Welfare Reform and cancer patients

As I have pointed out previously the proposed welfare reforms from the Tory-led UK Government could have a negative impact on people suffering from cancer. Ed Miliband was correct to raise this important issue at Prime Minister's Questions today. Macmillan Cancer Support have raised their concerns about the impact that these proposals will have. I support Macmillan Cancers Support's campaign to Put the fair into welfare, please take the time to support this important campaign.

Northern Rock should be remutualised

I am really disappointed that George Osborne has decided to sell-off Northern Rock. I think that this is a mistake. I have supported the re-mutualisation Northern Rock since it was nationalised. Northern Rock was successful as a mutual building society but failed as a privatised bank. I support the Co-operative Party's campaign The Feeling's Mutual. If you want banks or financial institutions which put people's interests first then the feeling's mutual.

In Dundee we see the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland abandoning local people but planning to close branches in Lochee High Street and at Ninewells Hospital. I think mutualisation would be a good outcome for the Royal Bank of Scotland and would put the interests of people first rather than the interests of shareholders.

Call for Superbug 'Hit Team' after Ninewells Report

I was disappointed to read the recent report into hospital hygiene at Ninewells Hospital. Ninewells is in the West End ward and I am generally very impressed with the level of care that people receive there. Clearly there are problems which do need to be looked at. I support Labour's call to create superbug 'hit teams'. We should listen to the likes of Prof Hugh Pennington when he makes his views known on these matters. Please see below a news release from my colleagues Jackie Baillie MSP and Jenny Marra MSP:

Scottish Labour has today backed calls from one of Scotland’s leading infection control experts to create superbug ‘hit teams’ to ensure failing hospitals are brought into line.

The calls come as NHS Tayside were told to they must clean up their act after two reports in the space of six months criticised areas of hygiene at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

A total of 11 required actions were highlighted following Ninewells’ inspection report, nine of which were highlighted in November but not suitably dealt with.

Professor Hugh Pennington, who is one of Scotland’s leading microbiologists, warned the events at Ninewells had demonstrated the current system “hasn't worked nearly as well as it should have” and said there was a “strong case” for new "hit teams" to ensure that inspections are properly followed up.

Professor Hugh Pennington said:

"The Ninewells report is very concerning showing that nine of the 11 requirements identified in the previous inspection have not been properly acted upon. A particular concern was the observation by the inspectors of poor hand hygiene practice in their presence.

“Whilst I welcome the fact that we now finally have a mandatory independent inspection regime in place, this report raises the question about the utility of a system that inspects but has no sanctions available to the regulator to ensure the rectification of problems.

"I think we need more than just expressions of regret from the Minister.

“There is now a strong case for some kind of 'hit team' to ensure that inspections are properly followed up and standards are complied with rather than leaving health boards to their own devices.

“This latest report has demonstrated that the system hasn't worked nearly as well as it should have in Ninewells' case at least.

"For some time now I have been making the point that inspections and inquiries are only as good as the action which is taken in response. They can be very expensive but if the system is not in place to ensure recommendations are fully acted upon it's not just money which will be wasted but possibly even lives.

“We need to get back to the situation where Scotland is again a world leader in infection prevention and control, not playing catch-up."

Backing Professor Pennington calls, Scottish Labour’s Shadow cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Jackie Baillie MSP, said:

"I would urge Nicola Sturgeon to heed Professor Pennington's advice.

“Simply asking for further assurances from NHS Tayside is not good enough.

“Both these reports came after a number of patients died at Ninewells after contracting C.diff yet there are still clearly major failings at the hospital.

“The Scottish Government needs to seriously consider the idea of following up inspections with support to ensure recommendations are properly enforced rather than simply waiting for the next inspectors' visit. If a firm is failing administrators are appointed to work with management to sort things out, so why can't we appoint experts to make sure our hospitals are clean and safe?

“At the end of the day, people have the right to expect that if they or a loved one is admitted to hospital they will be treated in clean and safe conditions, but the SNP's cuts to frontline staff are making a tough job even tougher.

“The SNP Government needs to stop passing the buck and take action."

Local Labour MSP, Jenny Marra, added:

“We cannot let the high standards of care, treatment and research at Ninewells be undermined by poor hygiene.

“The Scottish Government must act to ensure that these issues are addressed urgently.

“It is vital patients, visitors and staff have complete confidence in their local hospital so Ninewells can focus on delivering the excellence in care, treatment and research that it is so well known for.”

