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by Jan 30, 2012 No Comments

Statement 18.01.12: Scottish Ambulance Service (Rest Breaks)

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced to Parliament that an agreement had been reached between the management and the staff side of the Scottish Ambulance Service in respect of rest breaks and a long-term solution had been found.

“The long-term solution is that the Ambulance Service will move towards a 37.5 hour paid working week for relevant staff inclusive of rest periods, with staff required to attend emergency calls throughout their shift period. Let me explain that in more detail. Currently, staff are rostered to be at work for 40 hours per week, are paid for 37.5 hours and are entitled to 2.5 hours of unpaid rest periods,” she explained.

“The management of those unpaid rest periods has proved increasingly difficult over time and led to the unacceptable situation where a critically ill person might not be attended to by the nearest available ambulance crew. That situation compromises patient safety and is unfair to staff who, in simply abiding by their contract of employment, can find themselves the subject of public and media anger. That will no longer be the case.” She continued: “In future, staff will be rostered for 37.5 hours per week and paid for 37.5 hours per week. Their rest breaks will be included in those hours and, although the service remains committed to ensuring that staff are adequately rested, all accident and emergency operational vehicle crew staff, urgent tier staff, air wing staff and special operations response teams will be available to attend emergency calls throughout their entire shift.

“This reduction from a 40-hour to a 37.5 hour rostered week, inclusive of meal breaks, obviously reduces the service’s available capacity. As that capacity will have to be replaced, additional investment in the service will be required, just as it would have been to make the payments in the previous offer, had it been accepted.

However, resolving the issue in this way ensures that the additional investment will deliver additional staffing, resources and resilience, rather than more money to existing ambulance staff.” In the short-term, the Scottish Government will provide the Ambulance Service with additional funding to procure software that will assist in the planning of service change, performance improvement and strategic planning, she said. While in the longer-term, the Scottish Government will support the service in this fundamental service redesign by employing approximately 150 additional front-line staff.

“The agreement that I have outlined allows me to be assured and, more important, it allows me to reassure the public that patient safety is paramount, that the views of the Ambulance Service workforce are respected and that a radical and long-term solution to the issue of the management of rest breaks within the service has been found,” Sturgeon concluded.

Committee 17.01.12: Minimum pricing

Steps should be taken to ensure the legality of legislation on minimum pricing before it is passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Health and Sport Committee has been told.

A panel of witnesses representing the alcohol industry also spoke of the need for a sunset clause, such as was proposed by Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon in the previous session, to ensure the legislation is “dispassionately and independently” verified after a defined period of time.

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive, Scotch Whisky Association said the association believes “strongly” that minimum pricing is an “illegal measure” and urged the committee to “settle this issue once and for all” before Parliament passes legislation that is likely to be challenged.

However, Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said the committee must accept the reality that the Scottish Government’s majority in the Scottish Parliament means this legislation will be passed, and so asked the witnesses for their thoughts on the possible consequences of the legislation.

Michael Patten, global public affairs director, Diageo replied: “The biggest consequence that we may have to confront is the outcomes that are anticipated from this policy are not delivered. In other words, we’ve gone to a lot of work to introduce legislation with very good intent but we don’t get the outcomes.” Evidence supporting minimum pricing is “low”, he said, and so requested that if the legislation is enacted, it is reviewed after a defined period of time to “dispassionately and independently verify whether it is delivering the objective for which it was intended.” He added: “We would suggest to the committee that, as a back stop to this, that we introduce some form of sunset clause, a review clause, in the event that this legislation is enacted, not withstanding the very clear risk that this legislation may not be deemed legal by Europe.” Hewitt also expressed his concern that establishing a precedent on minimum pricing based and justified on health grounds will be “misused” by other jurisdictions and administrations.

He explained: “If Scotland goes ahead with a healthbased justification for minimum price, I can give you a guarantee that jurisdictions from around the world will use that precedent to discriminate against Scottish whisky. We have calculated that we would lose 14.5 per cent of our exports, or £500m worth over a number of years,” he said.

However, Emma Reynolds, government affairs director, Tesco, argued it could lead to innovation in the range of products available.

“We’ve seen a big growth in the last year, almost 50 per cent, of low and no-alcohol beer.

“So we are introducing a new set of products next week, a new range of low-alcohol beers. So you might expect to see some more innovation in the market as well and some different products.”

Written question 23.01.12: Care rounds

Richard Simpson (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will ask acute hospitals to introduce an hourly rounding system for all patients over 70.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon replied: “A number of NHS boards in Scotland are already implementing “international” or “care” rounding approaches and will be evaluating the impact on the quality of care and patient experience and a project is currently being led by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) to test and implement international rounding to complement work already being taken forward by NHS boards.

“In addition, ‘Releasing Time to Care’ has been rolled out across all NHS boards in Scotland and incorporates a series of evidence-based approaches to ensure that the time that nurses spend with patients is maximised.

“An overarching principal of both the National Standards for Dementia Care and the Clinical Standards for Older People in Acute Care is that there should be no discrimination on the basis of age, but that the specific needs of people at different stages of life should be recognised, we would not therefore encourage boards to limit the introduction of intentional rounding to patients over the age of 70 or to specify that rounds should be carried out hourly, but rather that care rounds should be planned to meet the needs of individual patients.”

Events diary

30 January – 3 February

ASH Scotland Exhibition Garden Lobby

31 January

Equal Marriage Reception Garden Lobby, 18.00

1 February

Screening of ‘The Connected Baby’ Committee Room 1, 18.00

7 February

Health and Sport Committee meeting’ Committee Room 6, 09.00

8 February

Muscular Dystrophy Cross-Party Group Committee Room 5, 13.00

29 February

eHealth Scotland, a Holyrood magazine event Edinburgh

Katie Mackintosh Katie Mackintosh

Katie is Holyrood magazine's Health Correspondent and has been with the magazine since 2005. She has an MA in Sociology with Gender from Edinburgh University and a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Napier University. Katie has been named PPA Scotland Feature Writer of the Year three times - in 2008, 2009, and again in 2013. She was also shortlisted for magazine writer of the year at the Scottish Press Awards in 2012. An Aberdonian by birth but a Glaswegian by nature, she now lives in Fife with her husband and young...

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