jimtoggleJim O’Neill points out some long-standing problems with primary healthcare delivery, and invites volunteers to help Louise McPhater, Labour’s candidate in the Irvine West by-election on 11 August.


Last week I quoted Harold Wilson’s famous saying that a week is a long time in politics. Reflecting on the media of the last week, that statement has been shown to be even more true today. A short time ago all the talk was about Chilcot. This report has now been relegated to a footnote with Brexit, Cameron’s resignation, May’s elevation, the Private Eye Cabinet and the Corbyn/Owen battle taking over all the media.

Similarly, I thought that my offering last week was fairly mild and uncontroversial, only to be surprised by the storm of attack it unleashed. So, I thought I would return to my usual practice of the critique of those in power. Don’t worry Jam, I will be equally critical of the Tories and their farcical struggles to rip Britain out of Europe and of the economically illiterate obsession of the SNP Scottish Government and their MPs with a second independence referendum, when they should be focusing on running my country.

So, this week I want to look a couple of issues relating to health that have bedevilled every government. Nye Bevan, when he set up the NHS, famously stuffed the consultants’ and GPs’ mouths with gold to ensure that they would sign up to the new service. The legacy of that is the ability of consultants to take on work outwith the NHS, and they have even been accused of directing work to the private sector. At the same time GPs are independent contractors who are paid by our taxes. Basically, primary care is outsourced. No government has had the cojones to take this on. We may be paying the bills but we are not in charge of the service.

During the first term of the Scottish Parliament, I worked for my good friend, the then Margaret Jamieson MSP (now Margaret Wallace). Margaret had been a union full time official in the health sector before being elected to parliament, and she had a strong view about the status of general practice. Much of this was informed by the situation in Kilmarnock where all the practices were located in the centre, where wealthy people lived, and none in the schemes, where the poorer people who were more likely to use the services of the GPs and their related services lived. Yes, including the infamous scheme.

After months of fruitless discussions, the GPs had not even agreed to provide outreach services so, without any support from the Health Board, Margaret, in line with her socialist beliefs, suggested that GPs become employees of the boards and their practices be under the direction of the board. Sadly, Margaret got nowhere with this approach and we still have problems in primary care.

We are currently fighting a by-election in Irvine, and among the most regular concerns our superb candidate, Louise McPhater, hears is that to get a GP appointment you have to phone or attend the surgery at 8 am each day to get an appointment that day, or wait up to three weeks for an appointment with a specific doctor. This is compounded with the growth of part-time GPs, and so your choice is constrained further.

We also hear of a shortness of GPs. This, of course, is partly the result of the government’s cuts in funding to university education over the past nine years, leading to cuts in training places. It takes a long time to train a GP, but good planning, as in education mentioned in an earlier piece, should have been able to take care of this. What kind of advice have Nicola, Alex, Shona et al been receiving, to have allowed this crisis to develop?

And talking of Shona Robinson, she promised in a speech in February 2015 that she would eradicate delayed discharge by the end of 2015. Kezia Dugdale has just released figures obtained by the Labour Party that there are still over 5000 cases of bed blocking in Scottish hospitals. I know how frustrating this can be. I was one of them in January. So, yet another SNP promise broken and narey an apology nor a reason.

So, if my detractors continue to get upset about my criticism of either the Scottish or Westminster Government, don’t hold your breaths. I ain’t about to let up any time soon.

If you want to help Louise defeat the SNP’s Robin Sturgeon (yes, it’s Nicola’s Dad), the Offices at 17 Townhead, Irvine are open at 12pm and 2.30pm for leafleting each day or contact Robert Foster on 07539 085628. You can find Louise on Facebook too.

The by election takes place on 11 August.

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9 thoughts on “Owned by us?

  1. “A short time ago all the talk was about Chilcot. This report has now been relegated to a footnote”

    Which only proves how totally corrupt and State run the media in the UK is today. What we are seeing here as we did with the so called enquiry into paedophile rings operating at the highest levels of Government and the intelligence services as well as the cash for honours corruption is another blanket media whitewash.

