Alex Neil’s ‘special debt to NHS’ for saving son

Alex Neil is grateful to Ayr Hospital for saving his son's life. Picture: Robert Perry
Alex Neil is grateful to Ayr Hospital for saving his son's life. Picture: Robert Perry
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health secretary Alex Neil has spoken of how doctors saved his son’s life after he contracted septicaemia, and how the ordeal strengthened his commitment to the NHS.

Mr Neil was speaking ahead of the 65th anniversary of the formation of a health service free at the point of delivery.

And he contrasted it to the world of health insurance, and payment first, treatment second, of the US, where he and his family had lived for a time.

Mr Neil’s son Michael, who is now in his 30s, was just 14 when he needed urgent treatment for the potentially fatal blood infection. It was an experience the SNP politician has described as the worst of his life.

Doctors told him his son was hours from death and they needed to carry out an emergency operation.

Michael, who made a full recovery, spent three-and-a-half weeks in hospital.

“When I visit NHS services across Scotland I never cease to be impressed by the stories of the dedication and compassion provided by staff,” Mr Neil said.

“They have my admiration and gratitude. Not least because I have the NHS to thank for saving my son’s life, and, as health secretary and a father, I couldn’t be prouder of what our health service does for the people of Scotland each and every day.

“I am absolutely committed to the founding values of our NHS. I can promise that, in Scotland, your healthcare will move with the times and develop as our society changes, but while this government is in charge it will be free at point of access for everyone.”

Michael was treated at Ayr Hospital.

Speaking about the family’s ordeal, Mr Neil revealed they were initially told he had leukaemia. “The NHS saved our boy’s life so I owe them big time. Michael wouldn’t be here today without the excellent staff at Ayr Hospital,” he said at the time.

The NHS turns 65 on Friday and the Scottish Government is launching a website with personal stories from 65 Scots about how the service has helped them.

The 65-lives project includes the experience of Gillian Currie, from Dunfermline in Fife, whose daughter Niamh needed specialist care at birth.

“Eighteen weeks into my pregnancy, a hospital scan revealed that our baby had spina bifida,” she said.

“From the moment we received this diagnosis the NHS foetal medicine team at Forth Park Hospital in Kirkcaldy were hugely supportive and provided us with advice and guidance whenever we needed it, also referring us to a number of additional spina bifida organisations.

“When Niamh was born she contracted meningitis, and required specialist care at the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh.

“The care she received here was also incredible, and all staff members made a very difficult time as easy as possible.

“Niamh is now two years old and we still visit the hospital regularly for check ups.”