25 May 2005

S2M-2553 Skin Disease

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 25 May 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

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Skin Disease

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business this evening is a members' business debate on motion S2M-2553, in the name of Kenneth Macintosh, on action on skin disease. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the stigma, frustration and desperation felt by many people with skin disease, including residents in East Renfrewshire; points out that conditions such as psoriasis are lifelong and incurable but are eminently treatable; highlights the benefit of having skin disease classified as a chronic condition; raises concern that skin disease is not a priority under the new GP contract; welcomes the new provision of specialist retraining in skin disease for nurses but points to the need for similar training for other health professionals such as pharmacists and GPs, given that 20% of GP consultations include skin disease, including an emphasis on skin conditions in the undergraduate education and training of health professionals; approves the Skin Action Scotland service redesign programme as an opportunity for clinicians to test new ways of accessing and delivering dermatology out-patient services and to better demonstrate and define the current relationship between demand and capacity, and looks to see greater availability to patients of new treatments with strong evidence of effectiveness such as the new biological treatments for psoriasis and the complications of arthritis.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Ken Macintosh on securing a debate on this important subject. I apologise on behalf of Shona Robison, who unfortunately is unable to be with us owing to a conflict in her diary. It is not lack of interest but logistics that mean that she is not here today.

I have a very personal interest in skin disease. If I explain that as a child my heroes were Pete Murray and Hank Marvin, members might get a faint clue as to what I am talking about. Both those media stars suffered from quite disfiguring post-acne scarring on their faces.

I suffered from the most horrific acne as an adolescent and continue to do so. Fortunately, in my case it is on my torso rather than on my face. Some of the treatments that I experienced over a period of approximately 10 years have left their effects on me today: I am infertile and have very short legs and small feet. That is fine, because my small feet are the smallest size so I can always get shoes in the sales—it is not all bad news. One has sometimes to be philosophical about the deal that life gives one, but other people are not always so well equipped to respond and adapt to what skin disease deals them.

Consider some of the social history of the human race: we always admired milk maids historically because they had clear and perfect complexions because they were exposed to cowpox so they did not get the disfiguring pustules and scarring that many other people in our community got through exposure to smallpox. That illustrates our instinctive response, over a long period of time, to people who have skin conditions. That is why it is so important, for their psychological and physical health and for society as a whole, that we provide for people with a variety of disfigurements that arise from skin conditions.

As Ken Macintosh said, skin cancer is an important issue for one of the body's major organs: the skin. We do not think of it as an organ, yet we would be lost without it. It is not an organ that we can cut off or amputate: we have to have it.

I have recently, in later life, become episodically subject to another skin condition: urticaria. In becoming exposed once again to the medical profession in relation to a skin condition, I have had reinforced what Ken Macintosh and some of the briefing papers that we have received said: there is no great in-depth understanding in the primary health care service of skin conditions and their identification. I was lucky because my GP has a particular interest, but he shared with me his thought that that situation is quite exceptional. I visited my GP after I had had that rather irritating condition for several months. He had a student with him, so I suspect that we spent more time than we might have done on what would otherwise have been dismissed as a relatively trivial condition.

The effects of urticaria are widespread, but I will close by referring to one fact that I uncovered in relation to the condition from which I suffered for many years, which is that people who have acne, or who had acne and have scarring from it, are far more likely to be unemployed as adults. Therefore, it is not simply a trivial adolescent condition. Skin conditions can affect people for their whole lives. I hope that the minister will be able to tell us that she will crank up the support for people who suffer from a range of skin conditions. I look forward to hearing what she has to say on this important topic.


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