Scottish Government “blinkered” over refusal to ban NHS fax machine

The Scottish Government’s refusal to ban health authorities from using fax machines is “blinkered” and is keeping services in the dark ages, according to an MSP.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, David Stewart, was reacting to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman’s reply to a Parliamentary Question he lodged.

Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands, asked whether the Government planned to ban the use of fax machines by the NHS and, if so, whether usage would be phased out by March 2020.

Ms Freeman’s reply was short and sweet – it had no plans.

“Health authorities are being left with technology which belongs in a museum,” said Mr Stewart.

“This reply is very short sighted and blinkered, leaving Ms Freeman unable to see clearly what’s needed for the future of the health service,” said Mr Stewart.

“It’s a sign of the Government letting things slip over the last 10 years. Services are creaking at the seams and up-to-date technology could help save time and money.

Mr Stewart believes that NHS boards in Scotland should be banned from buying fax machines and a date should be made for them to be phased out entirely.

He previously asked health boards in Scotland how many had fax machines and was shocked to discover that more than 1,200 were still in use across the country.

The Department of Health in England has now banned the buying of machines and said their use should be phased out by 2020.

This followed a Royal College of Surgeons investigation, which found nearly 9,000 fax machines were in use across NHS England.



8 January 2019

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to ban the use of fax machines by the NHS and, if so, whether usage will be phased out by March 2020.


Jeane Freeman: The Scottish Government has no plans to ban the use of fax machines in NHSScotland.

Pets in cars

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart highlights a rule and law that constituents may not be aware off whilst driving with their pet in a car.


David said ” We all love our pets who after all are our companions and in many cases the pet wants to go where ever the person in charge of it goes. However, did you know that rule 57 of the Highway code states: “When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you have to stop quickly.” A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.


” I am aware that some organisations are advising that this is the law and a driver contravening it could get nine points on their licence and a fine of up to £2500. This is not in fact correct. The rule 57 of the Highway code is advisory and yes you could get charged with careless driving if the Police deemed your ability to drive safely was impaired and you were deemed to be driving without due care and attention due to your pets activity whilst unrestrained in the car. The charge in these circumstances would be one of Careless Driving. This would not of course apply if the pet was sitting or lying down well behaved. Notwithstanding this actual fact, pet owners who value their companions should always consider utilising a seat restraint harness or putting their pet behind the dog guard in the rear of the vehicle for the safety and well being of all concerned.


David concluded ” I am not being alarmist, that is why I am pointing out that you do not get prosecuted under contraventions of the Highway code but under the Road Traffic Act 1988. The Highway code does relate to the Road Traffic Act where sections of the Highway code stipulate ‘you must’ or ‘must not’ – However, road safety is always high on my agenda and the safety of all occupants of vehicles and other road users is paramount. So if at all possible always place your pet in a seat restraint or behind a dog guard, especially if it is boisterous  and moving about freely. This is the safest option.






Warm Homes Benefit

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, David Stewart, stands up for elderly in warms homes energy benefit scheme.


David said ” It came to my attention from an elderly constituent who is nearly 80 and lives in the far North, that because she is not on any benefits ie pension benefit or other core benefit, she does not qualify for the warm homes winter energy reduction scheme which is a one off reduction from the energy provider of £140 and reduced from the suppliers electricity bill between September and March. I really think this is an issue that we need to look into. This constituent is on a low income but just misses out on the criteria to qualify for this benefit. What we have to remember is that in this case the constituent like many others lives in the far North which is subject to pretty severe weather and because she is just over the threshold to qualify for benefit, she loses out. We need to look after our old, frail and elderly. Although this part of the Social Security legislation may not have been devolved to the Scottish Government, I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and the Older People, Shirley- Anne Somerville, asking her to look at this issue and if the Government do not have the powers yet to deal with this particular matter, to lobby her opposite number in Westminster to see if they can make this benefit available to all those persons 75 and over.


” This cap will affect many older people living in parts of the Highlands & Islands that are subjected to some of our worst winter weather and we have to make sure that we provide for their care and well being and we can do this by ensuring that those of a certain age group automatically qualify for such benefits.





NHS Waiting Times



Over 4337 people waited too long at H&I   A&E departments in 2018, new figures released today reveal.


Data published by ISD Scotland reveals that 3600  people waited more than 4 hours at NHS Highland Accident and Emergency Departments last year, with 194 waiting over 8 hours. 257 waited more than 4 hours in NHS Orkney. 278 in NHS Shetland and 102 in NHS Western Isles.


Scottish Labour said the figures evidenced the stress our health service is under, with overworked staff facing crowded A&E departments because of mismanagement elsewhere in the health service – such as staffing vacancies in social care and primary care.


David Stewart, Highlands and Islands Regional MSP and Shadow Minister for Health said:


“Patients and staff deserve better than this.


