Cervical Screening Rates Fall in NHS Fife

Following the publication of the annual cervical screening statistics for Scotland, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker is urging women across Fife to ensure they are up to date with their screening appointments.

The figures from Public Health Scotland show that across Scotland, the uptake rate for cervical screening in females aged 25-64 was 69.3%, down from 71.2% in 2020, while in Fife uptake fell from 72.2% to 70.3%. Uptake in the NHS Fife area for women aged 25-49 was 68.4%

Those from the most deprived areas are less likely to take part in screening, with uptake of 63% compared with 74% in the least deprived areas. Younger women are also less likely to participate, with uptake among 25-29 year olds at 55.4%.

Claire Baker has also written to NHS Fife seeking clarification around arrangements for routine screening appointments following the introduction of HPV screening in March 2020.

Claire Baker, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said:

“While it may not be surprising that screening attendance has fallen, these figures should be a wake-up call that  more needs to be done to encourage and increase uptake.

“Cervical screening attendance in Fife is 70.3%, meaning one in four women don’t attend when invited. While a test may involve some discomfort, it can save your life.  Smear tests can prevent cervical cancer and I would encourage all women to make sure they are up to date with their smear tests.

“The impact of covid has only increased the gap in attendance between the most and least deprived groups and we cannot let this inequality continue. The lower rates of uptake among younger women is also a concern and must be addressed.

“I have been pushing the Scottish Government on the use of self-sampling and we need to see increased use of innovative solutions like this to increase participation, alongside clear information on when people will be called and why so they can make informed decisions on their healthcare.“

Regarding her letter to NHS Fife, Claire Baker added:

Following the introduction of HPV screening, routine screening has been extended to every five years for 25-64 year olds, but this should only apply to women only once they have been screened using the hr-HPV primary screen and received a negative result.

“I have been contacted by constituents who have been advised they will not be called for five years due to the introduction of HPV screening, despite their last appointment being prior to its introduction, so have written to NHS Fife seeking clarification on this.”

Expanding Winter Fuel Payment Would Benefit Thousands of Fifers

MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Claire Baker is urging the SNP to take up Scottish Labour’s plans to expand the Winter Fuel Payment, after new figures revealed it could help up to 42,862 people in Fife.

Last week Scottish Labour called on the Scottish Government to introduce a £70 winter fuel supplement for low-income pensioners and struggling families, as the cost of living crisis looms. 

On October 1 the energy price cap rose by £139 – the largest increase in history. In contrast, the rate of Winter Fuel Payment has been frozen since 2011. Campaign groups have warned that the energy price rise and sky-high energy prices will lead to preventable deaths. This comes as furlough is brought to an end and the Universal Credit uplift is scrapped, prompting fears of a cost of living crisis stretching household budgets past breaking point. 

The Scottish Parliament has the power to take action to expand Winter Fuel Payments and alleviate fuel poverty, which affects an estimated 600,000 people across Scotland – but the SNP has delayed the devolution of the benefit from the Department of Work and Pensions for up to 4 years.

Now, Scottish Labour are urging the Government to use the powers they have to try and ensure no-one faces a choice between heating and eating this winter. 

Scottish Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Claire Baker, said: 

“Too many Scots are facing fuel poverty as energy prices spiral out of control, but the Scottish Parliament can make a difference here. We have the powers to ensure payments reflect the pressures on fuel poor households – if the Scottish Government acts now we could help thousands of people in Fife this winter.

“No-one should have to face a choice between heating and eating. That’s why Labour would give people struggling with fuel poverty £70 now to help them through the winter months. In Fife this would help up to 42,862 people. 

“The Scottish Government needs to act now and ensure this additional support is made available for those in need this winter.”

NHS Fife Pressures Must Be Addressed

MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Claire Baker has called on the Scottish Government to act to alleviate pressures on NHS Fife services ahead of the onset of winter.

Earlier this month NHS Fife postponed all non-urgent surgery and some outpatient appointments, saying it was facing pressure “unlike anything we have experienced during our response to the pandemic”. This week they have referred to “significant ongoing challenges” and are looking at other services which can be stepped back to ensure safe staffing is in place.

During Portfolio Questions to the Health Secretary, Claire Baker highlighted the pressures facing the NHS in Fife and urged the Scottish Government to do more to ensure patients are not faced with further delays or reductions in services over the winter. She called for assurances that the situation in Fife will not deteriorate further, and for additional support to be provided to health boards.

MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Claire Baker said:

“NHS Fife has postponed all non-urgent surgery and some outpatient appointments already but is looking at further reducing services in order to cope. A&E performance in Fife is its lowest on record and among the worst in Scotland. Frontline staff are doing all they can but hospitals are already seeing more people turn up, for both covid and non-covid related conditions, than they would at the height of winter.

“Many patients having their surgery or appointments postponed have already been waiting a long time to be treated, and are understandably anxious about any further delay. What they need is reassurance that additional support for our NHS will be provided to ensure this situation isn’t just going to get worse through the winter.

“With the medical backlog caused by the pandemic ever increasing, we cannot see further delays to patient care. The Scottish Government needs to step up and address this urgently, and support our NHS staff to continue delivering across all areas of healthcare.”

Call For Action on CAMHS Crisis

Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker has called on the Scottish Government to do more for young people in need of support, following the news that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services waiting lists have hit their highest point on record. New figures show that 352 young people in Fife are waiting for treatment.

