The SNP have been centralising NHS services under the radar for years and sadly this pandemic has exposed the fault-lines in their mis-managed policy. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for decentralised health services. We believe that decision-making power should lie with health professionals at a local level. After all, GPs and pharmacists know their own area far better than someone working in a central government office.
Last week, two examples highlighted how the removal of local decision-making power has hampered the ongoing fight against the pandemic. First, there was the horrendous sight of elderly and vulnerable people being made to queue outside vaccination centres in Fife, some for up to three hours, in freezing temperatures, not optimal conditions for vaccinating the most vulnerable sections of our society that we have sought to protect for a year now; one person that we know of collapsed at the scene due to hypothermia. According to the government, this was because they had imposed a new computer system on the local health board, one which had gone rogue and issued far too many appointments.
Closer to home, the SNP couldn’t have known that West Lothian was about to be hit by the heaviest snowfall we’ve seen in years. They could however, have put more thought and planning into the locations of mass vaccination centres in the midst of winter in Scotland, and I would love to hear their reasoning behind the fact that residents of Linlithgow in Priority Group 3 onwards have been sent to Ingliston or Broxburn for their appointments. There is no vaccination roll-out in Linlithgow, despite the local surgery and pharmacists managing the appointments for annual flu jabs with no issues for years, and coupled with the fact that civic buildings such as the Burgh Halls sit empty. Broxburn and Ingliston are easy to reach if you have private transport, but successive cuts to public transport meant many elderly people waiting for buses in sub-zero temperatures.
This week, we’ve been told to expect that first dose vaccination rates will fall from 450,000 to around 150,000 as those who now require their second dose are factored into the roll-out programme, which will again leave Scotland far behind the other UK nations. Just why local GPs and pharmacists are not being utilised remains a mystery.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that we should use local knowledge and experience to best effect and that’s why we’re campaigning for a new deal on decentralised medicine, working with the royal colleges to ensure there are medics working in every part of Scotland to deliver more services locally.
So vote for us in May to bring about a lasting change for healthcare, one which will benefit all of us, no matter where we live or what our community needs are.
Find out more about the Scottish Liberal Democrats healthcare campaigns here.
Parliamentary Candidate, Linlithgow