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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 29 November 2017

Agenda: Business Motion, Portfolio Question Time, Policing, General Practice, Non-domestic Rates (Arm’s-length External Organisations), Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Small Business Saturday 2017


Portfolio Question Time

Scottish Sports Association

To ask the Scottish Government how it will provide sustainable funding in the future for the Scottish Sports Association. (S5O-01523)

The Scottish Government has a strong relationship with the SSA and appreciates the support that it provides to Scottish sporting governing bodies. The SSA is a membership organisation for sporting governing bodies. We route funding to support our SGBs through sportscotland and do not provide core funding to the SSA. In financial year 2017-18, we provided funding for the SSA to carry out a short-term project that focused on assessing equalities issues within SGBs, as well as work to support the Government to identify grass-roots nominations for the honours process.

I am glad that the minister appreciates the importance of the SSA as the independent voice of Scottish sport and I hear what she says about 2017-18. My question concerned sustainable funding for the future. The minister went to the SSA’s annual general meeting last year and made a commitment to ensure that the association would have sustainable funding for the future. However, the funding directly from the Government and from sportscotland is planned to be cut. Does she acknowledge that that falls short of the commitment that she gave? Will she review the funding position to ensure that the SSA has the funding that it needs to continue to act as the independent voice of Scottish sport?

I attended the SSA’s AGM last year and we made that commitment to provide funding for the association to carry out the short-term project to which I referred. There was also work with the SSA to enable it to secure additional sources of funding.

We absolutely respect the right of the governing bodies to come together under a representative body. We recognise that, although the SSA does not represent all governing bodies, some of its members value the role that it plays as the collective voice of the governing bodies. We also recognise that the SSA continues to ensure that it articulates the voices of our governing bodies of all different sizes.

Our relationship with the SSA is strong, but we do not provide core funding. That is why we provided the support last year for it to do the specific work to which I referred. We continue to consider whether there are ways that it can provide additional information to us or work with us collaboratively to create the active Scotland that we all seek.

Does that mean that the minister plans to find a way to fund the SSA in the forthcoming financial year?

As I said, we do not provide core funding to the SSA. We route our funding to support our governing bodies through sportscotland. The SSA is a membership organisation for those governing bodies. I reiterate that we respect the right of governing bodies to come together under a representative body and will continue to work with the SSA to explore the avenues for it to have a sustainable financial future.

I will continue to engage with members who have a particular interest in the matter. A lot of correspondence is coming to us on it, including from MSPs across the chamber. We will continue to keep them updated on the progress that the SSA makes.

I put on record my apologies for coming in slightly late for the start of Lewis Macdonald’s question.

National lottery income for good causes reduced by 14 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17. Does the minister agree that the United Kingdom Government’s lack of action to address that important issue is putting the delivery of sport at risk? [Interruption.]

I am a bit surprised at the groans across the chamber, considering that many people continually come to the chamber and ask me to provide funding, given that we all know that the national lottery is an important source of the funding for sportscotland and given that we know that its income in the next financial year is expected to be 26 per cent lower than it was in 2015-16. All these cries and moans from across the chamber are a complete surprise, because we absolutely need to recognise that this is a challenge.

That is why, on 7 November, along with my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, I sent a letter to the UK Government that highlighted that impact on both the sport and cultural sectors and the concern that, at that point, the UK Government was failing to act to address the issue. I have now received a response to that letter from Karen Bradley that talks about how her department will look to bring about some improvements. However I will continue to monitor the situation and will raise the issue again when I next meet the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage.

Presiding Officer, despite the groans, I think that Fulton MacGregor is absolutely right to raise this as an issue because it is a concern for many good causes across our country.

Sport (Access for All)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to ensure that sport is funded to enable access for all. (S5O-01524)

The Scottish Government remains committed to helping Scotland be more physically active by providing the right facilities in the right places and ensuring that our world-class sporting facilities cater to performance athletes and local communities alike.

We are committed to ensuring that sports facilities are affordable, accessible and inclusive to people who want to get involved and stay involved in sport. For example, there are now better and more opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to participate in sport and physical activity right across Scotland, with 181 community sport hubs up and running. That number will increase to 200 by 2020.

