A Right to Pulmonary Rehabilitation

This week I got the chance to meet people living with chest conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at the Scottish Parliament’s gym, where I got a “Pulmonary Rehab experience” with the help of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

Rehab is proven to keep people well and help them stay out of hospital, but thousands of people struggle to access rehab programmes or have long waits to get on one. Figures for Fife indicate that of the 4,837 people with COPD who would benefit from Pulmonary rehabilitation only 501 (11%) are being referred.

Claire with Morag Allison, Hazel Crombie, Mostyn Tuckwell and Linda Gray in the Scottish Parliament gym

Pulmonary rehabilitation is life-changing for people with lung conditions like COPD.  Everyone who needs it deserves access to this.Pulmonary rehabilitation prolongs lives and saves the NHS money by reducing hospital admissions – it is precisely the kind of service we should be offering more of.

I am fully behind Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s campaign to make pulmonary rehab available to all who need it.  There should be a universal and equal right to pulmonary rehab across the country. 

Carers Week 2019

I was delighted to receive my accreditation as a Carer Positive employer ahead of Carers Week (10-16 June), the annual awareness campaign to support Scotland’s 759,000 carers and 29,000 young carers.

The Carer Positive scheme recognises employers who offer support and flexibility to carers.

Claire receiving her Carer Positive accreditation from Sue McLintock of Carer Positive

The vital work of unpaid carers must be recognised and supported and employers have a responsibility to develop workplace policies and working practices which do this. I’m encouraging all employers to engage with Carer Positive on steps they can take to provide a supportive workplace for carers.

I also visited a Young Carers Group afternoon tea event in Lochgelly, just one of the hundreds of events taking place across Scotland as part of Carers Week. A parliamentary reception will celebrate 25 years of Carers Week and five years of the Carer Positive Award.

Most of us will care for someone, or be cared for, at some stage in our lives so it’s important for everyone to speak more openly about caring and for all of us to help support our carers practically and emotionally.

Claire with Kirstie Howell and Charlie Bowie from the Young Carers Focus Group in Lochgelly

 

Fife – Ready for Renewal

This week Scottish Labour led a debate in Parliament on the BiFab construction yards. Ahead of the debate I met with representatives of Fife – Ready for Renewal and gave my support to their campaign, which calls for work to be delivered to the yards in Methil and Burntisland.

 

The debate highlighted the location of EDF’s planned Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) Offshore Wind Farm off the Fife coast, calling for related contracts for turbine jackets to be awarded to BiFab rather than to overseas firms.  

The idea that EDF will award the contracts for wind-turbine jackets for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm, sitting off the coast of Fife, to Indonesia to then be shipped over seven thousand miles to Scotland is just not acceptable.

I am urging EDF to do the right thing, to honour commitments they have given to local investment, to support the Scottish industry. In return they will receive a highly skilled, committed workforce.

 

Christian Aid Week event in Parliament

I recently sponsored a Christian Aid event in the Scottish Parliament in advance of Christian Aid Week, which ran from the 12th to the 18th May 2019.

The event highlighted Christian Aid’s work on tackling extreme poverty, climate change, maternal health, and tax justice.  The week brings together partners and supporters to raise funds to support its global effort to fight poverty and find practical ways to highlight issues around it.

This year the annual fundraising effort was very successful, raising over £8 million.  Next year, there will be an opportunity for everyone in the Mid Scotland and Fife Region to get involved, attend organised events or make a financial contribution and I would encourage anyone who is interested to go to the website at www.christianaid.org.uk where you can find a wealth of information and resources.

 

Fife Passengers Still Waiting for Rail Improvements

Ahead of the introduction of new timetables in parts of the rail network, including on the Fife-Edinburgh line, ScotRail is promoting upcoming increases in available seats for passengers through its introduction of more high-speed trains and class 385 electric trains.

However there are no planned improvements for passengers travelling on the Fife circle, where commuters continue to experience delays, overcrowding and cancellations. ScotRail is failing to address the frustrations of Fife passengers and continues to deliver a sub-standard service. 

While increases in available seats might be good news for other passengers, I am really disappointed that there is no good news for Fife commuters. Fife is again forgotten about while passengers continue to travel on overcrowded trains and have to put up with cancellations.  Fifers spend a significant portion of their income on rail transport and this service continues to be not good enough.

We need to see improvement on the Fife circle sooner rather than later and I will continue to push for the Fife service to either be brought up to standard or for travellers to have a fare cut in compensation for the ongoing poor service.

Fife Gingerbread Funding Crisis

Recently in Parliament, I raised the impending funding crisis currently facing Fife Gingerbread, an award winning family support service, with the First Minister.

Fife Gingerbread are describing the funding crisis as a ‘perfect storm’.  Unless they are able to secure additional funding, they will have to stop supporting two thirds of the families currently receiving support and also possibly lose over half of their workforce.

