Richard Simpson MSP

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Richard Simpson MSP

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  • Member for: Mid Scotland and Fife
  • Party: Scottish Labour

Richard is a member of the following Committees:

Richard is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

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Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Dr Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I am pleased to be summing up for Labour and supporting Labour’s amendment, following what has been, for the most part, a consensual debate that has allowed the Parliament to acknowledge the debt of gratitude that we owe to the men and women of our emergency services, whether they are fully employed by the major blue-light or uniformed services or are part-time workers, such as volunteer fire service workers. Mike MacKenzie told us that he used to be a volunteer firefighter, and Alison McInnes pointed out that volunteer firefighters make up 40 per cent of our service. I include those who employ their professional skills in a voluntary capacity, such as the doctors in BASICS—the British Association for Immediate Care Scotland, which has not been mentioned today but which supports the police, ambulance and fire services in relation to road accidents, and volunteers such as the first responders, whom Roderick Campbell talked about.

Many of the members who have spoken have done so based on their personal contact with or political experience of disasters. Patricia Ferguson spoke graphically about Stockline and reminded us of the consequences of delays in FAIs and the impact not only on those who have suffered but on the emergency services. A number of members, such as Hanzala Malik and Colin Beattie, spoke about the Clutha disaster; Paul Martin spoke about the recent George Square disaster; Gil Paterson spoke about the incident in Clydebank; and Elaine Murray reminded us of the recent events in Paris, in which the army and various types of police were involved, and of the Glasgow School of Art fire.

From all those accounts, what is clear to me is the huge professionalism of our core services and the ability of various organisations to deploy their particular skills in the seamless and co-ordinated way that Christine Grahame graphically described in relation to the River Teviot incident.

However, linking volunteers with those core services is also vital. For example, there are 95 BASICS medics connected to the Scottish Ambulance Service, and that sort of connection is important.

In the past few days, we have heard of Pauline Cafferkey’s improvement, and we should, today of all days, pay tribute to those from the health and fire services who volunteer to work at international disaster sites. Tsunamis, earthquakes and the flooding that results from climate change, such as the flooding in Malawi that we heard about during today’s First Minister’s question time, affect countries that do not have the resources to tackle the consequences. Our volunteers play a vital role in that regard. Médecins Sans Frontières, which I am a particular advocate of and is the British Medical Association’s Christmas charity, is working in Syria, north Pakistan and west Africa in circumstances that we can only think about. We cannot imagine what those workers have to face on a daily basis.

I will not dwell on accident and emergency staff today, but I will say that anyone who has witnessed a busy shift—more and more shifts fall into that category—must applaud the nurses, doctors and other staff in our A and E departments. This is not just a winter issue; this is now an all-year-round issue.

I recently visited our only charitable air ambulance, which is based in Scone, in my constituency. Before the service got under way, people asked whether it would be fully utilised and whether we needed it in addition to the two NHS air ambulances. This is one of the few political points that I will make in my speech. The air ambulances flew 3,427 sorties last year and are becoming essential to our service. With the major trauma units about to come on stream, we will need more air ambulance provision, not less, and if the Kerr and Christie reports are acted on, rationalisation, primarily for patients’ safety and only secondly for cost effectiveness, will demonstrate that need. As elective procedures are carried out in one hospital and all acute cases are handled in another hospital, the acute cases will need that transport. Therefore, I encourage members to support the charitable air ambulance service.

Whenever we list all the emergency services, some groups are inevitably left out. For example, I would not have thought of the farmers without Graeme Dey’s excellent description of the work that they do on our behalf. Jackson Carlaw also reminded us of those who are usually unsung, such as those who work for GCHQ, whose work often goes unrecognised. I would add to the list—as Elaine Murray did—civilian support staff. I am glad that we have, as a country, albeit belatedly, recognised the Bevin boys and the Arctic merchant seamen, who were important individuals during the war but who have only recently been recognised.

Jackson Carlaw referred to the unacceptable behaviour of hoax callers, and Paul Martin reminded us that, after listening to emergency service staff, we legislated for those who had been physically abused. Listening is important.

I join Alison McInnes and others in praising the electricity supply workers who have worked tirelessly in the recent past to reconnect supplies in remote areas. I also join in the thanks to Network Rail and transport staff for their efforts in the past few days to keep our rail and road systems functioning.