In 2017 alone, we have provided sports governing bodies with an additional £2 million specifically to target work on equalities; established the £300,000 sporting equality fund; established the Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board to drive female sports participation; invested nearly £1 million to support all older adults in care to become active; and formally opened the sportscotland national sports training centre Inverclyde, which offers world-class sporting facilities and services that will have a positive impact on users at all levels of physical ability.

On the back of the withdrawal of funding to ensure that all primary school pupils have the opportunity to learn to swim, the debacle with jog Scotland, when funding was only reinstated after much lobbying, and the reduction in the sports budget by some £4 million last year, we now hear that the Scottish Sports Association, which is the direct link between Government and sport, has had its funding withdrawn.

How can the minister state that the Scottish Government is committed to sport and activities for all, with the implications that that has for the preventative health agenda, when it seems hell-bent on cutting every budget that has a positive effect on the health of the nation and tackling health inequalities?

Again, after that question to me, I do not understand why the member groaned so much when Fulton MacGregor made a perfectly reasonable point about recognising the impact that the reduction in national lottery income will have on sport and activity across the country.

I outlined a range of work that we are taking forward to ensure that sport and opportunities to be active are available to everybody across the country. Of course there are still more things that we need to do.

Aside from that point, Brian Whittle continually comes to the chamber looking for us to come up with the answer to issues around inequalities. He says that we are the Government. It is this Government that continually has to pick up the pieces from the mess that his Government at Westminster continually leaves behind. It is this Government that has a child poverty bill. It is this Government that is trying to ensure that people with disabilities are treated with dignity. It is this Government that has provided a sporting centre in Inverclyde that will enable people with physical disabilities to take part in the sport of their choice—unlike his Government, unlike Brian Whittle. I do not think that we will be taking any lessons from Brian Whittle or the Conservative UK Government.

National Health Service Workforce (Impact of Brexit)

To ask the Scottish Government what national health service workforce planning it is undertaking in relation to the potential impact of Brexit on staffing levels. (S5O-01525)

All of us in Scotland benefit enormously from the contribution that is made by NHS staff from across the European Union. The free movement of people from the EU and European Economic Area allows skilled and experienced health professionals to work here, providing safe, high-quality services to Scotland’s people.

The possible impact of Brexit on staffing levels in NHS Scotland will depend on the precise form of withdrawal from the EU that is imposed by the United Kingdom Government. The Nursing and Midwifery Council reported that significantly fewer EEA nurses are registering in the UK, and the British Medical Association reported that many EEA-trained doctors are considering leaving the UK. Nevertheless, we remain fully committed to continuing to recruit EEA healthcare staff, and we will continue to work hard to protect their rights and their place here in Scotland.

The cabinet secretary mentioned the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which has claimed that European staff are already leaving the UK in their droves. Latest statistics show that 4,067 nurses from the EU left their jobs last year, which was a rise of around 67 per cent on the previous year, and that there was a fall of 89 per cent in the number of nurses who came to the UK from EU countries to work. Brexit has not even happened yet, but the NHS is feeling its impact. Will the cabinet secretary outline any assessments that she has made of the scale of the staffing crisis that could envelop the Scottish NHS and give details of what contact she has had with the UK Brexit minister and the Home Secretary to impress on them the urgency for clarity around their future immigration policy?

The figures that Gillian Martin cites are very concerning, which is why the Scottish Government has repeatedly called on the UK Government to provide an immediate guarantee of the rights of all EU citizens living here.

On 1 September, I wrote to the Home Secretary and the UK Government health secretary to signal my concerns about the approach that was being taken to Brexit, about the uncertainty that the UK Government’s position on Brexit is creating for EU nationals and their families and about how that is compromising our ability to recruit and retain talent. The Scottish Government believes that maintaining the free movement of people as part of the single market is in the best interests of the UK as a whole and of Scotland.

