MSP presses health minister

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott is pressing Scottish health minister Shona Robison to address concerns about the islands’ ambulance service and his claim that NHS Shetland is being “short changed” on funding.

Scott will today [Wednesday] meet the Unite trade union at Holyrood to hear that issues facing Shetland’s ambulance crews – who are being put under “intolerable pressure with institutionalised on-call overtime” – are happening elsewhere in Scotland.

The MSP said he had asked Robison to intervene and tell the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) to “put their staff first and fix this unsatisfactory position”.

Scott said last week that the SNP government was underfunding Shetland’s health service by £900,000. He is calling for an explanation and wants the funding restored so it can be invested in primary health care for islanders.

In response a spokesman for the health minister said NHS Shetland would receive a “total resource budget uplift” of 3.1 per cent for 2015/16, substantially above inflation, having previously received a 2.4 per cent rise in 2014/15.

“We are sure that Tavish Scott will welcome that under this government that NHS Shetland’s resource budget has increased by 5.5 per cent in real terms,” the spokesman said.

“He will be aware that this record level investment in NHS Shetland has helped the board to increase their staffing by over 20 per cent under this government – also to a record high.”

The spokesman added that the SNP government was supporting ambulance services in remote and rural areas and has “invested an additional £2 million to develop the clinical skills of its workforce to deliver safe and person-centred care”.

Meanwhile, Robison has praised NHS Shetland staff for treating 97.8 per cent of people at the Gilbert Bain Hospital’s A&E department within four hours in January  – far exceeding the national average of 85.4 per cent.

New weekly figures also showed NHS Shetland treated 97.5 per cent of A&E patients within four hours between 16 and 22 February.

Robison also hailed figures showing there were no delays over four weeks in discharging Shetland patients from hospital, and one person delayed for longer than the recommended 72 hours.

“Staff in NHS Shetland are continuing to do a fantastic job to treat people as quickly as possible,” Robison said. “This winter has been a very challenging time with record number of attendances across Scotland and more people being admitted with complex illnesses.

“Shetland is also making improvements in reducing the number of people who are delayed from leaving hospital for longer than the recommended 72 hour period. This is good for the patient and also improves on the flow through the whole hospital system, freeing up beds to help people move out of A&E.”