By Fiona Grahame
“With will and with method we can transform Scotland ” Sir Harry Burns
Conscription in World War Two raised awareness about the poor state of the nation’s health. Many ‘fit’ young men were indeed not fit but due to poor health during infancy, the effects of many childhood illnesses and appalling housing conditions, they were turned down for active service.
And so it was that despite the cost financially of the war years the newly elected Labour Government set about establishing a National Health Service – free at point of need.
“No society can call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of a lack of means” Aneurin Bevan
That was the start of an epic journey in public health that we should be proud of. Advancements in vaccinations mean that smallpox was eradicated. More vaccinations became available to prevent polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella. Some people choose not to have their children protected and perhaps they have forgotten how life changing and in some cases fatal those diseases could be.
Scotland today has its own Government which has continued along the same path as that first influential UK Labour Government.
The smoking ban came into force in Scotland on 24th March 2006. Introduced by the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition with only the Tories voting against it. It was an immediate success. Smoking continues to be a major health issue and support is offered to those who wish to quit smoking.
Alcohol abuse is another major health issue in Scotland. Increasing concern over the availability of low cost drinks with a high alcohol content brought about the implementation of minimum unit pricing on 1st May 2018. The more alcohol a drink contains the more expensive it will be. Drinks sold in pubs already charge well above the minimum unit price so it will not affect those. Originally passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012 unopposed but with abstentions by Labour it has taken many years to get this ground breaking legislation enforced due to opposition from big drinks companies.
For children and mothers we have the introduction of the Baby Box, a huge success firstly in Finland but now also found in several other countries. Scotland’s baby box goes out to all mum’s to be who apply for it through their midwife and contains a wealth of information as well as a range of quality items. If desired the box can also be used as a sleeping place for the first few months. It is equipped with a safe fitting mattress and cellular blanket.
Medical prescriptions in Scotland are free as are eye, hearing and dental examinations. Women are offered breast screening and cervical smear tests. Bowel screening now involves an easy test you can do at home. Preventative measures, universally free in Scotland and building on the vision of the originators of the NHS.
Some things are lagging behind and improvements need to take place with support for mental health and drug misuse but progress is taking place.
Scotland has a devolved administration with a health budget tied through the Barnett formula to that of the NHS in England. Cuts to the funding in England will affect the proportion allocated to Scotland. Our Parliament might want to spend more on NHS Scotland but it is limited by not having the full means to do so.
Locally you will find support if you want to lose weight and/or take more exercise – gyms, walking groups, cycling clubs, dancing lessons – for most ages. The free bus pass for the elderly and those with a qualifying disability enables people who might be stuck at home to get out and about meeting people. Again the universality of it ensures that no one misses out. Even if you don’t care to tango you can still pop on the bus and meet up with friends for a coffee.
“We are doing things in Scotland that the rest of the world is looking on enviously” Sir Harry Burns
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Scotland is changing. It is transforming through a wide and varied set of strategies to address public health. And we are growing in our self confidence to realise we can do this.
When discussing the smacking of children in Scotland in 2002 the then Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Jim (now Lord )Wallace , said:
“We should remember our objectives here: Scotland is by international standards a violent country, and if we want to break that cycle we make a start with the young.”
Green MSP John Finnie introduced in May 2017 “a Bill to give children equal protection from assault by prohibiting the physical punishment of children by parents and others caring for or in charge of children.”
It has the full support of the SNP and legislation will be brought forward on this. Smacking will be banned in Scotland.
So whether or not you ever agreed with Lord Wallace and his assessment of the nation back in 2002 it is not an acceptable representation of Scotland today. We may not have realised it but our attitudes have changed towards our own health and well being. We have also changed as a nation. We have grown in the confidence we have within ourselves and within our communities to embrace the changes we need to make for a Scotland that is Fit for the Future.
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