We are doing what we can to increase staffing here, which has increased by more than 9 per cent. The number of qualified nurses and midwives has risen by 5.6 per cent under this Government, and we have plans to continue to increase the supply of health staff. Meanwhile, my cabinet colleagues and I will continue to press the case for further clarity, because the situation will damage the potential for us to recruit from outwith Scotland to maintain quality services in Scotland.

It is clear for all involved in the debate that NHS Scotland’s workforce problems did not begin on 23 June 2016, as they have been presided over by the Scottish National Party Government for 10 long years. Given that Audit Scotland has said that the Government’s long-awaited workforce plan is “not a detailed plan”, but merely a “broad framework”, what plans do the cabinet secretary and the Government have to increase the number of nurses on our hospital wards?

As Jeremy Hunt recently announced, NHS England does not even have a workforce plan, but I am happy to share our plans with Jeremy Hunt to get him on his way to developing and delivering a workforce plan.

As Miles Briggs will know, we have already published part 1 of the plan, the social care plan is imminent and the primary care plan will follow once we have had a decision on the general practitioner contract. We have increased nursing training places by 2,600 by the end of this parliamentary session, we are expanding medical education with the graduate medical school and we have more training places for medics, so we are taking action here.

Miles Briggs likes to dismiss the issue of Brexit because it is uncomfortable for him to acknowledge that it will only add to the pressures on our NHS and care services not just in Scotland but in the rest of the UK. He would do well to acknowledge that.

Pancreatic Cancer

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to raise awareness of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. (S5O-01526)

Through our detect cancer early programme, we aim to increase the proportion of cancers that are detected at the earliest stages. Central to that work is our social marketing strategy. Next year, the programme will focus on the overall benefits of early detection for all cancers, aiming to encourage anyone with any concerns or changes to their body to visit their general practitioner.

We are also committed to supporting GPs to be more aware of the potential signs and symptoms of cancer, and we updated the Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer in 2014. More recently, that was supported by the development and launch of an app in 2016.

My officials are in discussion with Pancreatic Cancer UK about how we can support awareness messages through our wee c strategy and social media and digital channels.

Pancreatic Cancer UK carried out a survey that showed that 35 per cent of adults in the United Kingdom would not be worried if they had several of the potential symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Events such as pancreatic cancer month, which we have just had, and light it up purple are raising awareness of the cancer, which has not seen significant changes in outcomes, as other cancers have. Does the cabinet secretary support those campaigns going forward?

I very much support those campaigns. The light it up purple campaign is a way of raising awareness among the public. We know that the earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat, and we recognise that the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer can sometimes be vague and non-specific. Through collaboration with the Scottish primary care cancer group and third sector colleagues such as Macmillan Cancer Support, we are commissioning a refresh of the Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer, which will take place in 2018, to ensure that any new and emerging evidence is considered. That work will be supported by the development of education and training on early diagnosis for primary care colleagues. I hope that that will make a difference in ensuring that we can get people into treatment earlier than we do at the moment.

There are problems with the late detection of pancreatic cancer, but it is vital that it is detected as quickly as possible. According to the latest figures, one in eight cancer patients is waiting more than 62 days for urgent treatment. Although we have just heard from the cabinet secretary of some measures to counteract that, they are rather woolly. Can she be more specific? Can she get the waiting time down below 62 days, and what can we expect in four years’ time?

I do not think that my answer was woolly. I was laying out some of the work that we are doing to ensure that people are treated earlier because of early detection.

I have already said clearly that we need to make improvements on the 62-day treatment target that Tom Mason refers to. That is why we are investing additional funding into diagnostics. Once people are diagnosed, treatment for cancer takes place, on average, within six days, so the issue is the need to improve diagnostics. I am personally chairing the cancer improvement group, which is looking at rolling out some of the best practice that we see—for example, in NHS Lanarkshire, which is meeting the 62-day target.

I would say, though, that for some of the complex cancers, the staging and treatment are not always straightforward, and the 62-day target applies only to some cancers because of the complexity of treatment. I would be happy to write to Tom Mason if that would help him to understand some of the more complex issues.

