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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 14 March 2018

Agenda: Commonwealth Day 2018, Portfolio Questions, Procurement, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Incinerators, Public Health and Planning


Portfolio Questions

Health and Sport

The next item of business is portfolio questions on health and sport. It would be good to get as many people in as possible, so please bear that in mind.

NHS Grampian (Waiting Times)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to support NHS Grampian and reduce the board’s waiting times. (S5O-01887)

NHS Grampian is using the £4.9 million from the £50 million that we made available to boards in the current financial year to address long waits across the whole patient pathway, in specialties including orthopaedics and ophthalmology.

NHS Grampian has received £470,000 of the £4.85 million cancer funding that has been released in 2017-18. That funding has been provided to ensure that cancer patients continue to be prioritised and treated within the expected waiting times, wherever that is clinically possible. That revenue is being targeted to increase scope and diagnostic and imaging capacity.

For the past nine months, NHS Grampian has had the worst waiting times in Scotland. In that time, more than 18,000 people have waited more than 18 weeks for treatment. Core revenue expenditure for NHS Grampian is the second lowest in Scotland, with spend per head of only £1,671. Does the cabinet secretary admit that that is unacceptable, and will she apologise to the people of Grampian?

In 2018-19, NHS Grampian’s resource budget will be £920.6 million. That is an uplift of 2.1 per cent on the budget for 2017-18, which is the highest uplift for any territorial national health service board.

The situation would be worse if we had applied the Tory tax plans, which would have taken £49.5 million out of Grampian’s resource budget. It really does not hold up for Maurice Corry to come here complaining about NHS Grampian’s resource budget when he would have taken almost £50 million out of it, had his plans gone ahead.

As the cabinet secretary will be aware, the waiting times affect not only people in the NHS Grampian region, but people who are covered by the island health boards, including people in Orkney.

Can the cabinet secretary update Parliament on what discussions she or her officials have had with NHS Orkney about the additional investment that is going into NHS Grampian and how it meets the needs of island patients from Orkney and Shetland?

Liam McArthur will be aware that the involvement of NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland in the discussions is very important. As he knows very well, many of his constituents rely on the services of NHS Grampian for procedures that cannot be carried out on the islands. NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland will have received their share of the £50 million waiting times initiative funding, as NHS Grampian has.

I expect—I know that this is happening very much in the north of Scotland—boards to work together and maximise collaboration in order to ensure that they can shorten the patient journey and share resources. I also expect that where there are, for example, shortages of particular specialist staff, they will look for north-wide solutions in trying to recruit them. That work has been led very well by Malcolm Wright. I am very happy to write to Liam McArthur with more detail, if he would find that helpful.

Although I welcome the extra cash for NHS Grampian, I draw the cabinet secretary’s attention to the growing frustration that is being expressed by the campaign group called Affa Sair on the long waiting times for pain clinics, particularly in Moray, given that people do not want to have to travel to Aberdeen all the time for treatment. Can she investigate that matter and perhaps provide an update to me and Affa Sair directly? One member of the campaign group, Brenda Carnegie, was quoted in The Press and Journal this week—

You must come to a close, please.

One member of the group was quoted as saying that she had waited more than two years for injections that she should get every six months. Could the cabinet secretary investigate that issue as well, please?

I will be happy to do that and to get back to the member. Nationally, almost three quarters of patients who had been referred to a pain clinic were seen within the 18-week standard, which is a significant increase on the previous quarter. However, there was, of course, too much local variation across boards, which we want to eradicate. I can assure Richard Lochhead that the Government is very committed to ensuring that all patients, no matter where they live, have swift access to the full range of services that they need.

I am aware that waiting times in NHS Grampian are longer than we expect. In the past year, it has had significant staff absences that have affected waiting times. Recent recruitment has been successful, which has enabled additional clinics to be offered, but I will be happy to look into Richard Lochhead’s query about pain clinics in Moray and get back to him.

We have a supplementary question from Lewis Macdonald.

