Kate Forbes: Ukrainian doctors should be allowed to help relieve pressure on NHS
SNP leadership hopeful Kate Forbes has pledged to look into whether Ukrainian-qualified doctors living in Scotland as refugees can work to help relieve pressure on the NHS.
The finance secretary, who is vying with health secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan to replace Nicola Sturgeon as head of the party, met with members of the Glasgow branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain today.
During the discussion, Forbes, who was accompanied by her six-month old daughter Naomi, heard from a Ukrainian doctor who said that not only were Ukrainian refugees finding it difficult to access medical care in the NHS but that she and colleagues were prevented from providing that care because they are not licensed to practise here.
Speaking through an interpreter, the doctor said it would “relieve pressure” on the NHS if Ukrainian doctors could at least provide that care to people inside Ukrainian communities.
Forbes said there would be a “mutual benefit” to such an arrangement, adding that not only is it “so important” to enable people with skills to contribute to the Scottish economy but that “at a time of pressure on the health service it would be ridiculous for qualified doctors who want to work to not be able to work”.
She said the point of the gathering was to “hear the primary issues, take them away and see what can be done to deal with issues as quickly as possible”.
During the meeting Forbes also heard about issues with education and housing, with one mother telling of the psychological problems her children have experienced after being housed together in cramped hotel accommodation and having to move school several times. That has been exacerbated, she said, by the lack of language skills among the teaching assistants allocated to help refugee children integrate in Scottish schools.
Others told of the problems they have encountered in trying to move on from hotels and a cruise ship that has been docked in Govan since last year specifically to offer temporary accommodation to Ukrainian families that have fled the war in their home country.
Though there is a government scheme to help resettle families, delays have led some to seek out their own social housing, where they have encountered difficulties in being able to refurbish them to a suitable standard.
Forbes promised to look into all the issues raised by the families, saying she would consider whether it was possible for the scheme used to house and resettle Ukrainians to be “flexed and adapted” to meet specific needs.
She added that it is “vital that the SNP continues to give maximum political support for Ukraine” and that if her leadership bid is successful she will “pull out all the stops” to help Ukraine as a country as well as those Ukrainians who want to remain here once the conflict is over.
Noting that Scotland stands in “common humanity” with Ukraine, “country to country, mother to mother, person to person”, she said: “My government will pull out all the stops to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom, by using all public policy and financial levers at our disposal to support Ukraine to rebuild its future as a European democracy, as well as supporting Ukrainians who are calling Scotland their home.
“I will ensure that we identify and explore further opportunities for the Scottish Government and the public sector more broadly, alongside Scotland’s private sector and civil society, to work with the Ukrainian government and policymakers to help rebuild their country, and ensure Scotland lives up to its place as a friend of Ukraine in its greatest time of need.”