What's on the agenda for 2019?

Wednesday 9th January 2019

One of Jeane Freeman’s first acts as Health Secretary was to give health boards more financial leeway, but the latest performance figures suggest the health service could still struggle as winter pressures bite. With this in mind, we take a look at some of the other developments on the horizon for 2019.

In the Scottish Parliament, proceedings commence with a Scottish Government debate on the life sciences sector. Steady growth in the sector, which is on track to double turnover to £8bn by 2025, could yet be derailed by Brexit and disruption to supply chains, regulation and medicines licensing.

Public Health Scotland

The Scottish Government has committed to create a new public health body, Public Health Scotland, in 2019. Replacing NHS Health Scotland and bringing in health protection and improvement expertise from elsewhere in the NHS, the Government hopes this will provide clear leadership and refocus the drive to tackle the stark health inequalities that exist between the richest and poorest.

Staffing legislation

MSPs will have the opportunity to amend the Health & Care Staffing Bill when it is considered by the Health & Sport Committee at Stage 2 in the last week of January. The general principles of the legislation, which would create a legal requirement for health and care providers to use workforce planning tools, have been approved unanimously by MSPs. The plans have been criticised, however, over whether they would address the wider recruitment and resourcing challenges the sector faces.

Organ donation legislation

The Committee will also be examining legislation that would introduce an opt out system for organ donation. The Human Tissue (Authorisation) Bill (Scotland) would mean that an individual’s consent for organ donation is presumed unless they have expressly indicated otherwise. So far witnesses have been broadly supportive of the intention behind the legislation, though some have called for additional reforms alongside the new register, such as dedicated transplant nurses.

Mental health

Elsewhere, an update on the 800 new mental health professionals announced in the mental health strategy has been promised for early 2019. Such an update is eagerly awaited, particularly after statistics published recently in relation to child and adolescent mental health services revealed many have been waiting longer than the treatment time guarantee period as services struggle to meet demand.

After the independent task force set up by the Scottish Government to review CAMHS published its Delivery Plan for service improvement towards the end of last year, a detailed work plan is expected to be published in April 2019.