Today’s FMQs centred mainly on healthcare – with opposition questions focusing on the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s waiting times and the Scottish Government’s plans for new trauma centres in Scotland.
After wishing parliament a happy New Year, the Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson opened FMQs by asking about an NHS England team supporting the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow. The Queen Elizabeth has been having ‘teething problems’ since it first opened in 2015 and recorded its worst ever A&E figures in December.
Nicola Sturgeon clarified that there is no ‘English team’. Instead, a Scottish team is being helped by two members of NHS England, and is supporting the hospital while it identifies the causes of the problems. Ms. Davidson asked the First Minister to clarify the cost of such help within the last five years. The First Minister responded by referencing the Scottish Government’s support for health boards across Scotland.
Ruth Davidson then turned to the delay in opening four new trauma centres across Scotland, pointing out that they planned to receive patients last year, but are now expecting a further three year wait. Ms. Sturgeon argued that the new trauma centres are about enhancing care, not creating new care and that the Government has ‘rightly taken time to get the trauma centres right’. She pointed out that this could only occur after a lengthy debate with opposition Members who wanted to cut the number of centres provided.
Labour’s Kezia Dugdale also asked about the new Trauma centres, questioning whether the delay was a ‘matter of life or death’. Ms. Sturgeon countered by explaining that there was a report which cast doubt on the configuration of trauma centres and that it was right that this be examined to ensure the correct approach.
Ms. Dugdale then accused the Scottish Government of breaking promises about the NHS, arguing that it was “under more pressure than ever before”. Ms. Sturgeon pointed out that there is a 9% reduction in delayed discharges and increased funding in NHS Scotland.
Patrick Harvey of the Scottish Green Party subsequently asked about the impact that the UK Government’s benefit cap will have on Scotland. Ms. Sturgeon agreed that an accurate assessment is needed into the impact of the cap, but said she was reliant on the Department of Work and Pensions for their assessment.
The Liberal Democrat Leader, Willie Rennie, then asked Ms. Sturgeon to look again at her draft budget and include funding which would reverse the cut to Scottish college education. Ms. Sturgeon pointed out that the economy and education is at the centre of the budget and that increased funding for education was already included with the pupil equity fund. She added that anyone with proposals to change the draft budget were welcome to speak to the Government.
Questions from other Members included Scottish Conservative MSP Brian Whittle asking about the recent report into inequality in sports, with 9/10 athletes supported by Sports Scotland coming from Middle Class backgrounds. Labour MSP Neil Findlay also highlighted the cut to sports funding. Ms. Sturgeon argued that sport is supported in Scotland in many different ways, but improvements can be made.
Finally, Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon asked what the Scottish Government’s response is to reports that many children with mental health problems have waited more than a year for treatment.
Ms Sturgeon agreed that it
“is unacceptable any child has to wait any length of time for mental health treatment”
, but argued that improvements have been made. She pointed out that there was a positive consensus across the chamber on mental health and that the new Mental Health Strategy will include provisions to address some of the issues raised.