Briefing: FM outlines health plans for year ahead

Programme for government includes series of announcements on issues ranging from infrastructure projects to unhealthy food

Wednesday 4th September 2019

It might not have the high drama of Westminster, but yesterday’s programme for government – the Scottish Government’s plans for the year ahead – was jam-packed with new policies.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech focused on the climate crisis but also included significant announcements across health and social care.

Following high-profile issues at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children, a new national body to oversee health infrastructure projects and infection control will be established.

Charities campaigning for the rights of people who have spent time in care, welcomed a raft of announcements aimed at boosting the support on offer for care-experienced people.

They include free NHS dental care, a new payment to support employment and more free childcare hours, while siblings taken into care will now be kept together unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.

Meanwhile, campaigners said a promised new law to crack down on multi-buy deals on unhealthy foods was “world-leading” – but expressed disappointment the legislation will only be brought to Holyrood in 2020.

On cancer, the first minister committed to more cash for a programme aimed at earlier detection of the disease, amid statistics showing a stubborn diagnosis gap between the richest and poorest remains.

Self-sampling for cervical screening tests will be trialled and £2m will be invested in technology to detect advanced prostate cancer.

Elsewhere, a national brain health centre will be established to research dementia and there was also a commitment to back a ‘large-scale’ project trialling integrated dementia home care.

Health information service NHS 24 will also trial a GP practice triage system in which patients looking for a same-day appointment will be directed to the most appropriate member of the primary care team.

Another announcement on children’s mental health promised 24/7 crisis support, including a text service, as well as community wellbeing services that young people can be referred to or self-refer.

And, despite a lack of movement from UK ministers on the issue, the Scottish Government intends to consult on reforms to drug law in the event the UK Government changes its tune.

This sits alongside an additional £20m and the development of a national opiate replacement therapy programme.

On social care, the government admitted self-directed support – a new way of organising care that gives individuals control over how they are cared for – is ‘not yet fully embedded’.

It pledged to develop a vision for a ‘sustainable’ care home sector, smooth out inconsistencies in care provision and make self-directed support more evenly available.