What ideas do you think are necessary to improve the care of the elderly in Scotland? How do you think home care can be improved?
As you know, Scotland, in common with the rest of the UK and many northern countries, is facing the task of looking after an increasingly ageing population. It is widely recognised that the former system of keeping people in hospital for long periods are simply unsustainable. That is why there are ongoing movement of community care for the elderly, so minimalising time in hospital. This is not all about cost-cutting. It is widely recognised that the longer a person, especially the very old, stay in hospital, the less independent they become. It came to a surprise to me that people can forget the simplest things like how to make a cup of tea. People have to be retrained and while not actually ill, would have to be kept in hospital until social care was able to provide care.
In principle, the move to integrate health and social care is a necessary one. There has been several trials of Hospital at Home across Scotland (recently in Fife for example), which looked at how to deliver medical services to people at home. The task is a complicated one, involving consultants, GPs, nursing and pharmacy services, as well as social care. With careful planning and support, it shows that it can be done. One of the top aims is to avoid unplanned hospital admission via the A&E service. This is the most expensive way for any person to be admitted to hospital.
I am very concerned however how the Hospital at Home scheme and the integration of health and social care is being handled in Edinburgh. Beds that would normally been available in the winter were not opened this year. GP services are not seeing the necessary support and ward staff are being transferred to the Hospital at Home without being replaced during the transition period. Staff who question managers are asked if they are unable to cope (with the implication that jobs are to be cut) and there is no consultation between top managers and people working on the frontline. In short, the whole operation looks more to me like cuts rather than a sincere effort to improve services. If current practice leads to more A&E admissions to the Royal Infirmary, then instead of achieving best practice, we will have the worst of both worlds.
As the issue is being devolved to Scotland - Are you in favour of retaining , or restricting further, or liberalising the abortion laws?
This answer will be shorter! I fully support a woman's right to have full control over her own fertility and also support the education necessary for any woman to make her own informed choice on the matter. I am content with the current laws but if I am told that they need to be made more liberal, I will be sympathetic. I will certainly not back any move to restrict a woman's right to choose.
Are you in favour of assisted suicide?
Personally no but I can be persuaded if the necessary legal safeguards are in place. Scottish Liberal Democrats considered this question at our party conference last year where the majority of the party voted in favour to allow assisted suicide. https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/790/scottish-liberal-democrats-back-assisted-suicide-proposals
What I would wish to avoid was what occurred in the Netherlands in the 1990s where the law on assisted suicide were sometimes abused without any legal consequences.
As a liberal, I understand that my own ethic and religious choices should not dictate the choice of others. My concern is not with the individual cases where there is absolute clarity on part of the patient who is terminally ill what their choice is. I would seek to protect other from abuses of any system.
What priority would you place on funding hospices and other palliative care?
According to news reports, palliative care is one thing that the UK is doing well. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/oct/06/uk-tops-end-of-life-care-index
While I would want to uphold our position on the global tables and, seriously, would want to address areas where we can improve services and would be concerned to hear about falling standards; as I outlined above there are more pressing areas of the NHS that need greater attention.
What are your views on helping immigration to Scotland from countries such as Syria etc. ?
First of all, I would seek to halt the UK's military involvement in Syria. Not that I could do that as an MSP but had I been in the Westminster Parliament last Autumn, I would have voted against UK involvement.
As for refugees coming here, yes, I would be welcoming. I have worked in the Levant and it is a beautiful part of the world. No person would seek to leave it if they could choose to stay.
I would also seek resources so not only could they establish a decent live in their new homeland, but also understand the new culture in which they find themselves. When I lived in Norway in the late 1990s, the Norwegian government funded language and cultural education classes for all new immigrants into the nation. While it may be the Rolls Royce of systems, why should we not aspire to be the best?
For further policies from the Scottish Liberal Democrats, you can read our manifesto here: http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/manifesto