Orthopaedic Patients (Waiting Times)

To ask the Scottish Government how many orthopaedic patients are waiting longer than the guaranteed waiting time limit of 12 weeks to receive treatment. (S5O-01527)

In the quarter ending 30 September 2017, 4,060 patients had waited longer than 12 weeks for orthopaedic surgery, with 5,071 patients being treated within the legal guarantee.

I recognise that some patients are experiencing long waits, which is why I have made £150 million available to the national health service over the next three years. A sum of £50 million has already been allocated to boards in the current year, and that additional funding will build up capacity and ensure that all patients are seen and treated in a timely fashion, including in the specialty of orthopaedics. I expect to see improvements between now and the end of March next year.

There are challenges in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which has been funded with an additional £500,000 to improve orthopaedic waiting times between now and the end of March. It expects to deliver significant improvements in waiting times through performing hip and knee replacements in the Golden Jubilee national hospital, as well as additional internal orthopaedic activity.

I thank the cabinet secretary for her response and for her recognition that the treatment time guarantee means little to those who wait longer than 12 weeks. I have many constituents, as she knows, who have waited much longer than even a year for treatment. The cabinet secretary did, indeed, announce in May £50 million to improve waiting times, which was welcome; £11 million of that is for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. However, that was in May. We are now seven months on, and people in my area are still waiting far too long. Can she guarantee that we will see an improvement, so that my constituents no longer need to wait beyond 12 weeks, in pain, for treatment?

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has received £11.2 million of the £50 million. As Jackie Baillie will appreciate, it takes time to build up capacity. I can, however, tell her that the feedback from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and other health boards is that they are seeing some of the longest waits reducing. I am confident that, between now and March, we will see further improvement. We have asked boards to tackle the longest waits and I certainly make it clear to boards that they have to do so.

In my first answer to Jackie Baillie, I specifically laid out the fact that we have given additional funding of £500,000 to help NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to make the further improvements that it needs to make between now and the end of March, specifically because of the types of case that Jackie Baillie referred to.

I am grateful to Jackie Baillie, whose constituents’ experience mirrors that of my constituents in Orkney. The cabinet secretary will be aware that capacity problems in NHS Grampian have led to similar delays. Is she also aware that NHS Grampian appears to be sending outpatient letters that offer appointments that must be confirmed within two weeks via a very busy helpline that is only available 9 to 5, Monday to Friday? Does she think that the approach of passing back to patients the onus to confirm their appointments is the best way of reducing waiting times that are, by her own acknowledgement, far too long?

NHS Grampian is trying to manage its capacity as well as possible, and to ensure that every appointment opportunity is used. Malcolm Wright, who is the chief executive of NHS Grampian, is working with NHS Highland, in particular, to consider management of capacity across the whole north of Scotland, especially when it comes to elective and outpatient appointments. That is a good move, because we need to look at new ways of working.

Additionally, the work that Derek Bell is doing in reforming delivery of elective procedures and outpatient appointments will ensure that we use our capacity in the most effective and efficient way.

A constituent of mine, who has been waiting for a specialist appointment for a number of months, was in touch with me yesterday after once again receiving a call from the Scottish Ambulance Service to cancel a booking to take him to hospital for an appointment today. Does the cabinet secretary agree that cuts in one area of the service are making waiting times worse and hindering the efficient working of the wider service? Surely when a cancellation is made at such short notice, arrangements for a taxi service should be made.

I am concerned to hear that. It is not good for patients to have their appointments cancelled at such short notice. From what Mark Griffin said, I am not clear whether the issue is one for the Scottish Ambulance Service, but if it is, I am keen for him to write to me with the circumstances and I will certainly want to look into it. It is important to have a joined-up service and that, when someone has an appointment, that appointment is kept. If there is an issue around transportation to appointments, it needs to be resolved. If Mark Griffin wants to write to me with the details, I will certainly look into the case.

Healthy Lifestyles (Promotion)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to support and provide resources for organisations that promote healthy lifestyles. (S5O-01528)

The Scottish Government is taking forward a wide range of actions, including funding in many key policy areas, to encourage physical activity and to improve diet and mental wellbeing, as well as initiatives to tackle alcohol and substance abuse. We aim to ensure that people in all our communities, particularly children and their families, have the knowledge and skills to make healthy living choices.

