must always focus on the fact that the benefits of achieving this, and getting it right, are massive and so it is important we keep progressing the Bill with care, compassion and the necessary sense of urgency to deliver a service that best serves Scotland,” she said.



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One in 20 Scots adults had long Covid during 2021, new research shows

One in 20 adults (5 per cent) in Scotland had long Covid last year, new research shows.

The Scottish Health Survey found 1% of adults reported the condition limited their activities a lot.

In 2021, 5% of those questioned reported having symptoms of long Covid at least four weeks after they first developed coronavirus.

The most common symptom was weakness/tiredness, with 63% of sufferers reporting this.

The next most common symptoms were shortness of breath (43%), trouble sleeping (37%), loss of smell (34%), headache (31%), difficulty concentrating (29%) and worry/anxiety (27%).

The proportion of adults who reported having long Covid differed with age and was highest amongst those aged 35-64 (6-7%).

It was lowest amongst the youngest and oldest age groups, affecting 1% of children, and 2% of those aged 16-24 and those aged 75 plus.

Women were slightly more likely than men to experience symptoms of long Covid (5% of women compared with 4% of men).

Last year, adults with long Covid had “significantly lower” mental wellbeing than those who did not, the survey found.

The annual Scottish Health Survey is published by the Scottish Centre for Social Research and the Scottish Government, providing a detailed picture of the health of the Scottish population.

In 2021, 4,557 adults and 1,600 children took part in the survey.

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We have all but given up the Covid fight and will pay the price in the lives of the elderly

COVID is hardly being mentioned nowadays and yet there are obviously plenty of cases. My wife and I are in our late eighties and had managed to avoid being infected but recently succumbed. I especially had a very bad time but had excellent care from our own GP. We avoided going to hospital but even after six weeks are not fully recovered. We have had all the vaccinations and boosters.

We know of five other close people who have been infected.

Trying to find out the true situation at present is difficult but it is pretty clear that the numbers are being under-reported. We in the UK have one of the worst records for deaths in the world and yet we have more or less given up the fight. Perhaps the Chancellor has calculated that, as a high proportion of deaths are among the elderly, he is saving money. The amount that has been wasted on PPE and vaccines could have paid for thousands of staff but was squandered.

Instead of this inquiry which seems to be a waste of time, we should fund medics to find better ways of control. We ridicule the Chinese having a zero policy but they seem to care more for their population than our Government does. Let us have some letters from people in the NHS who know what is going on and might have some ideas to help.
Jim McAdam, Maidens

Maternity crisis in south-west

THE Galloway Community Hospital Action Group (GCHAG) has discussed maternity services with the Minister for Women’s Health, who supports a local solution. A two-hour journey in advanced labour or delivery at the roadside without community midwife or medical assessment and inadequate ambulance provision is self-evidently unfair and unreasonable.

Over a decade there has been a gradual reduction in planned local births here, from 74 in 2013 to none since 2018. Terrifying accounts of labour and delivery in transit abound. We have engaged with the board but most of the meetings have understandably been cancelled at short notice because of clinical overload. We have unsuccessfully sought local and national data, even basics such as ambulance and midwifery transfer protocols. Such data is fundamental to service planning yet challenging to obtain. Even taking Covid into consideration, management should have addressed the problem years ago, but formal review or effective strategy is absent.

Whatever has happened in the past, Covid recovery now legitimately dominates management resources. The board publicly admits to being overwhelmed. An externally-led maternity review would release board capacity to deliver service needs. Other areas have had this. Why not Wigtownshire?
Dr A Gordon Baird, Sandhead, Wigtownshire

Thatcher U-turned on the climate

ANDY Maciver’s description that Margaret Thatcher was a leading advocate for tackling climate change (“The Tories must recover their climate credentials”, The Herald, November 4) may have been true in 1990 but by the time of her last book, Statecraft, published in 2002, she had completely cast off her environmental credentials, describing global climate problems as a “marvellous excuse for worldwide, supranational socialism”.

In fact, so emphatic was her recanting by that stage that she allowed the false impression to form that she never held such views in the first place and explains why it still influences many sceptics in her own party to this day.
Peter G Farrell, Glasgow

Schools should foster debate skills

ACCORDING to research conducted by Channel 4, young people are less tolerant of alternative views than their parents or grandparents. The no-platforming and disinviting of invited speakers to many of our universities and the so-called woke mob’s ravaging of any who dare to oppose them, suggests that many of our young people do not consider reason and rational debate as an appropriate tool for dealing with issues that seem important to them. We now have a group of people who have at their disposal an immensely powerful weapon – social media platforms – which give the user a high degree of anonymity.