The statistics for the end of July 2021 show that of the children and young people on the waiting list in Fife, 37.2% had been waiting more than 18 weeks, despite the Scottish Government’s target stating that 90% of patients should be seen within 18 weeks. During the quarter ending July 2021, a further 15.5% of young people referred to CAMHS in Fife had their referral rejected.

Claire Baker is calling for more to be done to reduce waiting times for CAMHS as well as to provide additional community support services.

Across Scotland CAMHS waiting lists hit a record high, with almost 12,000 young people waiting to be seen at the end of June. Almost 1,700 young people have waited more than a year.

Commenting, Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker said:

These figures show that much more needs to be done to provide community support and services for young people. While staff are working hard to keep vital services going, too many young people in need of support are having to wait to be seen.

“Referral times are simply too long and must be reduced, but we also need to see more community support for mental health available in the short term. There are cases where young people are in need of support but struggle to get it due to lengthy referral times and this must be addressed.

“The risk the pandemic poses to children and young people’s mental health has been clear for a long time but the SNP Government has failed to invest in the services needed.  

“We urgently need a real plan to fix this growing crisis and make sure every young person referred to CAMHS gets the treatment and support they need. We also need to support local services delivering short-term solutions by ensuring they have the resources to increase capacity so demand can be met.”

Mental Health Awareness Week

I am delighted to support @mentalhealthfoundation for Mental Health Awareness Week this year (18-24 May). Find out how kindness affects mental health and get involved here.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation Scotland has published a survey in which 64% of respondents say being kind to others has a positive impact on their mental health.

This survey by the Mental Health Foundation is further evidence of the positive impact on kindness on protecting and improving mental health.

During this time of restriction on socialising and other activity it is particularly important to look after our own, and others, mental health. The theme of this Mental Health Awareness Week is an important reminder of the role each of us can play in bringing hope and support to others through acts of kindness.

Final Proposal for Culpable Homicide Bill

The final proposal for my proposed Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill was lodged this week, following a meeting with trade union representatives and Scottish Hazards.

Following a consultation on the proposed Bill earlier this year, with the overwhelming majority of respondents in favour, I am now seeking support from fellow MSPs to introduce the Bill to Parliament.

The proposal would amend the law of culpable homicide to ensure that where loss of life is caused by the recklessness or gross negligence of individuals, companies or organisations, conviction reflecting the appropriate seriousness and moral opprobrium can take place.

It is simply unacceptable to have workers dying as a result of negligence or recklessness by employers and this has to change.

The law of culpable homicide needs to apply equally and provide a clear set of rules defining when individuals or organisations commit this offence. My proposal seeks to do that and to ensure involuntary deaths can be investigated under the same law regardless of where they happen.

I am urging MSPs across the Parliament to support this Bill so the prospects for bereaved families achieving justice can be improved.

Council Funding a Welcome Boost for Levenmouth Rail

The announcement from Fife Council that it will commit £5m to help maximise economic regeneration as part of the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link is welcome news. This funding will be matched by the Scottish Government to develop a Levenmouth Reconnected blueprint to boost social and economic growth in the area.

This approval of funding is an important step in progress to reopening the rail link. With a leadership group to be set up by the end of the year, I look forward to seeing the development of its strategy, involving consultation with local communities, businesses and groups.

I particularly welcome the continued involvement of the Levenmouth Rail link campaign group who have worked tirelessly to get the project to this stage.

Complaints increasing as ScotRail fails to deliver for Fife

I am calling on ScotRail to make improvements to Fife services ahead of the onset of winter, following recent increase in complaints and new figures showing poor performance in the region.

While the latest performance update from ScotRail showed across Scotland 89.1% trains met the rail industry standard public performance measure (PPM), figures provided by ScotRail on peak time services for the Fife circle show a number of services running well below that figure.

The 0736 service from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh had only 58.6% passing PPM over the three months to end September 2019, while the 1742 service from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy saw just 22.1% passing PPM for the same period. This means just 19 of the 86 trains booked to run that service arrived at the final destination within five minutes of schedule, calling at all scheduled stops.

Across the 21 peak time services for which information was requested, only 5 services met the 89.1% PPM, with the remaining 16 services below this level.

The number of complaints I am receiving about ScotRail services in Fife is again on the rise. Delays, overcrowding and cancellations continue to occur all too often, negatively impacting Fife commuters, and the situation does not appear to be getting any better.

For far too long, Fife commuters have been subject to a sub-standard service and these figures are just further evidence of that. Late and cancelled trains mean people are left standing unsheltered on platforms waiting for trains that are often crowded and arriving late for work. With winter fast approaching, ScotRail needs to address these issues now and stop leaving Fife commuters

Challenge Poverty Week – Right to Food

This week is Challenge Poverty Week and Scottish Labour is continuing to work to address the drivers of poverty in our communities – calling for the scrapping of Universal Credit and the maximisation of benefits.

As part of Challenge Poverty Week I will be writing to organisations across Mid Scotland and Fife asking them to sign up to support the Right to Food as a core part of the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill.

Food insecurity continues to be a critical issue and key to addressing inequality is ensuring everyone has the right to available, accessible and adequate food. This is why the Right to Food must be  enshrined in law.

This Bill offers an opportunity to address inequality and rising demand for food banks by making a commitment to ensure everyone in our country can access the food they need and reduce the reliance on emergency food aid.