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Addressing health inequalities a high priority for Maree Todd


By Jean Gunn

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SNP candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross Maree Todd.
SNP candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross Maree Todd.

The SNP is committed to addressing health inequalities in rural communities, says the party’s candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

Drawing on her time working for NHS Highland, Maree Todd, a pharmacist by profession, said: “My 20 years experience working for NHS Highland means I am well versed in the challenges we face in delivering health care well in our rural and remote communities. I know that people want to see as much health care provided as possible in their own community and I’m prepared to fight for exactly that.

“We are making progress - NHS Near Me, for example, has been a triumph. The service not only reduces travel and waiting times, but the evidence suggests it also empowers the patient.

“Over the last few years in Scotland, our health service has made great progress with Realistic Medicine. One of the main aims is for people using healthcare services and their families to feel empowered to discuss their treatment fully with healthcare professionals. Studies have shown that the power balance is tilted in the patients favour using NHS Near Me.

"They are in their own environment where they are most comfortable, and can often feel emboldened, enabling them to get the most out of their consultation. Of course, NHS Near Me only works if there isn’t a need for a physical examination. For those who do, I know there are frustrations."

Planning and enabling the refurbishment of Caithness General Hospital is among the key healthcare pledges in the SNP's Highlands and Islands manifesto.

Ms Todd continued: “The SNP, however, is committed to addressing the health inequalities facing our rural communities in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. For instance, we will roll out more mobile health services for direct delivery of care, including additional screening services, stroke units and mental health services.

“As a pharmacist who specialised in mental health, I am acutely aware of the diverse and wide-ranging challenges in this area. The impact of Covid-19 will have exacerbated the need for improved and increased mental health services. If elected to represent the area, I will ensure that our communities in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross are not left behind.

“We have already committed to ensuring every GP practice in the constituency has access to a dedicated mental wellbeing link worker - improving access to mental health support in rural areas."

She added: “We will also expand our Pharmacy First programme which helps people access the right care in the right place, without having to go to their GP practice for non-urgent treatment. Pharmacy First allows community pharmacies to give people expert advice or treatment for minor illnesses and common conditions, or to make referrals to other healthcare teams if required.

“As a pharmacist myself, I’m delighted that our expertise is being used to deliver more localised services. We already play a big role in the community, so it’s great to see our skills further utilised to relieve some pressure on NHS services.”

Other key pledges in healthcare in the SNP’s Highlands and Islands manifesto include:

  • An increase in frontline NHS spending by at least 20% to support and renew the NHS as it recovers from Covid-19.
  • Commitment to half of the total budget for frontline NHS services will be invested in community and primary care.
  • Planning and enabling the refurbishment of hospitals, including Caithness General Hospital.
  • Establishment of a new centre of excellence for rural and remote medicine and social care.

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