Early diagnosis can make the difference between successful and unsuccessful treatment of diseases such as cancer. Given the importance of that and of early investigation—on which, I know, the cabinet secretary will agree with Cancer Research UK—will the cabinet secretary tell us what specific steps she will take to reduce waiting times for diagnosis and investigation for patients with such diseases in Grampian?

Lewis Macdonald will be aware of the work that is being done by the cancer strategy on improving cancer services across Scotland. As I said in my initial answer, NHS Grampian has received £470,000 of the £4.85 million cancer funding that was released last year. The focus of that money has very much been on increasing scope and diagnostic and imaging capacity, which will continue to be our focus.

We know that once a person is diagnosed, their journey to treatment is very short, so it is the diagnostic pathway that we need to shorten. Lewis Macdonald might be aware that I chair a national group of the very best experts in the field, who are looking at best practice. There is still variation in the diagnostic pathway, so we are seeking to ensure that we do everything possible to shorten it. I will be happy to keep the member apprised of any details.

Neonatal Expenses Fund

To ask the Scottish Government when details of the fund to support parents of premature babies in hospitals will be announced. (S5O-01888)

We are pleased to announce that the neonatal expenses fund will go live on 1 April, and will be available to families of all babies in neonatal care. We have worked with NHS boards and the neonatal charity Bliss to develop a clear and simple scheme that is universally accessible, and we have written to all boards this week to outline the details. I also put on record Mark Griffin’s active pursuit of the issue, which is well understood and very welcome.

I thank the cabinet secretary for her answer and for the work that has gone into setting up the fund. I am delighted to say that it will start on my daughter Rosa’s first birthday. I ask the cabinet secretary what levels of support the fund will provide each day, and whether there will be daily limits. The cabinet secretary will be aware that babies will be born before 1 April who will still be in hospital after that date. Will she give an assurance that parents of those babies will be able to access the fund? How will use of the fund be tracked throughout the financial year, and what provisions are in place should the fund become exhausted within that year?

I cannot think of anything more appropriate than the fund being launched on baby Rosa’s birthday.

The fund will support parents with the costs of travel, parking and meals. I can tell Mark Griffin that we will make it very easy for people to claim. A leaflet and a copy of the claim form will be given to a family when their baby is admitted to a neonatal unit. In addition, posters will advertise the scheme to ensure that people are aware of it.

It is also important that we review and monitor the scheme to see whether adjustments are required, so we will review it after six months and at the end of the first year in order to evaluate the provision. We can consider whether any changes to the scheme are necessary and we will, of course, want to hear from parents who use it.

On babies who are born prior to 1 April, I will write to Mark Griffin with that information, because I want to give accurate information. I will, going forward, be happy to keep the member informed of the details, given his active interest.

What engagement has the Scottish Government had with the UK Government regarding the extension of maternity leave and statutory maternity pay for parents of premature or sick babies? I remind Parliament that I am the parliamentary liaison officer to the cabinet secretary.

Fulton McGregor raises an important point about additional support that families in such situations would no doubt welcome. I am aware that in September last year, at the request of Margot James—the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy—the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service published new guidance for employers to help them to support staff who have given birth to premature or very sick babies. I certainly welcome that move to provide information to parents on their rights and to employers on how best to support parents, and I hope that it will have positive results for parents. The Scottish Government supports the proposal, which I believe has also been suggested by the neonatal charity, Bliss. We will work with colleagues who have responsibility for childcare and the early years and for social security to ensure that we keep pressure on the United Kingdom Government to do its bit.

I start by paying tribute to Mark Griffin for helping to secure the £1.5 million fund for parents of premature babies.

Alongside the fund, the health secretary announced in December that she was working with health boards to ensure sufficient and free accommodation for all parents whose premature babies are in hospital. Can she update Parliament on the progress that has been made on that front?

All boards have some provision for accommodation where there is a need for a family to stay. Four out of the 15 units currently offer accommodation for parents in their unit, and 11 others offer accommodation elsewhere in the hospital. We continue to work with boards to ensure that there is sufficient free-of-charge accommodation available to all parents who need it. Progress is being made, but there is still progress to be made.


