Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of failing to meet the promise she made to a campaigner dying from motor neurone disease (MND) to double the number of nurses specialising in the condition.
At First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon was challenged over the pledge she made to Gordon Aikman, the award-winning campaigner and MND patient to increase the number of specialist nurses from seven to 14.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “At the age of just 29 Gordon Aikman was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and after years as a healthy and athletic young man he is now in a wheel chair and relies on visits from care workers three times a day. He is dying.
“I was in a room with the First Minister when she met with Gordon and promised to look at the lack of MND nurses in Scotland and I listened very carefully last January when she annonced plans to double the number of specialist MND nurses in Scotland.
“But we now know that promise that pledge has not been met. Nicola Sturgeon has not kept the promise she made directly to Gordon and in her own words for people living with MND this is urgent. Time is not on their side. “
Ms Dugdale urged the First Minister to say when the commitment would be delivered, later pointing out that the new nurses should have been in place by October last year.
Ms Sturgeon replied: My admiration for Gordon Aikman and the way he has confronted the dreadful diagnosis that he was faced with and the way he has conducted his campaign knows no bounds.
“As I have done in past months, I continue to be very determined to work with him and others to make sure we fulfil our obligation to improve health care and social care for people not just with MND but with other devastating illnesses of its type.
“I genuinely don’t think it is fair of Kezia Dugdale to say we are not fulfilling the commitment we gave to Gordon Aikman. The funding is being provided and health boards are in the process of recruiting additional nurse specialists. the delays are to do with difficulties in recruitment getting the right people with the right skills into post. But that process is continuing that process is making progress and over the next few weeks I would expect to see health boards do what they require to do to fulfil that commitment to double the number of MND nurses. The commitment was to double them, but to make sure MND nurses were funding by the National Health Service and these are commitments I remain absolutely committed to.”
Ms Dugdale referred to research carried out by Mr Aikman using Freedom of Information legislation, which this week revealed that at least 270 Scottish patients died while waiting for a social care package.
The Scottish Labour leader said: “it is a scandal that it took a dying man to put a FoI request in to expose the scale of the social care crisis in this country. Can the First Minister tell me how her £500 million cuts to council budgets will help solve this social care crisis?”
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had invested £2.4 million in new specialist nursing care. The First Minister added that recent Scottish draft budget had included the transfer of £250 million from the NHS into social care.