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26 June 2018

S5M-12842 National Health Service 70th Birthday

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-12842, in the name of Richard Leonard, on the NHS’s 70th birthday. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament celebrates 5 July 2018 as the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS; agrees with the words of its founder, Aneurin Bevan, that it is “a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative”; believes that, each and every day, both in Central Scotland and throughout the country, there are countless examples of the importance and success of the NHS; thanks all health service staff, past and present, for their compassion and dedication in delivering care to people in need, and wishes the NHS a happy 70th birthday.

17:01
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17:08

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I start by paying tribute to things that the Labour Party has done, which is not a natural thing that members would expect me to do. However, in the past hundred years, the legislation that it has introduced to establish the national health service is a most significant and enduring achievement that we should all commend. In this Parliament, I have commended Jack McConnell in the past—and I do so again today—for his political courage in introducing legislation on smoking. The Labour Party is capable of getting things right. However, I have to draw one or two different conclusions from those that we have just heard in the contribution that has been made so far in this debate.

First, I remind members on the Labour benches that, in fact, the story of the national health service really started with the Highland and Islands medical service, which was established in 1913 and covered half of Scotland’s land mass. It was not free at the point of supply, but it set the limit on what people paid at a very low level so that, for the first time, ordinary working men and women had access to a health service.

In rolling out the service in the 1940s, Beveridge was drawing on that model, so the routes that have got us to where we are are more diverse than the simple idea that it was Beveridge. It is none the worse for any of that, I have to say, and I do say. Indeed, the quotation from Nye Bevan in the motion is one that I agree with.

I will do what I did in the previous health debate. I went again to the Care Opinion website and found the following entries, all from the past week, and it is not all doom and gloom. A patient treated at Aberdeen royal infirmary said:

“I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in September 2017 ... the support of the whole diabetic team at Davidson Anderson Building, ARI has been incredible.”

A comment on the play service at Aberdeen children’s hospital states:

“I think the play service is a really valuable service that helps children make the hospital seem less scary.”

Commenting on their son’s three-and-a-half-week stay at the Royal Aberdeen children’s hospital, a parent said:

“My boy broke his femur at 2.5 years old and was in traction for 3.5 weeks ... My son really enjoyed his time with the play staff who made his stay very enjoyable”.

Listen to that. They are talking about someone in traction with a broken femur. That is how good the hospital was. Another comment, on Dr Gray’s maternity hospital, states:

“When my grandchild was born in August 2017 he had to stay in SCBU for 10 days ... The care that was given to both my daughter and grandchild was exceptional.”

That tells us a lot about the staff in the health service, because that is front-line experience. It also tells us about the system that supports the staff.

I will conclude with a comparison with the world before then, because I was born before the health service. I have here a copy of a medical bill that my mother had to pay, because the year before I was born she had an ectopic pregnancy—a pregnancy in the fallopian tube—and had to go to hospital and have that fallopian tube removed. It was a very serious operation, but fortunately it was done with such skill that she was then able to give birth to me, her first live birth, and to two subsequent children.

The point is that the amount of money on the bill is three-and-a-half weeks of the average working man or woman’s wage at that time. My mother was fortunate to come from a family who could afford that. The health service made it possible for the quality of service that my mother was able, fortunately, to pay for, to be available to all. I congratulate the health service on its upcoming 70th birthday. We are all grateful for its enduring contribution to our society.

17:12

Stewart Stevenson
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