To ask the Scottish Government what analysis the health secretary has made of the potential implications for Scotland of the findings in the recent annual report of the Chief Medical Officer for England, which addressed the impact on public health of pollution. (S5O-01889)

We welcome the broad-ranging and thorough report from the chief medical officer for England. Work by the Scottish Government, our partners and stakeholders to deliver environmental protection and improvement is supported by Scotland-specific advice from the chief medical officer for Scotland and from Health Protection Scotland. Many of the issues that are identified in the report have relevance for Scotland, and Health Protection Scotland will consider the findings in detail to add to the evidence base that is directing the work that is taking place—for example, through cleaner air for Scotland—to reduce the burden of disease from pollution in this country.

One of the main findings of the report is that we simply do not know the combined effects of different forms of pollutants such as noise, light and air and the impact that those can have on health inequalities. Such issues greatly concern my constituents who live in the shadow of the Mossmorran plant in Fife. Will the minister support calls for a long-term health study of the combination effects of those different forms of pollutants around the Mossmorran site?

We recognise that the chief medical officer for England’s report was wide ranging and that it identified a number of the issues that Mark Ruskell has mentioned, including noise, light and air pollution. Work is currently being carried out on a number of those issues in Scotland, and I will be happy to take into account any concerns that his constituents may have. I am also happy to meet Mark Ruskell if that would help and if he wants to elaborate further on some of the specific concerns that his constituents have. He raised the three issues of noise, light and air pollution. Work is taking place across all those issues, and we will continue to make improvements where we need to.

The minister will be well aware that air pollution from particulate matter is responsible for 2,000 early deaths in Scotland each year and that exposure to nitrogen dioxide in PM2.5 causes 2,500 premature deaths each year according to the Royal College of Physicians. Does the minister share my view that those who are least responsible for air pollution are the worst affected and that they are the most vulnerable in our society? Does he also share my view that the action that is required includes the urgent roll-out of low-emission zones, additional funding for active travel and bus regulation?

As David Stewart knows, the Government is taking a number of actions on a range of the issues that he outlines. We are, as a country, meeting both domestic and European air quality targets across much of Scotland, but we understand and recognise that there are hotspots of poorer air quality in a number of urban areas. The member is right to identify the inequality that is linked to some of the people who are most impacted by that.

We have set more stringent air quality targets than the rest of the UK. Scotland is the first country in Europe to legislate for particulate matter—a pollutant that is of special concern for human health. We also have money and resources for the efforts that we want to make, not least for the low-emission zones that the cabinet secretary announced fairly recently.

We are making progress in a number of areas in recognition of the fact that the issue has an impact on people’s quality of life, and we need to endeavour, across portfolios, to alleviate that impact as best we can.

I ask members to be a bit more succinct with their questions and ministers to be a bit more succinct with their answers, so that more members can get in with supplementary questions.

Healthier, Wealthier Children

To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made rolling out the healthier, wealthier children approach to income maximisation across Scotland. (S5O-01890)

The Scottish Government remains committed to embedding across all the national health service boards the key principles of the healthier, wealthier children’s approach of health and advice services joining up to ensure that pregnant women and families have access to financial advice when they need it. To progress that, we asked NHS Health Scotland to carry out a scoping exercise—which ran between March and October last year—with all NHS boards to establish their current position on the embedding of health and advice service referral pathways.

The scoping exercise showed that, although a number of boards have formalised referral pathways, some are at an earlier stage in their journey. NHS Health Scotland has established a short-life sub-group of Scotland’s health promotion managers group to make recommendations to the Scottish Government on the next steps to ensure that all boards establish pathways. We expect to receive those recommendations in April, and we will consider them carefully to inform our next steps.

Our research suggests that, based on the success of the healthier, wealthier children programme in 2012, rolling out the programme across Scotland would lead to gains of at least £9.4 million for pregnant women and families in the greatest need. The evidence that we have clearly suggests that the programme helps to improve health and reduce inequalities. The minister has made the point very clearly that—

Can you reach the question, please, Ms Johnstone?

