Plan to work ‘constructively’ with health secretary

The BMA in Scotland has said it looks forward to working constructively with the newly appointed cabinet secretary for health and sport.

Jeane Freeman, SNP MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, takes over from Shona Robison, who resigned during a cabinet reshuffle.

Claire Haughey is the new minister for mental health, taking over from Maureen Watt.

Joe FitzPatrick becomes minister for public health, sport and well-being, taking over from Aileen Campbell who has been promoted to the post of cabinet secretary for communities and local government.

BMA Scottish council chair Peter Bennie said: ‘I congratulate Jeane Freeman on being appointed health secretary. At the BMA, we look forward to working constructively with her, as we did with Shona Robison.

‘The efforts Shona Robison made to engage with doctors were appreciated by the profession and in particular the new GP contract and the final delivery of minimum unit pricing have been key successes during her time as health secretary. We wish her well for the future.

‘Similarly, we thank Ms Watt for her efforts to address the issues with mental health Scotland faces and are keen to engage with her successor on this crucial issue when they are appointed.

‘This is a challenging time for the NHS in Scotland and we need to see more substantive efforts to tackle the growing gap between resources and demand for services. We also need to see concerted efforts to tackle recruitment and retention and this must include a significant pay increase to start addressing the unacceptable pay restrictions that doctors have faced in Scotland for several years.’

Ms Freeman, the daughter of a nurse and an aircraft fitter, was an adviser to Labour first minister Jack McConnell until 2005, where her work included the health portfolio.

She was an active campaigner for independence, and was one of the founders of Women for Independence. She stood for Parliament for the SNP in 2016 and was immediately appointed as minister for social security.

She is a previous board member and chair of the National Waiting Times Centre (formerly the Golden Jubilee Hospital), one of Scotland’s special health boards.

Royal College of GPs Scotland’s deputy chair (policy), Alasdair Forbes, said the college looked forward to working with Ms Freeman to safeguard the future of general practice.

‘Scotland will be 856 whole-time equivalent GPs short by 2021. Our new cabinet secretary’s predecessor, Shona Robison MSP, made clear the Scottish Government’s wish to work in this area, with an initial announcement of 800 extra headcount GPs by 2027. We will look to work closely with the new cabinet secretary to develop that commitment so that the country’s shortfall in GP numbers can be turned around sooner rather than later.’

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