As we have heard, the Scottish Sports Association plays a vital part in connecting the value of sport in our communities with our efforts to improve the health of our nation through policy. Does the minister consider that withdrawal of funding from the SSA could be perceived as a cynical attempt to silence what is, in essence, the voice of sports in our communities before further budget cuts to sports are announced? Will she listen to the consensus that has been established among the Opposition parties this afternoon and directly fund the SSA in the future?

I reiterate that the SSA is a membership organisation that is made up of sporting governing bodies. We route funding to support our governing bodies through sportscotland. We do not provide core funding to the SSA. We have a strong relationship with the SSA, which is why we provided funding last year to enable it to take forward some short-term focused work. We will continue to listen to Opposition members and to any other representations.

Parkhead Hospital (Upgrade)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde regarding the planned upgrade of the Parkhead hospital site. (S5O-01529)

Plans for the Glasgow east end health and social care centre are at a relatively early stage. They are currently being developed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow city health and social care partnership. The Scottish Government supports the project in principle and is keen to review the plans as they develop.

Does the cabinet secretary accept that residents in the east end of Glasgow are resistant to travelling to Stobhill in the north of Glasgow for health facilities? Does she agree that it might help health outcomes in the east end of Glasgow if we had more facilities there?

John Mason will be aware that I met local stakeholders in September as part of my consideration of the major service-change proposals for local rehabilitation services, including Lightburn hospital. I assure him that I am fully aware of the significant levels of deprivation in the local area, and of the understandable concerns about appropriate access to services, including regarding issues about public transport. I intend to make my decision on the major service-change proposals in the coming weeks. As I have said, I welcome the commitment from the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s board and its planning partners to develop, as a priority, a health and social care hub in the east end of Glasgow for the benefit of local people.

Drug Use

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce levels of drug use. (S5O-01530)

We continue to take forward a range of initiatives to tackle problem drug use. We invest significant resources in education and prevention work, and we will shortly issue good practice guidance that is based on recent work on the effectiveness of education and prevention initiatives. We work closely with Police Scotland and the United Kingdom Government to limit the supply of illicit drugs in Scotland and to support effective implementation of the relevant legislation.

Yesterday in Parliament I outlined my plans to introduce a drug and alcohol treatment strategy that will seek to address the challenges that we face in our attempts to tackle problem drug and alcohol use, while ensuring that we continue to provide high quality person-centred services to meet the wide-ranging needs of the people who are most at risk from those substances.

What we need is urgency. It is worrying that Dumfries and Galloway has the highest percentage of drug-related hospital admissions in Scotland. The number of people who die from drug overdoses in the area has reached a record high. Families are suffering, and people are dying. What measures will the Scottish Government take now to tackle drug misuse in rural areas?

I reiterated yesterday that, because of the rise in drug-related deaths, there is a real need for us to work out what we need to do better to enable people to feel supported. That is why I set out that we are developing our seek, keep and treat approach in order to understand the vulnerable cohort of ageing drug users who present in the tragic drug deaths that we see each year.

Oliver Mundell is right to recognise that there are particular issues in rural Scotland. As we seek to develop the refreshed approach, I am happy to meet him to make sure that we focus on the rural issues that he, as a constituency member in Dumfriesshire, wants to outline. I, too, am a rural MSP, so I understand that sometimes services are not always on the doorstep. That is why it is important that we have a flourishing recovery community across the country—some in rural parts—to allow them to feel that they are supported and to help them on their recovery journey. The opportunity to meet is open for David—I am sorry—Oliver Mundell to take up, because it is a really important issue to work together on to ensure that it has the cross-party support that we had previously, when we published “The Road to Recovery: A New Approach to Tackling Scotland’s Drug Problem”.

General Practitioners (NHS Ayrshire and Arran)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to recruit and retain GPs in NHS Ayrshire and Arran. (S5O-01531)

We know that the recruitment and retention of GPs is an issue for some areas of Scotland. That is why the groundbreaking new GP contract for Scotland—jointly designed and agreed with the British Medical Association—will help to ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy. If accepted, the contract will help to reduce doctors’ overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect by allowing GPs to focus on the patients who need them most.

