NHS staff shortage a matter of life or death - Kezia Dugdale

Lack of staff in the NHS is causing problems in many areas of the service. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Lack of staff in the NHS is causing problems in many areas of the service. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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An anxious husband ­recently contacted me on behalf of his wife. He was concerned about a potential cancer diagnosis for his wife who, after waiting weeks to see their GP for an appointment, was referred to the Western General for further investigation.

Once the letter came through the door, they were told it could now take up to six months to be seen. This is far in excess of the SNP’s treatment time guarantee – imagine having to wait that length of time to hear if you’ve got a life-threatening condition or not, and the fear of it getting worse over this time.

They both know that the sooner any problems are found and treated, the better the chances of recovery are. Neither of them have private health care, but like many people do, they looked into how much it would cost to go private and skip the line, but they simply cannot afford it.

When they called their GP practice to book another appointment to discuss this, they were told it would take another month before they could see the GP again. This cannot be right.

Throughout January, my mailbag in parliament has been filled mainly by NHS cases, with first-hand accounts of waiting time complaints and staffing concerns.

It’s therefore been timely that my colleague Anas Sarwar MSP and the Cross Party Group (CPG) on Cancer, which meets to look at key issues in cancer care by bringing together the cancer community, have ­produced a report highlighting that many cancer patients across ­Edinburgh and Scotland are being let down by staff shortages within the NHS.

The CPG’s inquiry into the implementation of the Scottish Government’s Cancer Strategy took evidence from individuals and organisations involved in cancer research, treatment and care during three evidence ­sessions. This evidence was used to supplement written submissions from a wide range of organisations.

The report concluded that workforce problems are undermining the £100 million investment the Scottish Government is making through its Cancer Strategy. The investment, aimed at getting more cancers diagnosed and treated more quickly, is being slowed down due to a lack of NHS staff available to deliver crucial tests for patients, like the endoscopy services which are rarer than a January heatwave.

The report examined the effectiveness of the Scottish Government’s five-year cancer strategy at its halfway stage, finding most of its actions and investments have been completed or are on track – but vital ones around staffing are at risk.

Around 32,000 people in Scotland are diagnosed with cancer every year, a number that is only expected to rise over the next decade.

Successful progress in a number of areas is being made. However, at the current pace, the cancer strategy will not be fully implemented by the end of this Parliament session in 2021.

This report should shake the Scottish Government into taking action.

Greater investment in services through the cancer strategy is a significant step in the right direction, but all of this is undermined as long as the staffing crisis in our NHS continues.

This is the reality for the constituents who contacted me. They might hear a lot about investment and money being ploughed into cancer treatment, but if they are waiting six months to see the benefits, it is simply too long.

That’s why I’ll keep pushing for the Health Secretary and the Scottish Government to finally get a handle on this staffing crisis and put plans in place to deliver a fully resourced cancer workforce to mean that those patients who rely on our NHS receive the right treatment at the right time.

Note to shelf: my books are going nowhere

Confession time – as a student I had a ridiculously large collection of VHS tapes and considered myself a bit of movie buff, which the results of the Tuesday night student union quiz rarely testified to. Most were purchased from the Our Price basement bin and for only around £3 each, I amassed quite a collection.

On moving to Edinburgh, DVDs soon joined these tapes as I developed a Fopp habit, which my West End bar job could never truly satisfy. They too were carted across city flats during many moves due to landlords exploiting festival rents.

I kept those tapes long after Netflix launched, reluctant to give up the memories and still too skint to accept they were worthless. Eventually the discs and tapes left for the charity shop. I felt liberated and lighter.

The latest Netflix craze is a documentary from Marie Kondo, a sort of Japanese Mary Poppins or Mary Portas for your shelving units. Her immaculate clean and crisp life is achieved with a simple philosophy of chucking everything out that doesn’t give you joy. That’s inanimate objects of course!

Part of the decluttering advice is to keep 30 books maximum in your house. What!? It took me years to give up my videos but you’ll never have my books. Kindles are fine for holidays but no substitute for the feeling of closing a book you loved.

Perhaps that’s why stores like HMV suffer, whilst sales of physical books are booming again. Business is so good, Toppings, a gorgeous independent chain is opening a new store in Blenheim Place. They give you free coffee as you peruse the store. You don’t get that on Amazon.

Right, I need to clear some space.

I get a warm, toasty feeling at Burns Suppers – and I’d love to roast Daniel

It’s Burns season, if you hadn’t noticed from the stacks of haggis at the end of your supermarket aisles. I love a good Burns Supper and I’m booked in for two this year, which is a paltry number compared to some years.

I remember in my gloriously ambitious days I agreed to speak at no less than six, which meant drafting four Immortal Memories and two replies to the Toast over three weeks. That’s a lot of cranachan!

I always take the Immortal Memory very seriously, as it’s the one bit of a Burns Supper where responsibility lies on your shoulders to do the Bard justice.

Each time I’ve done one, I make the extra effort to learn something new and try to tailor them to the occasion. An invitation to speak in Newcastle at the Labour North of England Burns Supper opened up a whole new line of jokes as Burns had often made the journey south. A fact documented far more consistently than his journeys home from there! There is a statue of Burns in the town’s Walker Park but it only has one arm and is completely legless. How fitting.

This week, I’m replying to a toast given by Daniel Johnson MSP at Tynecastle. Ripping the mickey out of men usually comes naturally to me, but with Daniel, I’m toiling. The perfect family man, well-educated and impeccable manners. Hell, he even considers himself a feminist.

So, if you have any dirt on this man email me!