    Sorry Jim but no matter what you find within the NHS to nitpick yet another hopeless SNP bad article with because whatever it is wont be perfect nobody who supports Red Tory Labour has a leg to stand on while they continue to endorse the use of PFI and PPP within the NHS and the sanctioned creep of Privatisation into the NHS.
    The SNPs record today not just in the NHS but across the board stands head and shoulders above Labours past record in Government as well as above the Conservatives present record in England and Wales.
    This of course you know but here you are on yet another worthless spew because I don’t know you’re trying to impress somebody somewhere? in the hope of what? advancement within the Red Tory faction of the Labour party?
    Join the queue behind Duncan Jim its getting shorter as Corbyn strengthens his grip of the party.

    1. My days of seeking advancement within the Labour Party are long in the past. I just say it as I see it

  2. Jim,
    I hope all is well with you and that beautiful part of Scotland you are so lucky to bide in.
    I am sure as you say Louise McPhater is a decent and hard working candidate with the best interests of Ayrshire at heart but it is the party she represents and the pure mess it is in that will be a problem for Louise on voting day.
    There is a very bitter and public attack taking place on Labour’s elected leader as we discuss. As you know it is being engineered by Labour MPs and is supported by Labours’ leader in Scotland Kezia Dugdale.
    Good luck to Louise, but how can you honestly expect anyone to vote for a party that is as divided, unprincipled, disloyal, and untrustworthy as is the present Labour Party.
    Jim be honest with yourself people would be mad to vote Labour just now. Maybe if Louise came out now during the campaign and gave her support to the rightful leader of the party it might go someway toward deflecting the electoral damage she will undoubtedly suffer from Labours’ present travails. But then again maybe she supports the conspirators? I think the voters have a right to ken. May be you can help us Jim?

  3. Louise McPhater would have slightly better chance if she stands as an Independent candidate because anybody representing the Labour Party are at a disadvantage from the onset as the Labour Party rightly or wrongly are deemed as toxic by the grand majority of the electorate in Scotland.

  4. Your problem, Mr O’Neill, is that people do not believe for one nanosecond that Scottish (sic) Labour would do any better …. or even nearly as well (despite your doom-laden article, bed-blocking is continuing to fall significantly). Labour are viewed, with good reason, to be completely incompetent.

    In a way, that’s good for people like yourself as it gives you the chance to have a go at the Scottish govt without ever finding yourself in the awkward position of having to live up to your rhetoric. Increasing income tax (something I’m not against) as Labour say they will do to eradicate bed blocking is not the panacea that will end it. Even if all the proceeds are assigned to it (though these monies are seemingly being spent several times on absolutely everything), you will still have to find the qualified staff to fill the many, many posts that will be needed. They are very hard to find, and even harder if we’re dragged out the EU.

    People understand this. As I’ve said before, people are not stupid and understand the difficulties faced by both the NHS and the Scottish govt …. no matter how much Labour wish they were and didn’t. Your kind of “nah-nah-n’-nah-nah” finger pointing does nothing to enhance Labour’s credibility (or lack there-of) .

  5. Nye Bevan stuffed the mouths of doctors and consultants—-didn’t John Reid notoriously do precisely the same in 2003?
    But while Bevan did it to help found the NHS, Reid did it through incompetence and ignorance of his brief.
    Other than as a full time official of Unison, the article does not mention the professional qualifications of Margaret Jamieson. Was she qualified to change the NHS in Kilmarnock? What would the going rate for Doctors have been? 40 hours per week, with overtime presumably? How would Doctors have been recruited? How would they have interacted with Doctors outside Ayrshire, and their advancement to Consultants–or would Consultants have been Nationalised also? Dentists?
    What would Willie Ross have thought of it? A guid Killie man, once.
    As for bed blocking—a scourge, but an understandable one. There have been thousands of beds eliminated from our NHS is recent decades, yet Jim points the finger at one Health Secretary, as if she were to blame.
    I remember Alec Salmond being scapegoated by Labour and their chums in BBC Scotland because a person, one person, was deprived of a blanket—this at a time when thousands were being treated appallingly ( with many dead) in England’s NHS—yet Andy Burnham was excused blame by all, politicians and media.
    Seems, as always, like double standards.

  6. Don’t worry folks the NHS in Scotland is saved, Scottish labour now has a number of policys produced by an “expert group” for the brexit result. And one of them is to increase “income tax” by a penny and to increase the top rate to 50p.

    I may be wrong here but I think I have heard this before, and I am sure all that extra money could be used on the NHS and a dozen other things, just like last time.

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