Boost public health by introducing a Health Promotion Fund
Recruit 1,000 extra nurses and 500 extra doctors
Aim to reduce patient waiting times to six months or less
Introduce a health check, starting with the abolition of dental and eye test chares
Give nurses the pay they deserve
Scotland once led the world in medicine. Scots discovered penicillin and chloroform and built our great Victorian hospitals. Now our country has a very different reputation for health care. The death rate from lung cancer and coronary heart disease is far too high. Poor diet and poor housing contribute to making us one of the sick countries of the European Union.
At the same time, we have a crisis in our hospitals. Too many Scots are waiting too long and in too much pain for operations. Resources are not keeping pace with ever-rising demands and escalating costs.
Scotland has far too few doctors and nurses. The present Government has made the problem worse by setting itself the wrong target. It is concentrating on reducing waiting lists. Yet the numbers on the waiting list matter far less than the length of time for which patients have to wait for their operations.
Scotland faces both an immediate and a long-term problem in health care. The immediate concern is underfunding and the unacceptable effects on the sick and vulnerable which it causes. Ihe long-term need is to improve public health and to prevent disease. Our key priorities address these problems.
Improving public health
Give far more priority to promoting public health.
Health is not just a matter for the NHS. If we are to improve health, rather than to simply treat illness, we need measures to improve damp and cold housing, reduce alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, improve nutritional standards and tackle air and water pollution. Scotland needs joined-up government - government departments, local councils, statutory and voluntary agencies, as well as health service bodies, must co-ordinate efforts and work together. We will look to housing policy, in particular our national house insulation strategy, to improve standards of health.
Abolish charges for eye and dental checks. Since
these charges were introduced, fewer people have had regular checks, and diseases like glaucoma and oral cancer develop undetected. This will be our first priority in introducing a national scheme of health screening. We will consult with the medical profession about the most effective way of providing periodic health check-ups for all who want them.
Establish a Health Promotion Opportunities Fund. This will support initiatives in the public, private and voluntary sectors. We will also give local councils more responsibilities for public health and health promotion.
Boosting the NHS
Increase health funding. We shall pump significant extra resources into the health budget to introduce real improvements in the service, not just keeping pace with rising costs and demand.
Establish maximum waiting times. At the moment there can be months between referral by a GP and the consultant's appointment, and months more before an operation. We will identify firm limits for waiting times in every specialty.
Reward NHS staff properly. We support the principle of common pay and conditions across the UK for NHS staff. We will always seek to implement in full, and without phasing, the recommendations of the independent pay review bodies. We will give nurses more flexible hours to help them with family commitments. We will ensure that agreements to limit junior hospital doctors' hours are adhered to. We will improve staff training.
Employ 500 more doctors and 1,000 more nurses. We will encourage former nurses to return to the profession. It is impossible to cut waiting times and improve patient care without more staff. We will also tackle the chronic shortages in professions like chiropody and speech therapy.
Streamlining the health service
At present, too much money is wasted in the NHS. It is still too bureaucratic and it lacks clear targets and objectives. Without embarking on a further massive reorganisation, which would only disrupt care and damage staff morale, Liberal Democrats believe there are many ways of streamlining the NHS to direct money towards patients instead of bureaucracy.
End the rigid division between the health and social services budgets. It costs £685 a week to keep an old person in hospital and £305 per week in a residential home. Yet 1,700 Scottish senior citizens are in hospital without needing medical treatment because there is nowhere else for them to go. By transferring resources to residential homes, we will free up hospital beds for those who really need them.
Establish a new Ministry of Health and Social Services. The Ministry will be held to account by a powerful Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament.
Establish a Scottish Standing Commission on Health. Its members will be eminent figures with expertise in health care, independent of the Government. They will advise on NHS strategy and establish priorities based on clinical need, higher standards and length of waiting times.
Ensure proper scrutiny of appointments to Health Trust Boards. The Public Appointments Committee of the Scottish Parliament should vet health board membership. All health board and trust meetings should be open to the public.
Link all health buildings to NHSNet within 5 years.
This will give doctors faster access to patients' records and allow long distance consultation with consultants.
Build new health facilities where required.
The welfare system in Scotland has allowed too many people, especially the old and the mentally ill, to fall through the net. Our plans to tackle welfare and health care together will do much to alleviate these problems. Many more elderly people would be able to remain in their own homes with a litle more support. We would improve services to help them and those who care for them.
Establish a new independent Scottish Inspectorate of Health and Social Care. This will monitor and publish standards for residential and nursing homes, with the power to close any which proved sub-standard.
Review charges for social and long-term care. We will press for a higher threshold at which older people have to contribute to their own care, so as not to penalise thrift.
Support the Incapable Adults Bill. This will aim to provide simpler arrangements for the financial management for incapable adults.
Improve provision for mental health patients. We will establish 24 hour mental health centres.
Promote an early dialogue with all interested parties throughout the UK to establish a common way forward in achieving the recommendations contained in the Royal Commission on Long Term Care.