By Bill Heaney
Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie has been a busy woman in the Scottish Parliament this week.
The MSP called on the Scottish Government to fill the £22 million gap in EU funding, highlighting the fact that millions of pounds of European funding could be withdrawn from voluntary organisations and local authorities.
The gap in funding could result in employability projects closing, job losses and cuts to services for vulnerable people, she said.
Ms Baillie added: “The Government was made aware of the problem more than a year ago but failed to heed the warnings, leaving these organisations vulnerable to cuts and even closure. It is responsible for the administration of the ESF programme and ultimately the problem rests with them.”
She explained: “Millions of pounds of European funding could be withheld from voluntary organisations and local authorities because of a problem caused by the Government.
“This loss of funding could lead to employability projects closing, job losses and cuts to services for vulnerable people. The Government failed to heed warnings more than a year ago and now we are facing a £22 million black hole.
“It is time the Government guaranteed that they will fill the gap to fund these organisations to provide them with immediate security.”
West College Clydebank needs more funding.
Meanwhile, the MSP has asked for more investment in West College Scotland at Clydebank following an Audit Scotland report that reveals the price of the SNP’s failure to support colleges.
The report shows that many of Scotland’s colleges are facing financial problems due to under-funding. Audit Scotland predicts that the financial problems are set to deepen.
West College Scotland is currently operating a financial deficit of 4.7%, which is worse than the Scottish average of a 4% deficit.
It has put the college into the second lowest financial quartile ranking as one of the 10 worst colleges in Scotland financially.
Jackie Baillie said: “Audit Scotland’s report on Scotland’s colleges is a damning indictment of this SNP Government’s failure to properly fund higher education.
“If colleges are to reach the attainment targets that they are being set then it is vital that they have the resources to do so.”
Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and the proposed Clydebank Health Centre.
The MSP then aimed her Labour lance at medical matters and pleaded for more GPs and more resources for general practice following the launch of the Royal College of General Practice’s report From the Frontline: The Changing Landscape of Scottish General Practice.
The report found that over a third of GPs report that their workload is overwhelming, and that a quarter of GPs believe they are unlikely to be working in general practice in five years’ time.
In addition, one in three GPs don’t get a break of 10 minutes or more most days, and that almost 40% of GPs say it is financially unsustainable to run a practice.
The report also found that patients living in areas of inequality develop chronic diseases earlier in life.
They live with ill health for longer, and die younger than those living in the most affluent areas.
West Dunbartonshire has 48 data zones and Argyll and Bute has 11 data zones within the 20% most deprived in Scotland, meaning the health of patients in these areas is likely to be adversely affected by their circumstances.
Two of the report’s main recommendations highlight the need for a move to patient appointments of 15 minutes instead of the current 10 minutes, and for more funding to reduce health inequalities.
The MSP added: “GPs are at the frontline of our health service, treating patients with a whole host of problems on a daily basis. It is clear that if we do not properly support General Practice then the rest of our health service suffers. The report has highlighted that patients living in areas of inequality are more likely to suffer problems with their health.
“These patients are often the least likely to seek help, especially if they struggle to see their GP, so at a very basic level it is important that GPs are supported to continue providing this frontline service.
“Scotland is facing a shortage of more than 850 GPs by 2021 and GPs are telling us that they don’t envisage being in the profession in five years’ time. This is a crisis.
“It is clear that more funding and support for General Practice is desperately needed to plug this gap in a vital health service.”
Ms Baillie has once again highlighted the ongoing closure of the Vale of Leven hospital’s Out-of-Hours service.
Patients in the area have expressed concerns that the service has been closed on more than 40 occasions already this year. That follows on from more than 80 closures in 2018, making the Vale of Leven Out-of-Hours service the most closed service in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.
During an exchange in the Scottish Parliament, Jamie Green, a West of Scotland regional MSP highlighted that last weekend (1st and 2nd June), the Vale of Leven Hospital, right, Out of Hours was the only service open to patients in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area. Jackie praised the staff at the Vale for coping with the numbers of patients referred there, but pointed out that the facility was closed more than any other in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Information obtained by the MSP from Freedom of Information requests shows that the Vale of Leven’s out-of-hours has already been closed 44 times in the first four months of 2019, adding to the 83 times it was closed in 2018, due to a lack of available staff. In addition, patients who have contacted the MSP have highlighted that the service has also been closed a further three times in May and was closed on the 4th June.
Patients in the area are being forced to travel to the Royal Alexandria Hospital to access their A&E department, adding to the already-overwhelmed service in Paisley.
The most recent case which has been received by the MSP is of a constituent who tried to access the out-of-hours service being told it was closed and to travel to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, despite not having access to his own transport.
She said: “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Out of Hours service was raised in the chamber by an MSP who highlighted that the Vale of Leven’s service was the only service available to patients last weekend.
“The irony is, of course, that the Vale of Leven’s service is usually the one that is closed, having been closed more times than any other hospital in the area in 2018.
“Time and time again I have urged the health board and the Cabinet Secretary to fix the problems at the Vale of Leven but my pleas, and those of my constituents, have not yet been answered. Just this week I have received more emails from constituents who were unable to access this most basic service.
“It is clear that the health board is completely unable to provide a consistent service to patients. That is why I’ve called for the service to be organised internally by the hospital’s GPs who currently run the rota for the Medical Assessment Unit or for salaried doctors to be employed.”
Still on the health front, Jackie Baillie, has been recognised as a Carer Positive Employer ahead of Carers Week 2019 which will run from the 10th – 16th June.
The theme for 2019 is “Getting Carers Connected” which aims to get the support they need to care without putting off their own health needs or losing important relationships with others.
The MSPs application to become a Carer Positive Employer in the ‘engaged’ category was approved this week with the MSP demonstrating that there is flexibility, support and an accessible approach to staff, including those who might need to balance work with caring responsibilities at home.
Employers can apply to become Carer Positive employers by visiting the Carer Scotland website at http://www.carerpositive.org/apply/.
Jackie Baillie, left, said: “Carers’ Week provides an excellent opportunity for us to recognise the important role that unpaid carers play in looking after some of the most elderly and vulnerable people in our communities.
“Usually this is role that they do without any formal recognition so it is nice to have the opportunity to thank them for everything that they do.
“I am delighted to received accreditation as a Carer Positive employer demonstrating that my office provides flexibility, support and an accessible approach for all staff, not least those who may be juggling work with caring responsibilities at home.
“I would encourage all local businesses to become Carer Positive accredited, the forms are easy to fill out and many businesses will find that they are already doing what is required without even knowing it.”