Speech from Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health
Anas Sarwar MSP to Scottish Labour Conference
Dundee, Friday 9 March 2018
Thank you Chair
And thank you Erin for that very moving speech
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Labour government’s creation of our NHS.
Going by what we’ve heard from the SNP over the last couple of weeks they would have you believe they delivered it.
Well we should never shy away from being clear it is a Labour achievement and the most cherished public service we have.
And today in Scotland it employs 160,000 staff.
160,000 of our fellow citizens who everyday do their best to care for patients, increasingly in more pressured circumstances.
To each and every one of them, some of them in the room with us today, thank you.
But conference our thanks is not enough.
What our NHS and social care staff need, is not just warm words and platitudes, but support and action.
Because all is not well with our NHS.
That is despite their efforts, not because of their efforts.
They have been let down by a decade of mismanagement and complacency by this SNP government.
A decade with no meaningful workforce planning.
Resulting in a recruitment and a retention crisis.
Don’t forget it was Nicola Sturgeon who cut the training places for nurses and midwives when she was Health Secretary.
That has contributed to us have record levels of vacancies.
Over 2000 nurses short in our NHS.
Over 800 GPs short with one in four GP practices carrying a vacancy
Consultant vacancies at record levels
All the while the private agency bill goes up.
Too few staff, too much pressure, too little resources.
Conference last year I announced that after seven years of pay restraint, meaning a real terms pay cut for NHS staff, that Labour would campaign to scrap the pay cap.
Well conference we have prevailed.
The scrap the pay cap campaign, led by the trade unions, won the argument that the pay cap should be lifted.
But Labour has been clear that this must be funded by using our tax powers, not by job losses or cuts to services.
But the pressure isn’t just on staff.
We are seeing it impact on patient care and services too.
Record waiting times for treatment
Cancer diagnosis taking longer
And A&E departments struggling.
Our NHS staff and patients deserve better.
Do you remember the television debate before the last Scottish Parliament election?
When Nicola Sturgeon denied there were any plans to close the RAH children’s ward.
When she promised that she would keep it open.
Well she lied.
The ward closure is now confirmed.
A community betrayed.
Now local people know they can’t trust the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon with the NHS.
That’s why at the Scottish Parliament election we will make Paisley a labour gain,
And at the next Westminster election we will make Paisley and Renfrewshire South a Labour gain,
So we can help return a Labour First Minister and Labour Prime Minister.
But conference we are not just exposing the government’s failures.
We are coming up with the solutions.
On the workforce crisis:
bringing on board the expertise and experience of the likes of Dave Watson of Unison and John Marr of the GMB, Scottish Labour have launched our own workforce commission.
Working in partnership with the health and social care sector, staff and trade unions and the public.
To build a workforce for the 21st century.
On the resource crisis:
Delivering a progressive tax system to fully fund and resource our NHS and social care system.
On mental health:
Scottish Labour will ring fence mental health budgets to ensure the resources reach the font line where they’re needed most.
But we will also go further and guarantee access to a school based counsellor for every pupil in Scotland.
We will restore the bursaries for educational psychologists
And we will develop a programme of mental health training for all staff in schools and those involved in delivering education.
But I want us to go further.
I want us to deliver guaranteed access to mental health support in every college and university campus and workplaces across the country.
But there is a common theme across all portfolios.
That is why we will ensure a health inequality impact assessment is undertaken on every single policy proposal put forward by every public authority in Scotland.
A Labour Scottish Government with a mission to fight inequality at its heart, not as an afterthought.
That’s the NHS we want to see.
That’s the NHS Scottish Labour will deliver.
That’s why we need a Scottish Labour Government.