We want access to the Golden Jubilee, MSP Baillie tells Health Secretary
MSP Jackie Baillie, has called on the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary, Shona Robison, to grant people from Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven and Helensburgh direct access to the Golden Jubilee for medical treatment. In a debate in the Scottish Parliament on NHS Waiting Times, Ms Baillie (left) told of constituents waiting months and even over a year for treatment, despite receiving letters which highlighted their legal right to receive treatment within 12 weeks under the Treatment Time Guarantee. Scottish Labour forced the SNP Government to commit to amend the Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities to ensure patients get an accurate waiting time estimate. The ‘Treatment Time Guarantee’ was introduced by the SNP in 2013, but figures released by ISD Scotland show that since the guarantee was introduced 15,841 patients in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have waited over 12 weeks for treatment. Labour’s motion will ensure that health boards have to give accurate estimates to patients of how long they will expect to wait to receive treatment.
Ms Baillie urged the Health Secretary to allow patients in the area to be offered treatment at the Golden Jubilee Hospital instead of the Royal Alexandria Hospital if it can be carried out there so that patients do not need to wait over 12 weeks before this option is given to them. She said: “I regularly have constituents in my office or at my surgeries complaining that they are waiting longer than twelve weeks to receive treatment for routine operations. Some of my constituents have even waited over a year for treatment.
“The SNP Government’s Treatment Time Guarantee law has been broken almost 16,000 times across Greater Glasgow and Clyde since it was introduced, and it is clear that the guarantee cannot be upheld for people in my constituency waiting to receive treatment at the RAH.
“Directing people from Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven and Helensburgh to the Golden Jubilee would ensure that patients were receiving treatment as quickly as possible and take pressure off of the already over-stretched RAH.
“Telling patients the truth about their actual waiting time is a start, but the real win for patients from this area is to have direct access to the Golden Jubilee hospital, without NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde standing in the way, and making people wait longer in increasing pain.”
Health Secretary accused of ‘gaming the system’ on hospital waiting time
OFFICIAL PARLIAMENTRY REPORT:
Jackie Baillie MSP told Health Secretary Shona Robison (pictured above): Four minutes is not a long time [to speak on this], so I will cut to the chase. Waiting times are far too long, and they are growing longer with each day that passes. It is a problem in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and it is a problem across Scotland. Almost 120,000 people in Scotland have had their waiting time guarantee breached. In effect, that represents the Scottish Government breaking the law—its own law—120,000 times. Almost 16,000 people have been affected in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area alone. Behind those statistics lie patients who are desperately in need of treatment and who are waiting in pain for months and, in far too many cases, more than a year.
In my constituency, the waiting list for ophthalmology is too long. I have cases in which patients who require cataract surgery are being told that it will be 13 weeks before they see the consultant, never mind receive treatment. That means that there are delays that do not even count against the treatment time guarantee. The NHS is front-loading the wait in order to massage its figures, which is nothing short of gaming the system.
The waiting list for orthopaedics is, frankly, shocking. People are waiting in excruciating pain and are now housebound because they have not received treatment. One constituent has crushed discs and can barely walk—she screams with pain—but she had to wait seven months for the results of a scan. One year on, she has been told to go back to her GP for a further assessment even though everyone acknowledges that what she needs is surgery. That is another example of gaming the system.
Another constituent required a hip replacement. They got their treatment time guarantee letter—oh yes, they did—but, when they phoned, they were told that the wait would be at least 50 weeks, although that would not be put in writing.
I raised numerous cases directly with the cabinet secretary in the chamber, months ago, and I have written to her on several occasions on behalf of individual constituents. In fact, I could paper my walls with all those letters and her formulaic responses. Every letter tells me how concerned the cabinet secretary is to read some of the information contained in my correspondence about the delays in the wait for treatment. Every letter tells me how grateful the cabinet secretary is for my bringing the matter to her attention and how it is vital that she hears about patients’ direct experiences. However, despite all of that
Despite all of that, nothing changes. The health boards are simply not listening to her. The cabinet secretary tells us that an extra £50 million was made available last year—£11 million for Glasgow alone—but I have to tell her that I do not see evidence of that in my constituency. Waiting times are not improving; the same problem remains.
The Golden Jubilee hospital—the national waiting times hospital—is just down the road. The staff there can carry out the orthopaedic surgery and cataract surgery that my constituents are in desperate need of, but NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde rations access. It does not want to pay for patients to go to the Golden Jubilee hospital, although, the last time that I looked, it is all one NHS. It would be quicker and more convenient for patients from my constituency to go straight to the Golden Jubilee hospital without NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s interference.
Audit Scotland has reported on waiting times on many occasions, and it does not make pleasant reading. It has also suggested that strengthening patients’ rights and giving them more choice about where they are treated will reduce waiting times. When she was in opposition, the cabinet secretary—perhaps she should listen to this—agreed that she wanted patients to have greater involvement in and choice about where and when they were treated. She believed that patients should be given a clearer indication of what their waiting time was likely to be.
That, Presiding Officer, was in 2006. It has taken 12 years, but I am glad that it is now going to happen. I welcome the commitment today that all my constituents who are waiting beyond their guaranteed treatment time will actually be told how long they will have to wait.
I invite the cabinet secretary to make one other commitment, which is that my constituents can have their operations quickly, in the Golden Jubilee hospital, without any more gaming of the system.