NHS: SNP's reward for hard-working health staff is unfair pay and unmanageable working conditions – Alex Cole-Hamilton

Nicola Sturgeon’s keynote speech at last week’s SNP conference was greeted with raucous applause by the attending nationalist acolytes. This was a room full of people revelling in the repetition of the simplistic soundbites they’ve come to crave.

Hard-pressed NHS staff deserve a better deal (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Hard-pressed NHS staff deserve a better deal (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The more apparent the cost of SNP incompetence becomes, the more they try to distract attention away from their failures and onto the mystical vagaries of, for instance, a hypothetical Scottish pound.

In politics though it is deeds, not words, that matter.

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The harsh truth is that during their 15 years in power the SNP have overseen a serious decline in public services. Their failures, and the impact those failures have had on the lives of everyday Scots, can’t be wished away by a neat turn of phrase or hidden behind some fancy prose.

During her speech, the First Minister mentioned independence 58 times, the NHS just 11 times and there was nothing about our social care system’s problems.

The SNP’s trick of blaming everything on Westminster and shouting “independence” every five minutes does nothing to help beleaguered nurses and doctors, or patients left abandoned in waiting rooms or on gurneys in our A&E departments.

The decision to cut council budgets yet again this year is taking its toll. Our social care system is being stretched to breaking point and the knock-on effect is being felt acutely right across our NHS.

Ambulances are not getting to people in time because they can’t discharge their patients into the emergency department when they arrive. That’s because A&E is full to the rafters with patients unable to be discharged into hospital wards due to a lack of beds.

On any given night, more than 1,000 people are languishing in Scottish hospitals well enough to go home but too frail to do so without a social care package.

And even when care packages are arranged, too often those in need are being badly let down. One of my constituents, who has extensive social care needs, was left for over two days without food, water, or the medication he needs. An all-too-common story.

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The blame for this does not lie with staff. For years now they have worked tirelessly and diligently under enormous physical and emotional strain. Their reward is unfair pay and unmanageable working conditions.

The SNP/Green government’s response to this crisis is the ill-fated bureaucratic exercise of creating a so-called National Care Service which will strip power away from the people who know how best to use it, and deliver it into the hands of ministers who have shown no interest in solving the very real problems in social care. It would also take years to come into effect.

Were Liberal Democrats in government, we would support staff immediately with changes to pay and conditions. We’d set national standards to get rid of the postcode lottery that currently exists in social care, so that everyone gets the same level of quality care, no matter where they live.

Judging by their conference, the SNP love to talk about a far-off distant land where everything will be better, but they have neither the desire nor the competence to make things better today.

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If your actions don't live up to your words, you have nothing to say.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western