Nicola Sturgeon urged to honour MND pledge

Gordon Aikman calls for more specialist nursing. Picture: Jane Barlow

Gordon Aikman calls for more specialist nursing. Picture: Jane Barlow

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GORDON Aikman, who campaigns to raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND), has urged the First Minister to use some of the money allocated to Scotland as part of the Autumn Statement to pay for more specialist posts to allow people to “die with dignity”.

Aikman, 29, who was diagnosed with MND in May, has written to Nicola Sturgeon saying a review into specialist nursing care she promised him at a meeting on 25 November could now easily be implemented by using just under 1 per cent of the £125 million coming to the National Health Service in Scotland following Wednesday’s spending statement.

Aikman, who’s condition was first revealed in an article for Scotland on Sunday, said the move would “transform” MND care in Scotland.

Following an appeal in the newspaper, he managed to raise almost £40,000 for MND Scotland.

In his letter to Sturgeon, Aikman says that he told her that there were only seven specialist MND nurses to care for more than 400 people with the condition in Scotland.

Aikman wrote: “Last week we discussed the scandal of specialist MND nurses depending on charitable donations to exist. It is absurd that people should have to hold bake sales and run marathons so people like me can die with dignity. Nurses are spending more and more time behind the wheel driving from patient to patient – time which could be far better spent caring for patients.”

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He then goes on to suggest a way he sees of resolving the care issue by using a small portion, just under 1 per cent, of the £125m which Deputy First Minister John Swinney said would be passed on to the NHS in Scotland from the Treasury.

Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, said the announcement contained in the Autumn Statement would result in an extra £213m in Barnett consequentials for the Scottish Government.

Spending on areas such as health and education, governed on an England-only basis, results in a cash-injection for Scotland worked out under the Barnett formula.

“However, these wrongs can easily be righted,” Aikman wrote. “It would cost less than £700,000 to publicly fund and double the number of MND nurses.”

Aikman, a former director of research at the Better Together campaign, concludes: “First Minister, you have the opportunity to transform MND patient care. I urge you to take it. This small change would make a huge difference to the lives of MND patients.”

Neil Findlay, Labour MSP for Lothian and shadow cabinet member for health, backed Aikman’s call.

“I pay tribute to Gordon Aikman’s excellent campaign and he raises an extremely valid point,” he said. “The Scottish Government now has the finances available to address the issues Gordon has been raising. It is now up to Nicola Sturgeon to act quickly to back up the commitment she gave with action, and she now has the money to do it.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Gordon Aikman is a courageous campaigner and at a very constructive meeting with him last week, the First Minister was pleased to commit to working with him and MND Scotland to map the provision of specialist MND nursing care and how this is supported in future.

“We will conduct this review quickly and as part of it we will look at all the available options to ensure that everyone with MND who requires care has access to the highest standards of care. This will include full consideration of the proposal in Gordon’s letter.”

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