Kezia Dugdale: Injection of cash needed to battle flu

The Fluad jab is only available to over-75s in Scotland
The Fluad jab is only available to over-75s in Scotland
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Last winter saw the highest rate of flu-like illness in Scotland for seven years, and the number of people who died hit an 18-year high.

These are incredibly upsetting statistics, with each death leaving behind a grieving family.

Age Scotland, the Royal College of Physicians, and Scotland’s chief medical officer have all urged at-risk groups to get the flu vaccine this year, with the weather already starting to turn.

In light of this data, it is a scandal that a new flu vaccination recommended for everyone aged over 65 in other parts of the UK will only be available to over-75s here in Scotland.

The Fluad jab is reported to be more effective in protecting older people from three different strains of flu.

Understandably, I have been contacted by concerned constituents about this and I wrote to the Public Health Minister, Joe Fitzpatrick, on their behalf.

Disappointingly, he confirmed that the Government will not be increasing the availability of the jab to under-75s.

As a result, many older people in Scotland will be denied the high-level treatment that would be available to them in England.

I have also heard from a constituent about a shortage of the standard vaccine at one GP surgery in Edinburgh.

Throughout much of 2018, the NHS – particularly in the Lothians – has been in crisis. A&E waiting times at the Royal Infirmary remain far too long, there is an ongoing problem with “delayed discharge”, and staff morale is at rock bottom as a result of the SNP failure over a proper workforce plan.

Winter is coming, and it is vital that NHS Lothian is given the resources it needs to ensure it can properly care for patients.

Only bricks and mortar and an end to austerity will help homeless

It’s good to see leading homelessness charity Crisis step up its campaign around temporary accommodation. The organisation wants the law to change so that no one who is homeless has to wait more than seven days in a hostel or bed-and-breakfast type accommodation before being permanently rehoused.

Conditions in temporary accommodation in this city are particularly poor. Dirty, noisy and unsafe; people left for months on end with nothing but a kettle to cook with, making much of the food banks’ offerings redundant. Think of the impact of weeks on end of dried noodles and cup-a-soups on your physical health and wellbeing.

I have had numerous constituents over the years who’ve spent more than half-a-year in situations like this, kicked out of their digs at 9am come rain or shine. The aim to limit it to seven days is a laudable one – but be under no illusion, that will be a huge demand on already stretched council services. Something’s got to give, and it needs to be the Scottish Government with more money.

Last week this paper reported that a number of council houses were being switched into the temporary accommodation system to alleviate pressure. This is a sensible solution but it’s only kicking the can down the road. The long-term solution has to be an end to austerity and more properly affordable houses getting built. But that takes serious cash that doesn’t appear to be forthcoming.