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Inside Holyrood: 'Care is my number one priority'

By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Edward Mountain.
MSP Edward Mountain.

Conservative MSP Edward Mountain backs localism when it comes to vaccine rollout through GP practices, saying the personal touch makes "all the difference".

The delivery of the Covid vaccine is a race, which is why I welcome the speeding up of delivery across Scotland. After a slow start the Scottish Government have responded to criticism and have speeded-up.

In the central belt, centralised vaccinating centres appear to be working. There have been issues of unused vaccinations being disposed of at the end of a day and also of reduced numbers at weekends, but these are being addressed. These mass hubs work well in areas with large populations and good public transport but are not suited to rural areas.

In the Highlands and Islands, localism works best. I have watched with delight and admiration as local GP surgeries across the region have risen to the challenge and held local clinics. The result is that not only have they managed to get high ‘take up’ rates but they have also ensured every vaccine is used. This is achieved by GP surgeries contacting their patients and providing reassurance, practical advice and flexibility on timings. It is that personal touch that makes the difference.

Some concerns remain for those that are housebound and cannot attend clinics. The responsibility for their vaccinations rests with district nurses and NHS vaccination teams. After extensive questioning of NHS Highland, along with the pushing of individual cases, I am pleased to see the numbers starting to reduce. No one can be ‘left behind’ and if you think you might be, please do contact me.

Post this pandemic there is much we need to do to our health and social care sectors. Our Highland vaccination success has surely taught us that removing vaccinations from our GPs was a huge mistake. The closure of our local hospitals was surely also wrong, centralising treatment in one hospital limits treatment in an infectious world.

We must also learn just how important the ‘personal touch’ is when treating our most vulnerable, be they in our care homes or those with mental health issues. However much we might like to think a ‘zoom’ or ‘teams’ call will work, they are no substitute for reaching out. To continue to ban visits to care homes must be reviewed. The pain and anguish expressed to me regarding this is unimaginable.

I am also struck by the need to be more open and caring and when it comes to the ever-increasing mental health issues faced by many. That is why we need to ‘embed’ mental health nurses in our communities and not to rely on a service in Inverness supported by our police.

There is much to do which is why improving health care in the Highlands is my number one priority as we head towards the Scottish Elections in May.

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