I have therefore urged the First Minister and the Scottish Government to provide any support that they can to the organisation and the families that they work with, and encouraged them to work with Fife Council and relevant partners to try to quickly find a solution to the crisis facing the organisation.   

The funding crisis is due to a number of factors, including the end of project funding, and if we are to find a solution, all supporters need to work together.

I recognise that Fife Gingerbread are not the only local charity facing significant funding problems as we face the consequences of budget cuts but they are on the brink of a contraction that will impact significantly on vulnerable families.

I am pleased that in response to my parliamentary question, the Communities Secretary has agreed to engage with all involved and I remain in contact with Fife Gingerbread to help in any way that I can.  

I hope that a resolution is found quickly to enable their good work to continue.

Serious Question over Sheku Bayoh’s Death

On Monday, BBC Scotland aired ‘Disclosure; dead in police custody’ revealing CCTV footage of the moments leading up to the death of Sheku Bayoh.

I was interviewed as part of the show and I believe that the information that was revealed by Mark Daly raises serious questions that must be urgently answered.

I recognise that the police do a difficult job but something went wrong that morning.

Sheku’s death was entirely avoidable and serious questions have been raised about the proportionate nature of the police’s response, how deaths in custody are investigated and how families are treated when they lose a loved one.

We cannot be complacent and I believe that there must be a public inquiry.

You can watch the show on BBC iPlayer.

Private rent hikes show need for rent cap

Official figures show that the cost of private rented housing has soared across Mid Scotland and Fife as working people across Scotland have been faced with the average mean monthly rent increasing substantially since 2010.

The figures from the Scottish Government shows that Forth Valley has seen the highest increases, up 10.6% for one bedroom properties, 19.5% for two bedrooms, 21.9% for three bedrooms and 33.9% for four bedrooms.

Properties in Fife have seen a 9.1% increase for one bedroom, 18.1% for two, 17.1% for three and 26.6% for four bedrooms. Perth and Kinross have seen 8.6%, 8.7%, 11.7% and 15.8% increases respectively.

It is clear that a radical change is needed to end Scotland housing crisis and that is exactly what the next Scottish Labour government will deliver.

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Politicians can’t be silenced on GP Crisis

It has been clear for some time that Fife is in the middle of a GP crisis. We have seen surgeries struggle to recruit full-time doctors to replace those that have retired or moved on. As a result, many practices are having to close their lists to new patients and we have seen the closure of out-of-hours services in Glenrothes, Dunfermline and St Andrews.

That is why I have been trying to find the underlying cause of the crisis and find out just how bad it is, including raising the issue in Parliament and directly with the NHS. It is also the reason why I have spoken out as NHS Fife released a position statement on GP practices experiencing recruitment difficulties in Fife but marked the document as confidential.

I am clear that politicians cannot be silenced from speaking out. Despite knowing how many full lists there are, how many surgeries have vacancies of longer than a year, in one case 2 years, we are gagged from speaking out.

We have been told that one surgery is considered to be in a ‘high risk situation’ but I cannot name where. This is outrageous and damaging to relationships between the board, local politicians and patients.

As a public body, NHS Fife should be as open and transparent as possible. Hiding statistics and figures behind a ‘confidential’ clause goes against this and there must be an immediate rethink.

Following rumours of being side-lined after questioning the board, we have seen yet another high profile resignation with the Chair or the Health and Social Care Partnership leaving. As a result, senior members of NHS Fife are leaving at the rate of one every six months.

Fife has a right to know what is happening in their NHS and they have a right to know what action is being taken to address this growing GP crisis. Politicians must no longer be silenced.

You can read more here: Courier Website

Claire calls for ScotRail to be stripped of its franchise agreement

Tomorrow I will use a speech in the Scottish Parliament to call for ScotRail to be stripped of its franchise agreement at the earliest opportunity and for it to be taken back into public ownership.

The poor performance of ScotRail in Fife is one of the biggest complaints that I hear about in my role as an MSP.

My inbox is regularly full of emails from frustrated commuters who are often faced with delays or cancellations to their trains.

As a regular user of the service to get to Parliament during the week, I know only too well the misery faced by commuters every day. Action needs to be taken.

Instead, we have the SNP Government doing a secret backroom deal with ScotRail that allows them to continually deliver late running services and not face any consequences. Giving ScotRail a licence to fail is not the answer. With ScotRail persistently to breach their contract, we must not be content to continually let them off the hook.

Over a hundred peak time Fife Circle services heading to Edinburgh in the morning, and coming from Edinburgh in the evening, were cancelled between April and September this year. Services that were not cancelled often fell below ScotRail’s punctuality target which is when a train arrives within 5 minutes of its schedule time.

This is not good enough. Fife deserves better and I will be putting your concerns directly to the Government tomorrow.