Not only that, we have committed to increasing funding directly into general practice by £250 million by 2021, including over £71 million this year, as part of our commitment to increase primary care funding by £500 million. We have also increased funding for GP recruitment and retention fivefold, to £5 million.

In Ayrshire and Arran, we have invested £400,000 of that GP recruitment fund to develop new posts, with a special focus on particular subjects, and NHS Ayrshire and Arran has successfully recruited four GPs, who start in post this year.

Those are all very warm words, but the reality is that the Scottish Government’s GP recruitment and retention programme has only managed to attract three GPs to work in Ayrshire and Arran. Freedom of information figures show that the health board is paying up to £800 per day for locum GPs to cover those shifts. Does the cabinet secretary really think that that is an effective use of our health budget? What does she have to say to my constituents in Ayrshire who have lost their GP?

I will say to Jamie Greene, as I have said to other members in this chamber, that the recruitment and retention fund has funded a number of projects that are supporting not just the direct recruitment of GPs but the support structures around them. Instead of complaining about that, I would have thought that Jamie Greene might have welcomed that additional investment.

We are working hard with the BMA to bring in a new era for primary care and a better deal for GPs. I hope that Jamie Greene and his Tory colleagues will get behind that new contract, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the future of general practice in Scotland and to make it a very attractive career for young doctors who are making their decisions about which specialty to go into. Maybe we need to talk up general practice a little bit more than we do.

Cabinet secretary, the Tories have been frightening the old and sick in West Kilbride, in my constituency, by saying for weeks that the surgery there will close. In fact, a new GP is due to join the West Kilbride medical practice on 1 January in a post that is funded for two years by the GP recruitment and retention fund. Furthermore, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, which currently runs the practice, is inviting tender bids by GP partnerships to take over.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that, since taking over West Kilbride medical practice in August, NHS Ayrshire and Arran has made significant progress, which it should be commended for, and that there is no intention whatsoever to close the practice? Can she reassure patients and practice staff alike that any rumours to the contrary are untrue?

Kenny Gibson is correct—the West Kilbride practice will not be closing its doors to patients and we should be highlighting the positive work that has been under way to support that practice since the board took over in August this year. Kenny Gibson makes a good point—we should be talking up our GP services and making GP practices attractive places to come to work, whether that is in Ayrshire and Arran or anywhere else in Scotland. NHS Ayrshire and Arran has worked very hard to make sure that the West Kilbride practice has a good and stable future and I am happy to write to Kenny Gibson with any further details that he might find helpful.

Just as there is growing demand for GP services in North Ayrshire and Arran, there is also growing demand for other services, not least chemotherapy. That service has been under review since 2014; in 2015, NHS Ayrshire and Arran completed an options appraisal that, if implemented, will lead to the loss of chemotherapy care at Ayr hospital, forcing local cancer patients to travel up to 100 miles for treatment in Ayrshire.

Given that it is now three years since that options appraisal was carried out and, in the meantime, demand has continued to rise, and given that NHS Ayrshire and Arran has not yet even consulted on the proposal, will the health secretary intervene and urge the health board to drop this damaging and clearly unpopular proposal?

That was a little bit broader than the original question, but do you want to give a brief answer, cabinet secretary?

I have spoken to John Burns, the chief executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, about that matter recently in order to get an update. It is, of course, for NHS Ayrshire and Arran to take forward its local services, as it would be for any local board. John Burns is keen to see the chemotherapy service as part of the development of the west of Scotland cancer services. He is well aware of the strength of feeling and, as I made very clear in my call to him, what is important is that he consults local people properly, taking into account their views and considerations as he moves forward with proposals, whether they are for that service in Ayr hospital or for any other service across Ayrshire and Arran.

