Maree Todd: Scotland must not go back to pre-Covid health inequalities

Scotland must not return to pre-Covid levels of health inequality, minister for public health, women’s health and sport Maree Todd has said.

Ms Todd called for the nation to become “intolerant” of health inequalities, saying the pandemic had caused the “scales” to fall from people’s eyes in realising their extent.

Speaking to health workers during a session of the virtual NHS Scotland 2021 event on Wednesday, the new minister said she believed health inequalities were the biggest “burning issue” she wanted to tackle.

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Ms Todd said: “The pandemic has shone a light on inequality. I would say each and every individual in Scotland has had the scales fall from their eyes.

Maree Todd.
Maree Todd.

“They have felt vulnerable themselves and they've seen vulnerability in their communities.

“I hope we maintain that eyes-open effect, and that we are intolerant of inequalities moving forward.

“My sense is that Scotland does not want to go back to the way it was before. Those inequalities were there long before the pandemic, but the pandemic has shone a light on them, and I think Scotland will not allow that going forward.

There must be a “radical shift” in the culture and values within the NHS, Ms Todd said.

Chief medical officer Gregor Smith, in conversation with Ms Todd, said NHS Scotland must improve its performance on climate responsibility.

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Recovery from the pandemic had offered a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver a healthier, fairer Scotland”, he said.

Health inequalities stem from wealth inequality, Ms Todd said.

The former minister for children and young people said education was also linked to these issues.

She said: “Data on our nation's health inequalities are stark. However, the evidence also tells us where we need to focus.

“Eliminating all forms of inequality, all of which impact on health, must be the primary aim of all that we do.

“I am under absolutely no illusions about the enormity of this task, but by continuing to work together, learning from our recent experience and building on our successes, I am confident that we can make lasting changes that will improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland”

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