The minister has made the point very clearly that referral pathways are key. Will the minister be specific about what additional resourcing will be provided to deliver those pledges? How much cash will the Government use to fund the roll-out?

The analysis that Alison Johnstone outlines shows the compelling need to make sure that this can happen. That is why it is important to understand the situation across the country. The child poverty delivery plan will be essential in progressing the healthier, wealthier children programme, as it will provide resources to progress that important programme. I am not in a position to outline the exact funding that will be provided, but we will endeavour to keep the member up to date. She is right to articulate that, by spending a little, we can potentially save many people and many families a lot and help to reduce inequalities.

Health Inequalities

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to tackle health inequalities, and what role having access to arts and culture can play in this. (S5O-01891)

One of the biggest challenges that we face is in reducing health inequalities, which are a symptom of wider social inequalities. That is why we are focusing on the underlying causes that drive health inequalities. We are focusing on ending poverty, ensuring fair wages, supporting families and improving our physical and social environments.

The Scottish Government is working in collaboration with individuals, communities and organisations across Scotland to develop a culture strategy that will set out a vision and priorities for the future development of culture in Scotland, enabling everyone to have the opportunity to take part in or contribute to cultural life in Scotland.

We know that people who engage with and participate in cultural activities report better health outcomes. We are, therefore, seeking to better embed arts and culture into health and care settings, and many organisations that work in the arts, such as the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, are recognising the health benefits that they can bring to their audiences.

Aileen Campbell is correct in saying that the Scottish Government found that participation in culture has significant links with good health and high levels of life satisfaction. In fact, Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said:

“Starting young, and being encouraged to take part in culture as a child, makes it more likely that the benefits of taking part will be experienced as an adult.”

Does the minister agree that recent decisions concerning the Scottish Youth Theatre and other services have the potential to damage the nation’s health? Does she agree that more needs to be done to increase access, especially for young people, to arts and culture throughout Scotland to improve health outcomes?

I concur with the sentiment expressed by the cabinet secretary that, if we enable young people to participate in the arts and culture, they are more likely to be able to enjoy them in later life. The same goes, perhaps, for sport. That is why we have endeavoured to offset the cuts from the UK national lottery, which have threatened many of our cultural and sporting organisations that enable young people to participate in the arts and culture. I recognise, too, the on-going and topical issue of the Scottish Youth Theatre. I understand that discussions on that decision are continuing, so that that much-loved and well-respected organisation will have some sort of sustainable future.

Given that the minister seems aware that health inequalities, including inequalities in mental health, are often a symptom of poverty, will she commit the Government to addressing the shortfall in funding for other community projects that give more deprived communities an opportunity to engage in the arts and cultural activities?

Again, I imagine that my colleague Fiona Hyslop would have more to say about that, and I will certainly direct the request for the information that Elaine Smith seeks to the culture department.

As I said in my response to Rachael Hamilton, in order to protect some of our cultural organisations, we have offset the cuts experienced from the UK national lottery, which have threatened many of the organisations that rely on that revenue source—that is the same story that we experienced in sport. It was important that the Scottish Government stepped in to offset those reductions.

As I said in my original answer, we want to reduce and reverse inequality, and we want to make sure that many young people get the opportunity to participate in arts and culture. That is why it is important that we continue to press the national lottery for an adequate strategy to reduce the fall in revenues.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

To ask the Scottish Government how the NHS monitors children diagnosed with foetal alcohol syndrome. (S5O-01892)

The Scottish Government funds NHS Scotland to provide a range of services to promote and protect the health of children. Hospital, general practice and nursing services provide on-going healthcare to children diagnosed with long-term medical conditions such as foetal alcohol syndrome. In July 2017, we launched the foetal alcohol spectrum disorder care pathway, which is an e-learning resource for health professionals that aims to help with the diagnosis of the condition and to support the families and carers of affected children.