Mental Health (Sport and Leisure)

To ask the Scottish Government what impact engaging in sport and leisure activities has on mental health. (S5O-01532)

Our vision is of a Scotland where more people are more active, more often, in part because being active is good for mental wellbeing. The active living becomes achievable programme—a collaboration between the Scottish Government and the mental health charity, Scottish Association for Mental Health—builds on the well-established links between physical activity and improved mental wellbeing, as well as physical health. That is further evidenced by the recent partnership announcement between SAMH and jogscotland, which recognises the clear link between physical and mental health.

The minister will be aware of physical activity programmes such as the healthy active minds project that is run by Edinburgh Leisure to assist those who are facing stress, anxiety and depression. Does she welcome the fact that rates relief for leisure trusts will now be continued, to allow for the provision of such services, thanks to Scottish Conservative pressure, and will she lobby colleagues to ensure that adequate funding is given to local authorities to allow for their long-term sustainability?

I have to laugh at the fact that the Tories think that they managed to get the rates relief on sport and leisure facilities, as if we had not been working with our colleagues to take forward and look specifically at what was in the Barclay review, which, of course, we will be debating later on.

NHS Tayside (Meetings)

To ask the Scottish Government when it last met NHS Tayside. (S5O-01533)

Ministers and Scottish Government officials regularly meet representatives of all health boards, including NHS Tayside, to discuss matters of importance to local people.

NHS Tayside has a plan to remove all emergency surgery from Perth royal infirmary and move it to Ninewells hospital in Dundee. That plan has caused serious concern among many residents in Perth and Kinross regarding the impact that the decision might have on the future viability of the accident and emergency unit at PRI. What assurances can the cabinet secretary give my constituents that the A and E unit in Perth has a secure future under this Government and will not be downgraded or closed?

NHS Tayside has given a clear commitment that urgent unscheduled care will continue to be provided from the PRI, as have I. The PRI is a very important district general hospital and a very important part of the infrastructure of the national health service. Therefore, I hope to get rid of any scaremongering that might have been taking place on that issue.

Murdo Fraser will be aware that NHS Tayside has been carrying out a consultation about the delivery of surgery across Tayside. The board has been clear that no decisions have been made and that any proposals agreed by the board that involve a major change will come to me for a final decision. I will carefully consider all information and representations before reaching my decision.

What is important is delivering safe patient care—that is of the utmost importance. In terms of emergency general surgery, I understand that the board took that temporary measure to ensure that it could continue to provide a safe and appropriate level of care to its patients. I am sure that Murdo Fraser will understand that.

NHS Grampian (Funding)

To ask the Scottish Government what the difference has been since 2007 between NHS Grampian’s actual funding and the amount it would have been allocated under the NHS Scotland resource allocation committee formula. (S5O-01534)

When the NRAC formula was introduced in 2009-10, NHS Grampian was 3.7 per cent behind its target funding allocation. The Scottish Government has invested significantly in supporting the boards that are behind parity. In 2017-18, the Scottish Government has invested an additional £50 million of NRAC funding, which takes all boards for the first time to within 1 per cent of their target allocations. Since 2015-16, NHS Grampian has received additional funding of £47 million for the specific purpose of accelerating NRAC parity.

To answer the question that I asked, it is £165 million—that is the amount of money that the Scottish Government has not given NHS Grampian since the NRAC formula was introduced. That information comes from the neutral Scottish Parliament information centre. Will the cabinet secretary ask her officials to contact SPICe just to make sure that I am not misunderstanding and that it is correct that Grampian should have received £165 million but has not and that, even without the NRAC formula, it is already the worst-funded health board in the country?

As I recollect, the Labour-Liberal Democrat Administration did nothing to ensure that NHS Grampian’s funding was brought into line. The NRAC formula is there to ensure that issues such as deprivation are reflected in the funding that boards receive. Under this Government, since 2006-07, and since Mike Rumbles’s party was in administration, NHS Grampian’s budget has increased by £315 million, to almost £900 million in 2017-18, which is an increase of 54 per cent. In addition, we are investing £128 million this year to support the delivery of service reform, and NHS Grampian is of course benefiting from that.

The NRAC formula is the most objective measure of funding equity that we have developed. It explicitly takes account of demographics, deprivation and geography in order to promote equity of access to health services for all residents across Scotland.