West End Community Council

On Tuesday evening I was at the June meeting of the West End Community Council. The guest speaker was Lisa Toon of the Association of Scottish Neighbourhood Watches. This was a very interesting talk, if you are interested in setting up a Neighbourhood Watch in your area please look at the website.


Concern over falling masonry

I am very concerned about falling masonry after masonry fell from a tenement on the Perth Road in the West End (above Clancy's Bar). I'll be seeking reassurances from council officials that everything is being done to ensure that buildings are kept safe.

I am relieved that no-one was injured in this incident, but this is only because of the time of night that it occurred. This rubble could have fallen onto people using the White Top Centre or people going in or out of Clancy's Bar. I will be seeking a briefing from council officers about the general issue and asking how we ensure that buildings are kept in a safe condition. I know that this is the responsibility of owners but the council has a regulatory role and prevention is, by far, the best option.

On Monday evening the City Council considered a report on the condition of privately owned properties in the city and this highlighted that many are in a poor state of repair. I hope that this will not mean that there are more incidents such as the one on the Perth Road. The safety of the public has to be a priority.

Dundee WestFest

Dundee WestFest is up and running this week. There are lots of great events, please have a look at the website and support this excellent community run festival.

Dundee City Council Meetings

Monday evening saw the latest meeting of the City Council and its various committees. The City Council agreed to restructure the committees of the council. There will no longer a Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee due to the establishment of Culture and Leisure Dundee. Th old Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environment Services Committee will also be abolished. These will be replaced by a Housing Committee and an Environment Committee.

The final meeting of the Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee was held. I raised some concerns on the report at item 7 on the departmental service plan. In general this is a very interesting report. It draws attention to the excellent work which has been done by the department and the staff deserve to be thanked for their hard work in these difficult times. I asked a couple of questions. Firstly, I sought a reassurance from the Chief Executive that these issues would continue to be effectively scrutinised after the reorganisation which I mentioned above. I was told that they would but as with everything the proof will be in pudding and I will be keeping a very close eye on this. Secondly I drew attention attention to an outcome which pointed out that fewer people were taking part in community based learning. The report states that this is due to a reduction in staffing, it suggests that the remedial action is to change the target. I accept that if there are fewer staff then we cannot expect them to do the same amount of work but I do question whether the answer is to move the goalposts in the middle of the game. This is evidence that the cuts being made are not without an impact. My colleague, Kevin Keenan, raised concerns about the downturn in the numbers attending events at the Caird Hall.

The Policy and Resources Committee considered a wide range of items. The longest debate was around the issue of Palestine which had been put on the agenda by Councillor Fraser Macpherson. Cllr Macpherson had wanted to consider the issue of boycotting Israeli products but he was informed that this was not possible by the council's legal officers. Similar issues had been raised at other Scottish local authorities without their legal officers raising any concerns. I think that the council should have a concern about our ethical procurement policy. In my view this would look at the issues around Israel/Palestine but it would also look at a whole range of other issues. I think that the City Council should try to speak with one voice on these issues and I voted for an amendment which calls for a just and lasting solution to the problems of Israel/Palestine and for a two-state solution. I am a great believer in the maxim of Pope Paul VI 'if you want peace work for justice.' We will not get peace in Israel/Palestine by just asking for peace but we will get peace if there is a just solution. All parties need to work towards this, particularly the Israeli Government and the Palestinian authority.

Later on in the Policy and Resources Committee there was a report on Tayside Procurement Strategy. Kevin Keenan attempted to get the council to commit to a review of our ethical procurement policy. This review would look at a wide range of issues, but as the City Council we must be clear that our actions have an impact and that in effect we are 'indirect employers' of those who provide services for us. Therefore we need to be satisfied by the policies and practices of everyone with whom the City Council does business. We were told that there will be a review later in the year and I sought and received a reassurance that this would include consulting widely with people and organisations in Dundee including, for example,
the Dundee Fairtrade Forum.

The Committee also considered how we deal with the corporate maintenance of land. Labour tried to get this report deferred so that a full report could be brought forward which would give a clear understanding of what the council would and wouldn't be doing in the future. Instead we will be presented with a done deal which will be difficult to amend. This will be a disappointment to many people in the city.


Well done Dundee Rep

I am a member of the board of directors of Dundee Rep and I am delighted that the Rep has had a number of successes at the CATS, Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland, which were held on Sunday. Dundee is lucky to have such a great facility. It is great that the best in theatre and culture can be found in Dundee. Well done to everyone involved.