In Scotland, we have benefited from the support needs system, which allows the recording of children with diverse types of health needs, including those resulting from foetal alcohol syndrome. That system is currently being reviewed. Does the minister agree that it is important to have an interconnected system throughout Scotland? Will the review consider our having a single data recording system instead of one that is fragmented into health board areas?

Rona Mackay is absolutely right to point to the fact that we need consistency in how we diagnose and record the incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome. The health boards record diagnoses of conditions on their local information systems, and the FASD care pathway, which we launched last July, provides all health professionals with the necessary information to help with the diagnostic and support process. There is also a multidisciplinary professional Scottish intercollegiate guidelines network group looking specifically at the assessment and diagnosis of foetal alcohol syndrome. That group is due to report by the end of this year, and we will certainly ensure that the points and issues raised by Rona Mackay on the consistency of diagnosis are part of that work.

Brian Whittle has a quick supplementary question.

I ask this question on behalf of a constituent who wants to know, from a social care intervention and child protection perspective, what the process is following the birth of children with foetal alcohol syndrome and those experiencing the effects of opiates.

The prevalence of foetal alcohol syndrome is complex and there is no single treatment for foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which varies in its presentation and severity although it is recognised as a lifelong condition.

There is evidence that early intervention support to enhance learning and manage self-regulation and behaviour can be beneficial. That involves early enrolment with relevant educational resources and other agencies such as social and psychological services. Enhanced awareness and recognition of FASD and adopting the getting it right for every child approach to support families can optimise the long-term management of FASD. If the member would like to write to me about the specifics of his constituent, I would be happy to take the matter further.

Clinical Review of Cancer Access Standards

7. Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what progress it is making with the clinical review of cancer waiting times, and when the results will be published. (S5O-01893)

The clinical review of cancer access standards in Scotland provides an excellent opportunity to examine how information on cancer waiting times could be best used to modify and enhance the patient experience. It will determine whether any amendments or modifications are required to ensure that the cancer waiting times standards best meet the needs of patients and the national health service for the future.

A wide range of views from stakeholders, including patients, the public, primary and secondary care clinicians, data staff and third sector organisations have been collated to help to formulate the review recommendations. They are being finalised with a view to publication in the spring of this year.

Is the cabinet secretary able to describe what actions are being considered as part of the clinical review of cancer waiting times targets to minimise inequalities of service across the health boards and to ensure that those missing the target are given the support needed to improve performance? Will the review look at the areas that have been suggested by Cancer Research UK?

The review is first about making sure that our targets are fit for purpose and then looking at what adjustments, if any, need to be made. There is broad clinical agreement that the existing 62-day and 31-day standards have been crucial in driving up performance and patient care, although there is still some improvement to be made.

It is also about looking at things such as pathway complexity and making sure that that is understood. For some cancers, that pathway is more complex and the targets need to be appropriate in those circumstances. Whether some of those cancer types should be within the targets should be considered because, as the member will be aware, not all are.

I do not want to prejudge what the recommendations will be, but the right people are looking at this and I am confident that they will help us to make the improvements, whatever they are, that will ensure that our cancer services are fit for purpose for the future.

Ambulance Waiting Times

8. Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce ambulance waiting times. (S5O-01894)

The Scottish Ambulance Service is undertaking a number of measures to look at ways in which it can improve response times to calls from patients and healthcare professionals who request an ambulance. It is also looking to improve pathways for patients to ensure that they receive the most appropriate clinical response to meet their needs. The service is committed to ensuring that it continues to deliver a high-quality level of emergency healthcare to the people of Scotland, and the Scottish Government continues to support the service as it takes forwards that work.

My constituent Elizabeth Clayton is 100 years old, registered blind, and lives in Renton, which is minutes away from the Vale of Leven hospital. She became ill at 2 pm and her doctor called for an ambulance to take her to the Vale. No ambulance appeared despite phone calls from the family, and at 10 pm that same day, the call was upgraded to a 999 emergency. The ambulance eventually arrived at 1 am, 11 hours after it was first called.

Will the cabinet secretary apologise to Mrs Clayton, who waited for 11 hours in considerable pain? What action will she take to support our dedicated paramedics by increasing the capacity of our ambulance service?

