Preparing the NHS for Winter
As Health Secretary, this month I outlined a number of actions for the coming months, backed by more than £600 million of funding, to prepare the NHS for winter.
Measures to support services include:
- Recruitment of 1,000 additional staff over the course of this winter, including £8 million to recruit up to 750 nurses, midwives and allied health professionals from overseas as well as 250 support staff across acute, primary care and mental health;
- flexibility for Health Boards to offer ‘pension recycling’, where unused employer contributions can be paid as additional salary, to support the retention of staff;
- £45 million for the Scottish Ambulance Service to support on-going recruitment, service development and winter planning;
- £124 million to assist health and social care partnerships expand care at home capacity;
- extension of the Social Care Staff Support Fund to 31 March 2023, to ensure staff receive full pay when in COVID isolation;
- Writing to GPs to communicate the expectation that pre-bookable appointments are made available in every practice, alongside same day, face to face and remote appointments.
NHS Scotland’s staffing and funding is already at historically high levels, but as we approach the winter period it is crucial that we look to maximise, and enhance where we can, the capacity of the NHS. Given the scale of the escalating cost of living crisis, combined with the continued uncertainty posed by COVID and a possible resurgence of Flu, this winter will be one of the most challenging our NHS has ever faced.
To help relieve pressure on services, people should continue to consider whether their condition is an emergency before going to A&E. Local GPs and pharmacies can be contacted during the day for non-critical care, NHS 24 is also available on 111 for non-emergencies.
Our NHS and social care staff have shown remarkable resilience in the face of sustained pressure on services and I would like to thank them for their continued commitment and hard work. As we approach the Winter period their efforts will be vital in ensuring we deliver high quality care for the public.
Extra winter cash for low income families
This month the First Minister announced a doubling of the December Bridging Payment to £260. Families of an estimated 145,000 children will benefit from extra support this winter to help with cost of living pressures, backed by £18.9 million Scottish Government investment.
Bridging Payments were introduced in 2021 ahead of the extension of the Scottish Child Payment to 6-15 year olds. This doubling of this quarter’s Bridging Payment means families will receive up to £650 per eligible child this year.
All children registered to receive free school meals on the basis of family low income are eligible and will receive this payment automatically.
Making Fireworks Safer
It is now a criminal offence to supply fireworks and pyrotechnics to under 18 year olds.
In addition, attacks on emergency workers using fireworks or pyrotechnics has become an aggravating factor that can be taken into account when courts sentence offenders.
The measures are set out in the Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Act 2022 passed by the Scottish Parliament on 29 June.
These key powers have been brought into force in advance of Bonfire Night and build on steps taken last year restricting the times fireworks can be used, when they can be bought, and the quantity.
Other powers set out in the Act will be brought into force in the future, including the introduction of a fireworks licensing system, with mandatory safety training for people wishing to purchase and use fireworks, and introducing powers to local authorities to designate firework control zones.
Help with School Age Childcare
The Scottish Government is investing £1 million to expand funded school age childcare services in parts of Glasgow and other cities, as part of a national mission to tackle child poverty. There will be a roll-out of similar provision in other parts of Scotland from April 2023.
Eligible low income families in the four targeted areas will be helped with the cost of childcare for primary school aged children, and families in most need will pay nothing. This will help parents and carers to access work, training or study, while children benefit from additional opportunities to socialise and take part in a range of activities.
The Scottish Government also confirmed that it will continue the Nursery Rates Relief Scheme, providing 100% relief on non-domestic rates to eligible day nurseries beyond the current end date of 30 June 2023.
In the constituency
- I started this month by hosting a Funders Fair to connect local organisations with national funders. The funders in attendance were the National Lottery Community Fund and The Robertson’s Trust. It was great to welcome in lots of local community groups and organisations to Pollok Baptist Church, and have everyone networking and hopefully making beneficial contacts. I plan to make the Funders Fair a more regular event in our diary and will expand to wider funding and constituency organisations. A special thanks to Minister David Murray and his volunteers for providing the space, seating and hot cups of tea!
- I was delighted to attend, again, the St Pauls High School Pupil Election. This year, the event was not overcast by Covid restrictions and it was great to see so many pupils learning about the democratic process through forming political parties, campaigning, and voting. It is important to actively engage in and give young people the experience of elections as the voting age is 16, and exercising your right to vote is vital.
- I checked in with Citizen’s Advice Bureau Pollok and thanked them for all the help they are providing constituents at this vital time. They have seen their work practically triple since the pandemic and I know their services are overwhelmed, but they are doing an outstanding job. Whilst in the Pollok Civic Realm I hosted a surgery to meet with constituents and take on some new casework. I know that speaking in person is the preference for some people and my team and I are ensuring we are accessible by phone, email, letter and in-person.
- I was delighted to be invited to the grand opening of the 49 new Linthouse Housing Association homes at the former Drumoyne Primary School site. It really is one of the best parts of my job to see so many happy families get their dream home. I visited the homes at various stages in the development and was glad to hear about the tenant-centred approach to design, realising and allocating the homes. The homes look beautiful, I know the tenants of Cromdale Square will take great pride in them, and build lasting, strong relationships within this community.
- I finished off the month with the honour of attending and presenting an award at the Include Me 2 Club Gala Ball and Awards Night. It was wonderful to come together to celebrate the work and successes of Include Me 2 and partners. Everyone who was nominated for a prize should be so proud of themselves for this recognition. Keep up the great work!