Last week in Parliament, I took the opportunity at Health Questions to invite the UK Health Secretary to come to Scotland to see for himself our world-leading Scottish Patient Safety Programme in action.

As highlighted in the British Journal of Surgery, the introduction of the programme resulted in an incredible 36 per cent reduction in post-surgical deaths and has seen it gain international recognition. Essentially, the programme made patient safety the number one aim of NHS Scotland, taking many lessons from the airline industry, such as introducing ‘pre-flight checks’ in operating theatres to reduce surgical errors. It has since been rolled out into many areas of NHS Scotland with reductions in stillbirths, sepsis, bed sores and many other devastating complications which can lead to death or disability.

These patient safety systems are of greatest importance when staff are busy and rushed off their feet and might fail to spot a problem on their own. As well as saving lives, and being better for patients, it is also economically advantageous as reducing mistakes and complications also reduces costs. Unfortunately, the ‘Market’ approach to healthcare in England over the last decade has led to financial pressures overshadowing clinical priorities as NHS Trusts compete for crucial contracts to survive. This was found to be at the heart of the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital scandal as staff concerns were ignored by managers who were just focussed on achieving Foundation Trust status rather than good patient care. While in Scotland staff are also often under pressure, our NHS remains a unified public body which allows improvement projects to be introduced across the whole service and for care to be patient-centred, focusing on quality and safety rather than just cost. It is also more cost effective as billions of pounds are wasted putting contracts out to tender and in the administration costs of England’s NHS.

I was pleased to see that the Scottish Government is providing additional funding to promote the use of e-bikes. A further £1.4 million will be allocated through the scheme delivered by the Energy Saving Trust, which encourages the purchase of e-bikes through the provision on an interest free loan. Pedal assisted electric bikes are becoming increasingly popular as they make a great alternative to a normal bike if your route includes hills or if you just need an extra wee bit of help along the way. They are particularly good as an alternative to short, single occupancy car journeys. Having owned an e-bike myself now for a couple of years, I can testify to their performance. I have been able to enjoy rides of up to 40 miles over our rolling countryside because I can just turn on the power when I need that extra wee push. Without it, I couldn’t cycle as far nor, I suspect, as often. Short-term e-bike trials are also available so you can try before you buy.

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Locally, I note that the consultation opens this week on the proposed development of an energy recovery facility from waste materials on the Oldhall Industrial Estate, south of Irvine. The consultation will last for four weeks and on Tuesday, June 4 the company behind the proposal is holding a public exhibition to give locals the opportunity to find out more information and talk with members of the project team. This will be held at the Gailes Hotel from 4pm - 8pm. As these developments can often generate some debate, I would urge all those who have an interest to go along, read the information and take the opportunity to put their questions to the team.