Many members, such as Roderick Campbell, have spoken eloquently about their local services and their personal experiences. Patricia Ferguson gave us the image of firefighters going up a tower block as she and her family were coming down. That resonated strongly with me. On one occasion, I received the support of a voluntary fire service officer in my practice. I had been called on to talk a mentally ill patient down from a ledge on the main street in Bridge of Allan but, having a fear of heights at that time, which I fortunately do not have now, I was terrified. The officer, who was about half my size and half the size of my patient, successfully managed to help us both to get down—my patient did not jump—so I owe that service a personal debt.

The cabinet secretary, Hugh Henry and others have referred to the mountain rescue service, and I will not add to their significant descriptions. Although 25 lives may have been lost in a year, how many more were saved? Many people owe their lives to the 1,000 volunteers.

Jamie McGrigor talked about his own family’s experience of the RNLI, which must surely be one of the best examples of a voluntary service. As Mike MacKenzie asked, who among us would go out on the sea in storms such as the weather bomb that we experienced recently?

St Andrew’s First Aid and the British Red Cross are another two organisations that not only respond but attend many sporting and other events where one never knows what is going to happen. They also train others in basic first aid, so they spread the emergency service. In Bridge of Allan primary school, in my constituency, I was delighted recently to present training certificates to the teachers, who will now train the pupils in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If we spread those skills among our community, we increase the resilience of our community, so schemes such as that one, which is supported by the British Heart Foundation, are important.

Our amendment asks that the Parliament go beyond warm words, and in funding the core services we do that. Nevertheless, this is about resilience, and we should interact directly with our front-line staff. I will not instruct committees to undertake inquiries, but I will ask the Health and Sport Committee to invite front-line staff—not just the mangers, whom we have already interviewed about resilience—to give evidence. As some members have said, we must take the time to listen to those front-line staff, even given our committees’ crowded agendas.

I will make two further points, one philosophical and one practical. In Scotland, we have a unique funding approach in support of our hospices, which is based on a promise that was made 30 years ago that the Government would match, pound for pound, every pound that the public contributes. That is controlled by budgets and things, but it is basically still the situation 30 years on. It is my belief that, in an era in which authority and Government have increasingly small standing, taking that approach to some of our volunteer services would renew a partnership between Government and people. If the funds that are raised for the Loch Awe scheme were matched by the Government, that would send a message to that community that we value what it is doing and want to support it.

That suggestion is contained in a very good discussion paper published by the Carnegie UK Trust that is entitled “The Enabling State”. It is by Sir John Elvidge, one of our foremost former civil servants. I commend the suggestion to members as a way in which the state can support our communities.

The other issue that I want to mention is born out of my experience. In treating a police officer years after the Lockerbie disaster, I recognised that he was suffering from unrecognised post-traumatic stress disorder. Alison McInnes mentioned the number of police officers who are off with stress. We need to be mindful of the effect on men and women in our emergency services. As well as putting themselves at immediate risk, they can pay a heavy price psychologically. We must be open about that and ensure that they know that we recognise the problem and will support them.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Dr Simpson

It is good that we have reflected on everybody who has a job in the emergency services, including the volunteers and those in the blue-light and uniformed services. I hope that we will agree to Labour’s amendment to send a clear message that we will listen and will look at the issue. Not to agree to the amendment would send the wrong message, so I hope that it will be supported.

16:46  

Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

At the most recent audit, I think that only about 50 per cent of practices were using the services, so the initiative to increase their use is welcome.

The Government has announced that there will be an inspection system for general practice. That is about 18 months behind the one in England, which has been going for that length of time. When will the inspection system start?

Will the Government look at the recent article by Ron Neville, a GP in Dundee, who has an appointment system that seems to me to be absolute best practice? I hope that the Government will look at it and promote that.



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I am pleased to open this debate on Labour’s motion. As usual, I draw members’ attention to my declaration of interests.

The motion is wide ranging, as indeed are the amendments, and I hope that we will have a constructive debate. It is inevitable that Opposition parties must fulfil their prime duty of holding the Government to account, and the Government will no doubt defend its record as usual, but I hope that we can at least begin by agreeing that the valuable funding that is provided through the Barnett formula has proved useful over the years.

Labour increased health spend by 100 per cent between 1997 and 2008. That was the largest increase in funding for the national health service in 60 years.

Of course, decisions about what to do with the funds that are provided are wholly for the Scottish Government. In that respect, a few questions really should be answered. The independent Office for National Statistics reported that from 2008 to 2013 England increased per capita spend in real terms, while the Scottish National Party reduced per capita spend. I admit that the numbers are relatively small in both cases; nevertheless, there was a reduction in Scotland. More important, the increase in expenditure in the north-east of England, which is often used as a comparison site for Scotland and other regions and countries, was greater than that in the rest of England. I wonder whether the SNP is comfortable with the fact that, for the first time in the history of the NHS, Scotland has fewer general practitioners per capita than the north-east of England.