For students in our universities it is clearly too late to imbibe the efficacy of reason and debate. These time-honoured tools should be an integral part of our educational system at a much earlier stage. i believe that every school should have a debating club, and every pupil should be given the tools and encouraged to take part. There should be inter-school debating contests, with a national final.
Doug Clark, Currie

• IAN W Thomson (Letters, November 5) adroitly uses lines from Robert Burns to suggest that, given the latter’s romantic relationship with his “Highland Mary” from the village of Auchnamore near Dunoon, he would have celebrated in verse Dunoon Grammar being rated the Best School in the World. The well-educated Burns would of course have been familiar with the poem of Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), 30 years his senior, The Village Schoolmaster:

“And still they gazed and still their wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew”.
R Russell Smith, Largs

Breath of fresh air on BBC

I WELCOME Martine Croxall’s return to BBC News (“BBC’S Croxall returns to screens after 12 days off-air”, The Herald, November 5). Obviously, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and those offended must be heard. I’ll add my tuppence worth. Martine presents with professionalism and warmth which, in my view, sets her apart from many of her colleagues. She reacts in an unflustered way to what must be a very stressful task in collating constantly-updated news items and presenting them succinctly.

If the stuffed shirts at the BBC cannot accept a little completely understandable impromptu fun, we’re in a bad way.

Gaun yersel, Martine.
John O’Kane, Glasgow

Cost of shaving? That’s a dull one

I USUALLY shave with a disposable razor for the sake of speed, using my cut-throat – bought for 10 shillings in 1961 – when I have to remove several days’ growth or have enough time to shave carefully.

I have hitherto accepted that makers of disposable razors will gradually reduce the quality pending the introduction of a new and more expensive, allegedly super-duper model. But recently they have abandoned all attempt at subtlety, and at present practically no disposable razor will give even one decent shave. As this ruse is now well and truly exposed, it is high time it was abandoned in favour of honest and transparent hiking of price.
Robin Dow, Rothesay


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.

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Lanarkshire loss of industry health effect to be studied

The“profound” impact of de-industrialisation on health in Lanarkshire will be the subject of a first of its kind university-led study.

Researchers link a rise in the “diseases of despair” – alcohol abuse, drug abuse and suicide – with the hollowing out of communities caused by coal mine and steelwork closures.

Professor Michael Roy, of Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) which is leading the project, says moving people out of Glasgow to housing estates in new towns such as East Kilbride had positive implications for health but the loss of heavy industry led to a worsening picture.

Once the largest hot-strip steel mill in western Europe, the closure of Ravenscraig in Motherwell in 1992 dealt a devastating blow to thousands of skilled workers and their families.

The British Steel Corporation’s decision to close the Motherwell plant – one of its five across the UK – spelled the end of steelmaking in Scotland, following a sharp slump in demand in the 1980s.

On June 24, 1992, 770 workers clocked out for the last time, while another 10,000 job losses were linked to the industry

Prof Roy, of the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, says understanding the “legacy of the past” is key to tackling health inequalities in Lanarkshire, which has some of the UK’s most deprived communities.

He said: “We know that health is often much poorer in former industrial areas, and this is especially the case in west central Scotland. Lanarkshire was previously very focused on heavy industry, including coal mining, and steelworks.

READ MORE: Health inequalities widening between rich and poor children in Scotland 

“A lot of the issues [with health] come about because of what we call the diseases of despair – alcohol abuse, drug abuse, suicide – and the disruption in societal ties.

“The de-industrialisation and the hollowing out of communities really exacerbated that and what we are seeing is the legacy of that in west central Scotland. Men’s health plummeted.”

He added: “The new towns – Cumbernauld and East Kilbride – actually play a role in the health profiles that we see because of the legacy of the creation of the peripheral housing estates and moving people out to them from the 1960s onwards.


“Some of the newer research – done by Glasgow Centre for Population Health – actually focuses on the role of the new towns and why things are especially bad in Glasgow.”

He said there was a “class component” to the relocation of communities to the new towns.

“They moved a lot of people out who had a particular role and were skilled workers,” said Prof Roy.

READ MORE: We must take a holistic approach to health inequalities

“So a lot of them moved out based on the male breadwinner’s occupation.

“The people who were left behind… there wasn’t many skilled occupations or the occupations that were left behind were on the brink of being lost.”

In a first of its kind project, the university will work with the NHS, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector, to better understand what socioeconomic factors are influencing health in Lanarkshire today.

A new community health consortium will be launched to give local people a say in how funding is allocated for services in their area.

Prof Roy said: “Ultimately we will be looking to improve public health within some of the most deprived communities in the UK.

“We have a really excellent team of historians who are going to be looking at the legacy of de-industrialisation on contemporary health profiles in Lanarkshire.

“It’s not a traditional research project, there is a research element to it but what we want to do create a space where the public sector can meaningfully engage with the people whose lives are being most affected to work out what the future priorities should be.”

The £200,000 project – Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities- was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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