I was honoured last week to have been appointed Scotland’s Minister for Mental Health by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. It is a privilege to be asked to serve my country in this role.

I have been a mental health nurse for over thirty years, so I am delighted to be given this opportunity to work in the Scottish Government with the new Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman MSP.

As only the second person in this post, I would like to thank my predecessor, and the UK’s first ever Mental Health Minister, Maureen Watt MSP.

During my career as a mental health nurse, I specialised in the care of pregnant mothers and those with young babies. As a clinical nurse manager of a perinatal mental health service, I was part of the team who helped to set up the Mother and Baby Unit in Glasgow in 2004 – the first of its kind in Scotland.

It is particularly poignant for me that I begin this new role at the same time as we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the NHS.

Our National Health Service is one of our country’s most precious assets which touches the lives of everyone, and continues to be available to us free at the point of need.

When I first began my student nurse training, nurses learned the job on wards with periods of time in nursing college. Nursing courses are now taught in university, there is a greater focus on research based care, and new, more advanced equipment and medications are used.

Health care treatments and technologies have moved on hugely since those early days. We have also come a long way as a society in how we view mental health problems. People talk more openly about mental health issues, but there is still a long way to go.
As we celebrate our NHS I believe that it is vital to acknowledge the staff, who are still the most important asset the NHS has. Day in, day out – they go above and beyond.

On the 70th anniversary of the NHS it is right we thank not only the heroes working on the front-line, but those in the background who ensure our health services continue to thrive;

• the admin staff who look after our medical records, appointments, managing waiting lists and ensuring staff have timely access to patients’ notes.

• the facilities staff who make sure our hospitals, health centres and clinics are clean and safe.

• the lab staff who analyse and report on samples of tissue and fluids in our screening programs, saving lives, and who also provide clinicians with the information they need to diagnose and treat patients appropriately.

• and, the catering staff, who not only provide the patients with essential sustenance, without which they would not recover as quickly, but also ensure all of the NHS staff can access nutritious and wholesome meals when they are on duty.

Nearly 140,000 people work in Scotland’s NHS, an increase of 10% under this government, and it is a workforce which I am incredibly proud to be a part of.

I look forward in my new role to working closely with NHS colleagues across Scotland to deliver continuing improvement to mental health services, to ensure that people can get the right help at the right time, expect recovery, and fully enjoy their rights, free from discrimination and stigma.

I will also, of course, continue to work hard to represent my constituents as the Constituency MSP for Rutherglen, Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre, and I will continue to be accessible and pro-active locally.



Date published: 26th June 2018

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