March 8, 2019 Blog, Conference 2019

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport – Speech to Conference 2019

08 March 2019

Monica Lennon MSP

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

Speech to Conference

It’s a privilege to address you as Scottish Labour’s Health and Sport Spokesperson.

Over seventy years since its creation, the NHS remains the defining symbol of Labour.

Built on our values, served by the best staff in the world, the NHS has given us so much.

Amazing work continues in our NHS, but all is not well.

Too few GPs,

Staff exhausted,

Operations cancelled,

Audit Scotland warning of an unsustainable future,

And a Scottish Government breaking the law on treatment times every single day.

We can’t run the NHS on Nicola Sturgeon’s empty promises

Conference, the NHS needs a Scottish Labour Party as a force for real change.

It took courage to build the NHS.  With courage, we’ll revive it, transforming health and social care for modern Scotland.

The next election is a battle for the future of our NHS.  And when we win that battle of ideas, we will call time on austerity and health inequalities.

Because urgent change is needed. Overall life expectancy in Scotland has fallen for the first time in 35 years.

And how can it be right that the richest Scots can expect good health for twenty years longer than the poorest?

In government, we will be a champion for those without hope.

We will draw inspiration from campaigners, like Gillian Murray from Dundee, and her brave fight for an independent review of Tayside’s mental health services.  The death of her uncle, David Ramsay, to suicide is sadly all too familiar to other families.

Gillian is working with my constituent, Karen McKeown from Motherwell, to campaign for a national review of mental health services.  Karen’s partner Luke ended his life despite repeatedly asking services to help.

Their campaign has our full backing.

Suicide is preventable.

No family in crisis should feel abandoned.

And the pressure on the mental health of overworked staff must end too.

And here in Dundee, Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis is at the highest rate in Europe.  Drugs and alcohol misuse is ruining lives in every community.  It is a Scottish public health emergency.

My much-loved dad died from decades of alcohol abuse.

Emotional scars of addiction run deep.  Families affected by the harm caused by alcohol or drugs misuse feel isolated.

Investment in recovery is scant.  We will change this.

Over 50,000 young people are affected by parental drinking.  We will put support in place for them on the first day of a Scottish Labour government.

And we will end the predatory industry practices that saturate our poorest communities with betting shops, booze and unhealthy food.

We will enact the Social Responsibility Levy on alcohol sales, potentially raising over one hundred million pounds a year.

We will ban alcohol marketing to children.

Our planning proposals give children the right to play and we will invest in the sporting potential of Scotland’s young people.

Today, of course, is International Women’s Day. In Government, we will deliver health justice for women.

Starting with the mesh scandal, and the brave mesh survivors who have been supported so tenaciously by Neil Findlay, we will fully ban these barbaric devices and will not rest until every woman has the opportunity to access full mesh removal.

Too often women’s health needs are unmet.  In the budget, backed by Engender and women’s charities, we called for a dedicated women’s health fund.

And in government, our women’s health programme will close the growing gender health gap.

We’ve led the charge against period poverty.  When my Member’s Bill passes, hopefully later this year, Scotland will be the first country in the world to introduce free universal access to period products.

When it comes to tackling inequality, there is no limit on our ambitions.

That’s why we will deliver on the promise of integrated health and social care through proper funding of local services, to ensure no-one is stuck in hospital longer than necessary.

We will ensure fair work for all NHS and social care staff by investing in the workforce, giving them time to care, providing opportunities to progress, and tackling the spiralling cost of agency spending.

The recent clinical waste scandal has exposed the worst excesses of privatisation in our NHS.  Healthcare Environmental Services Ltd workers based in Dundee and Shotts were abandoned by that firm, after it put our NHS at risk.

I urge SNP Ministers, do no sit back when workers are pushed into poverty.

Do the right thing and pay these men and women what they are owed.

We will always be on the side of the workforce, and that is the difference that a Scottish Labour Government can and will make.

Conference, the best days of our NHS still lie ahead.

Real change in our communities is possible.

We will build a modern Scotland where our health is not reliant on our wealth.

With a Scottish Labour Government, that is what we will deliver.