In such a case, I expect the Scottish Ambulance Service to be investigating. If Jackie Baillie has not already passed the case on to the Scottish Ambulance Service, she should. I also want to see the details and, of course, I would apologise to Mrs Clayton.

I would also want to know the context of when this happened. Jackie Baillie will be aware of some of the challenges that the Scottish Ambulance Service has faced during the winter but, for Mrs Clayton, that is no consolation. I would therefore want to look into the details of that case as soon as possible.

Jackie Baillie will be aware that we have increased the funding to the Scottish Ambulance Service to strengthen the workforce, with the recruitment of a further 224 paramedics this year, which is in line with the commitment to see 1,000 more paramedics recruited by the end of 2021. She will also be aware that, in addition to the response in emergency vehicles, a lot of training of community paramedics goes on. They will be able to see and treat people within their own homes, where that is appropriate. If Jackie Baillie can furnish me with details of the case, I will make sure that it is fully investigated.

NHS Grampian (Funding)

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of information provided by the Scottish Parliament information centre suggesting that NHS Grampian has been underfunded by £165.6 million since 2008, whether it plans to provide additional funding to meet that long-term shortfall. (S5O-01895)

I will repeat the response that I provided to Mike Rumbles in this chamber on 24 January. NHS Grampian will receive a resource budget uplift of 2.1 per cent in 2018-19, which is the highest percentage uplift of any territorial board. That includes a £5 million share of additional NHS Scotland resource allocation committee parity funding and takes the board’s annual resource budget to £921 million.

Over a seven-year period, the Scottish Government has invested an additional £1.2 billion in supporting those boards that are below their NRAC parity levels. In 2018-19, all boards will be within 0.8 per cent of NRAC parity, and that will be the first time that that has been the case.

The minister will be aware of the shocking report that was published yesterday, which highlighted that more than a quarter of patients who suffer chronic pain disorders have been forced to wait longer than 18 weeks for treatment. Once again, NHS Grampian has the worst results for Scotland, with 542 people waiting desperately as the deadline for treatment has come and gone. Does the minister now agree that 10 years of underfunding have left NHS Grampian unable to deliver the same level service as is received by patients in the rest of Scotland? Just repeating an answer from January does not help.

The answer from January is factually correct. I repeated it because facts matter. NHS Grampian has received the highest percentage uplift of any territorial board and it is within 0.8 per cent of NRAC parity.

Earlier, I said that the chronic pain waiting times had significantly improved from last quarter to this quarter, but there was local variation. That local variation is for those both above and below NRAC parity. If we look at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, for example, we see that it has work to do as well. It is not correct to link the variation to the issue of NRAC parity.

What NHS Grampian needs to do, and is doing, is recruit the staff that it needs to provide the clinics. If Mike Rumbles had listened to my earlier answer he would have heard me say that NHS Grampian has had difficulties with recruiting people to staff the clinics. It has been on a recruitment campaign and has had some success with that, but it is not a money issue—it is about the ability to recruit staff. Perhaps if Mike Rumbles met people from NHS Grampian more often, he might get the detail that he requires.

Health Inequalities

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions the health secretary has had with the housing minister regarding action that can be taken to mitigate the cost of health inequalities brought about by poor or unsuitable housing. (S5O-01896)

Ministers and officials have discussions on a wide range of issues aimed at tackling health and social inequality. I have met the Minister for Local Government and Housing regarding ways that we can collaboratively create a fairer and healthier Scotland.

For instance, the new fuel poverty strategy and the warm homes bill will contribute to a number of Government objectives and help to improve outcomes across Scotland. The Government’s overarching ambition is to see a Scotland where everyone lives in a warm home, has sufficient income for healthy living, has access to affordable, low carbon energy, and has the skills to make appropriate use of energy.

