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Q&A: Alex Cole-Hamilton on the health of the nation

Alex Cole-Hamilton

Q&A: Alex Cole-Hamilton on the health of the nation

Dealing with COVID-19 and its knock-on effects will continue to be the priority for the health service for the foreseeable future. But what do you think is the most pressing concern in terms of the country’s health at this particular stage of the pandemic?

Dealing with COVID-19 and its knock-on effects will continue to be the priority for the health service for the foreseeable future. But what do you think is the most pressing concern on terms of the country’s health at this particular stage of the pandemic?  There is no doubt that Scotland’s mental health crisis will only have worsened since the pandemic. People have faced months of isolation and are now faced with the prospect of huge uncertainty. I think one of our key priorities needs to be getting mental health waiting times down and ensuring that nobody is denied access to the care they need. 

What are the key questions you believe should be addressed by any inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of COVID-19?

What are the key questions you believe should be addressed by any inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of COVID-19? Without a doubt we need a full inquiry into the care home death crisis. Why were patients sent into care homes when they were known to have tested positive for Covid-19? We need to establish who made these decisions, and ensure that it never happens again. 

The NHS is treasured across the country by people of all political persuasions but does that put it beyond criticism and can you see areas that need to change?

The NHS is treasured across the country by people of all political persuasions but does that put it beyond criticism and can you see areas that need to change? We need to recognise the role of social care workers and health professionals alike. That means offering them a meaningful pay award, a deployment stipend for any ‘red-zone’ work and a coronavirus service medal. Above that we need to relieve pressure on them at all times by increasing the workforce and getting workforce planning right.

What should the future of elderly care look like?

What should the future of elderly care look like? This is a complex question that deserves more than just a brief interview answer. It’s clear that the big care homes got the worst of the pandemic. We need to recognise that the cut price model of social care no longer works. We need to support people to stay in their own communities for longer, with care and treatment brought to them.

Mental health issues have clearly come to the fore in recent times and only exacerbated by the pandemic, do you think more could be done to bring parity of care for mental health in line with physical health?

Mental health issues have clearly come to the fore in recent times and only exacerbated by the pandemic, do you think more could be done to bring parity of care for mental health in line with physical health? Mental health waiting times were a disgrace in Scotland even before Covid. That children should wait 2 years for first line treatment is a national scandal. If your daughter came off her bike and broke her leg she’d be in plaster by the end of the day, but if she comes to you with anxiety or trauma, she will join the longest queue in the NHS.

Before the pandemic, the drug death crisis was regarded as one of the most urgent health challenges facing the country. What can be done to make up for lost time in addressing this?

Before the pandemic, the drug death crisis was regarded as one of the most urgent health challenges facing the country. What can be done to make up for lost time in addressing this? The SNP Government cut drug and alcohol services by 23% over 2015 and 2016. They have never recovered and we now have a drug death rate two times higher than England and the worst in the whole of Europe. We need to refocus funding and policy development on this area and recognise it for the national crisis it is.

The pandemic has shown how compliant Scots can be in terms of public health messaging, do you think we should use that lesson to know address issues such as obesity?

The pandemic has shown how compliant Scots can be in terms of public health messaging, do you think we should use that lesson to know address issues such as obesity? I can see the arguments for it but essentially I don’t believe we should start using the extreme measures of compliance for this crisis as a regular strategy. I’m Liberal Democrat and the heart of Liberalism is allowing people to make their own choices and have their own autonomy over their lives. The covid-19 pandemic is obviously and exception to this but that's because it was an infectious virus that required mass compliance to ensure safety.

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