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Simpson

I absolutely welcome the investment, and I want to acknowledge that since our Parliament reopened in 1999, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have been on common ground in seeking to sustain a public service model for our devolved NHS that is based on collaboration and co-operation and not on competition. In June, the Conservatives joined us in agreeing that principle. The cross-party agreement on principles for the way forward is extremely welcome.

Since 2007, demands on the Scottish NHS have increased. The number of elderly people has increased from 400,000 to 500,000 over that period, and many of those half million people will have complex morbidity. There have been advancements in medical diagnostics, and there are ever-more expensive medicines that require specialist administration, and new treatments. That is why the SNP’s oft-repeated defence, whereby it compares staffing levels under Labour in 2007 with levels in 2014, is not only irrelevant but nonsensical. It is critical that we have more staff if we are to meet the greater demand, as Malcolm Chisholm will say in his speech.

The two main drivers of improvement in patient experience since 2001 have been targets and the patient safety programme. Both policies are important and welcome. There are targets for the time from referral to treatment, diagnostics, accident and emergency, cancer diagnosis and treatment, and delayed discharge, many of which were instituted by Labour. In each area, we began from a low base, and progress has been made under both Administrations. In many cases, when the initial target was reached, a new and more demanding target was set. That approach has transformed patient experience.

Comparing the targets that Labour had met by 2007 with what is now being achieved may make good soundbites that are oft repeated, but doing so is, frankly, infantile. Any comparisons should show whether there were year-on-year improvements, and until 2012 that was the case under both Administrations. The problem is that, in many instances—excluding the new targets in child and adolescent mental health services and in psychological treatments—we have been going backwards since 2012.



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Simpson

That just emphasises the point.

There is a scandal at the centre of this targets business. I do not mind the fact that the accident and emergency waiting time target has been reduced from 98 per cent to 95 per cent. That was quite a sensible move, as the target of 98 per cent was going to be too demanding. However, the scandal is the Scottish National Party’s Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 legal guarantee, which has been breached every month since its introduction—and breaches of it are on a rising trend. Having a target is one thing, but it is complete and utter nonsense to have a target that is a legal guarantee if it is not going to be met.



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Simpson

If, cabinet secretary, your Government had taken our advice and not made it a legal guarantee—



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Simpson

No, it should not be a legal guarantee. This is an—



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Simpson

Sorry?



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Dr Simpson

The cabinet secretary says that it is not a problem. I welcome the fact that 600,000 people—98 per cent—have been treated within 12 weeks. However, that is a completely different matter from the Government’s having given a legal guarantee. We said at the time that that law was a nonsense, and it is still a nonsense. It should be abandoned because it is a bad use of the law. As the Government’s amendment says, most people who required treatment were treated, but it was not us who promoted the guarantee. Every breach of the guarantee is not a number but a person whose experience is poorer.

Another crucial Labour decision was the decision to initiate a move to a largely consultant-led service. Cabinet secretary—am I allowed to say that?—it takes 10 years, post graduation, to train a consultant, so the maths is clear: not a single consultant has been trained and taken up a post under the SNP—they all began their training under a Labour plan.

Workforce planning is never easy, but it has to be done for the medium to long term. Let us look at what the SNP has done. Under SNP plans that were announced in 2011, specialist training grades were to be cut by 40 per cent and foundation year 1 and 2 posts were to be cut by 20 per cent, at a time when implementation of the European working time directive was going to require more junior and middle grades.

There have been several consequences of that. First, we have the largest number of consultant vacancies that the NHS has ever experienced—the number is now 339, or 6.5 per cent; in some specialities, it is 20 per cent.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12095.2 Alex Johnstone: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12095.1 Willie Rennie: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12095 Alex Neil: Tackling Inequalities—That the Parliament agrees that a strong, sustainable eco
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

Selection of John Pentland MSP for appointment to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
YesCarried

S4M-12060.2 Hugh Henry: Commending the People who Keep Scotland Safe in Emergencies—As an amendment
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12045.3 Shona Robison: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-12045 in the name of Rich
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12045.2 Jackson Carlaw: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-12045 in the name of Ric
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Richard Simpson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12082: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12045: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11989: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11975.2: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11844: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11815: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11788: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11779: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11715: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11590: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Richard Simpson
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Question S4W-24057: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24059: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24058: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24055: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24054: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24056: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24045: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24046: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24047: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24048: Richard Simpson, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>