Year-on-year increases in housing costs mean that, for many people, housing affordability remains a key driver of inequalities, particularly in areas where there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing. We know that the national health service would be able to achieve around £60 million a year in preventative savings if investments were made in affordable housing, but does the minister agree that in comparison with England and Wales we have inadequate data on the effectiveness of investment in housing to improve health, and does she also agree that housing is a key health intervention for many people?

Absolutely. The reason why I continue to work with my colleague Kevin Stewart is the real impact that good-quality housing has on health outcomes and reducing health and social inequalities. That is why the Government has invested considerably in housing. Over the previous parliamentary session, more than 33,000 affordable homes were delivered, of which more than 22,000 were for social rent. The ambitions continue, with more money being put in to ensure that we achieve our desire to reach 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the current session of Parliament, through a 76 per cent increase on our previous five-year investment. The Government gives incredible importance to housing, because of the allied health benefits and associated ways in which it can help us to tackle inequality. I am happy to engage with the member further, but I know that Kevin Stewart, the Government and I remain committed to ensuring that we can create a healthier and fairer Scotland by continuing to meet the ambitious targets that we have set and that are being delivered on.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (Meetings)

11. Jackson Carlaw (Eastwood) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport last met the chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and what issues were discussed. (S5O-01897)

Ministers and Government officials meet regularly with representatives of all boards, including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to discuss matters of importance to local people.

With new local plans, local authorities very often resolve housing demands with the provision of major new estates. Although councils can provide for future education needs, community healthcare partnerships have to try to anticipate requirements for future health provision such as general practitioner services. Is the cabinet secretary satisfied that the process underpinning that is sufficiently robust and well resourced, particularly where a major new estate is created and the existing GP lists are at full capacity, as is currently the case in a particular example in my Eastwood constituency?

The member makes an important point. We now have health and care partnerships working across health and social care and bringing in a housing element to those discussions. There is a need to ensure that, in planning for new house building, the local services that the residents will require, including health services and primary care services, are taken into account, and we expect our partners to do that. If we can do more in that space to ensure that that is done early enough, we will do so. As the member will appreciate, expanding any health service takes time, and there can sometimes be a mismatch between the planning process and the house building process. I am happy to communicate further with Jackson Carlaw on that matter, if he would find that helpful.

Cowdenbeath Football Club

12. Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what assistance it can provide to Cowdenbeath Football Club with its club 135 campaign, honour the past, ensure a future, which aims to secure the future of the club. (S5O-01898)

I am aware of the good work that is being carried out in support of Cowdenbeath’s club 135 campaign. I know that the club has strong and deep roots in the town that date back more than 135 years. Like many football clubs at all levels in Scotland, Cowdenbeath is an important part of the local community, and I am encouraged by the spirit shown by the club, supporters and the wider community to raise £135,000 to help to build a sustainable future. I have instructed my officials to contact the club directly to discuss the campaign in more detail.

I welcome the minister’s response. As the minister recognises, the club is 137 years old and is very important to the local community. However, the club no longer has the large mining community that it used to have for its support, and the rent from the weekly market and the stock cars no longer comes to the club, as it lost its ownership of Central Park. An emergency general meeting and a public meeting had to be cancelled recently because of snow, but the club is clearly in a mode of fighting for survival. I welcome the minister’s commitment that officials will contact the club. Will she join me in calling for locals and football lovers all over the world to help save the club?

I am happy to lend my name to that call for people to get behind the club’s campaign. Fans are the lifeblood of Scottish football. Certainly, if anyone can make a difference to the club, it will be the supporters. I am happy to meet the member on the back of my officials’ meeting with Cowdenbeath Football Club and to do what we can to raise awareness of the supporters’ efforts.

That concludes general questions. As we have half a minute before the next item of business, I would like to say something about the slot.

When we are handling portfolio questions, the Presiding Officers try hard to strike a balance in terms of supplementary questions. I have seen a few grumpy faces around the chamber this afternoon, but there has to be respect for members who have submitted questions and who have taken time with their supplementary questions. That must be borne in mind. It must also be borne in mind that, when people take far too long to ask questions, it means that we cannot take the questions of some of their colleagues. I ask ministers to reflect on that with regard to their answers, too.