ONE of the Lothians’ newest MSPs has told how his mother’s tragic death when he was only seven years old has inspired him to campaign for better support for cancer patients.
In his first speech at the Scottish Parliament, Miles Briggs revealed his mum Joan had lost a battle with breast cancer, as he paid tribute to the dedication of staff working in the NHS.
The Tory MSP also highlighted the plight of patients battling to get access to drugs which they believed would help their condition. And he suggested a fresh look at the idea of a Scottish Drugs Fund which could pay for medicines currently not available in Scotland, even though they might be south of the Border.
Mr Briggs, who is now the Conservatives’ public health spokesman, said: “The demands facing our health services are only going to grow in the future and how best we meet these demands will be critical to maintaining and improving our NHS.
“It has therefore been a difficult part of becoming an MSP that a number of constituents have approached me to ask for help in fighting appeals to health boards for vital drugs at the very time when they are at their weakest.
“Like every MSP I want Scotland to be a country where everyone with a diagnosis has the best healthcare and best possible chance to beat the disease and we need to do more to support patients and their families – and perhaps the time has come to look again at the establishment of a Scottish Drugs Fund.”
He also stressed the priority required for mental health. “In recent years welcome steps have also been taken to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health – this parliament must now take real action to make Scotland a country which delivers the focussed support and improved services for those who need help.”
He said there were areas of health policy where parties could work together.
And he highlighted the drive to increase the availability of defibrillators, praising the Jamie Skinner Foundation, set up following the tragic death from cardiac arrest of Liberton High School pupil Jamie Skinner in December 2013, aged only 13, while playing football for Tynecastle Football Club.
Mr Briggs said: “I believe the time has come for Scotland to lead and for the introduction of a national heart screening programme for young athletes and I hope this is an area the Scottish Government will help me take forward in parliament.”
Mr Briggs also told MSPs that too many couples across Scotland faced a postcode lottery for access to IVF fertility treatment. “This is another area I hope we can work to improve the experience for Scottish families.”