Thank you for your email, requesting that I join the fight against cancer in Scotland.
Naturally I am only too pleased to have this opportunity to show my support publicly in the fight against cancer and will happily sign the pledge.
I note that you express pleasure at recent Scottish Government's comments on the topic. May I council caution on this, for often the SNP's actions do not follow their warm words. Our GPs are at the forefront of the fight against cancer but spending on the services they provide has been cut to 7.4% of the health budget - compared to 11% in England. This has led to increased stress on GP services and in some parts of the country (Grampian a recent example), there is difficulty in recruiting general practitioners to fill existing vacancies.
This situation is compounded by the fact ministers have chosen not to pass on the spending boosts they have received from the UK Government’s additional spending on health. The independent Audit Scotland recently confirmed that health spending in Scotland has decreased in real terms since 2008/09, meaning the Scottish Government has diverted money that should have been invested in the NHS in Scotland.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have regularly highlighted that GPs aren’t getting the support that they need from the Scottish Government. This is making it harder for GPs to play their vital role in identifying the early signs of cancer.
I am pleased to say that Liberal Democrats have also had success in blocking direct cuts to cancer treatment here in Edinburgh. Several years ago, there was a plan to merge the pharmacy services at the Western General. The actual number of pharmacists would have remained the same but the preparations of most drugs are performed by pharmacy technicians; it was here that cuts would have been made. Preparing cancer drugs for an individual patient is an extremely skilled exercise, for even the slightest error in the dosage can end up killing the patient faster than the cancer itself. Merger of the services would have led to increased risks to patients. I alerted party leader Willie Rennie to this and he wrote to the health minister on the topic, resulting in the Western General's cancer pharmacy remaining open.
In my reply to you, I have outlined how Liberal Democrats are genuinely working hard to support Scotland's NHS and the fight against cancer. If you want us to keep on doing so, we will need your support. Please give both your votes to the Scottish Liberal Democrats in this election.