“I have been concerned about the pressures on the  NHS for some time and these figures expose the scale of the challenge NHS staff face in delivering patient care and how badly they have been let down by years of SNP mismanagement of our NHS.


“A&E is the front door of the hospital, and the pulse check of our NHS as a whole. Increasing numbers of people waiting too long at A&E reveals unacceptable pressure in other parts of our health service such as in social care and primary care.


“We already know that staff do not feel they are getting enough support and that the level of unfilled health posts is unsustainable.


“Ministers set the health service targets for staff to hit and then do not deliver the support and resources needed. It simply isn’t good enough.”




Waiting over 4 hours Waiting over 8 hours Waiting over 12 hours
Health Board Total % change from 2017 Total % change from 2017 Total % change from 2017
NHS Ayrshire & Arran 7718 9.9% 1938 48.4% 513 51.3%
NHS Borders 2424 31.5% 197 58.9% 57 67.6%
NHS Dumfries & Galloway 3736 6.8% 370 132.7% 28 133.3%
NHS Fife 3881 -9.9% 230 -36.1% 25 -49.0%
NHS Forth Valley 12701 88.3% 1627 162.8% 453 277.5%
NHS Grampian 7428 29.1% 287 47.2% 20 100.0%
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde 42834 11.7% 3394 23.0% 303 20.2%
NHS Highland 3600 12.8% 194 29.3% 12 -33.3%
NHS Lanarkshire 18908 8.7% 1916 -11.0% 434 -18.4%
NHS Lothian 36799 144.7% 4332 99.3% 1060 136.1%
NHS Orkney 257 14.2% 3 -50.0% 0
NHS Shetland 278 16.3% 8 166.7% 0 -100.0%
NHS Tayside 2372 12.4% 39 -4.9% 3 200.0%
NHS Western Isles 102 96.2% 1 0
Scotland 143038 35.3% 14509 44.8% 2908 60.0%




Source: Labour analysis of data available from ISD here:


MSP disappointed patients who’ve been bullied ruled out of Sturrock review

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has ruled out allowing patients, who claim they have been bullied, to submit their concerns to the QC led review into allegations of NHS Highland bullying and harassment.

This is contrary to reply in the Scottish Parliament chamber during a members’ business debate last month when Ms Freeman said: “The review will explore the underlying issues and will include conversations with any affected individuals, including current and former staff, their representatives, board members, management and patients, if patients wish to come forward.”

Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, David Stewart, who also represents the Highlands and Islands, said he was extremely disappointed by the response from the Health Secretary in a Parliamentary Question he lodged.

Ms Freeman said in her reply that patients could make contact with stories of staff bullying staff and their written representations will help inform the John Sturrock review.

“I certainly picked up during the previous debate that patients who have been bullied or harassed would be able to feed in directly to the Sturrock review,” explained Mr Stewart.

“But it turns out that they will only be able to take part if they have witnessed staff being bullied and not if they have been bullied themselves.

“Patients who have contacted me will be bitterly disappointed about this as they were very keen to let their voices be heard.”



18 December 2018

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government how the review into alleged bullying and harassment at NHS Highland will take account of the views of patients.


Jeane Freeman: As part of its scope the review aims to understand what, if any cultural issues have led to any bullying, or harassment, and a culture where such allegations apparently cannot be raised and responded to locally. John Sturrock QC will be holding a series of private meetings with a large number of individuals who have contacted him to raise concerns, which may include any patients who have come forward who have witnessed or experienced bullying among NHS staff.

Given the volume of interest and the requirement to provide a report in the early part of the new year, the review will now work with those who have come forward at this stage, listening to and distilling their concerns. If patients make contact with stories of staff bullying staff, their written representations will help inform the review. An initial report will be submitted by the end of February 2019, and any next steps will then be decided upon.


Don’t spoil Christmas for yourself or anyone else by drinking and driving or by drug driving’

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and Road Safety campaigner, David Stewart warns drivers ‘don’t spoil Christmas for yourself or anyone else by drinking and driving or by drug driving’


The consequences are stark: If you get caught you will get a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record for a lengthy period or a substantial fine, and that’s before you start considering the significant social and employment consequences of your actions. Above all you are risking your own life and the lives of innocent road users and pedestrians.


Let’s face it :


  • When you are standing at the scene of a road traffic collision you caused and in which someone is seriously injured or killed – It is too late!
  • When you are sitting in the rear of a Police vehicle – It is too late!
  • When you are sitting in a Police cell – It is too late
  • When you appear in Court – It is too late
  • And when you have lost your job – It is too late


Why risk it for the sake of a drink or drug?


I often get asked now what is the safe amount of alcohol you can drink and drive within the limit. The answer is one word ‘None’

In Scotland the legal drink drive limit is lower than any other part of the UK. Whilst driving in Scotland the drink drive limit for alcohol has been reduced from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood.

David Stewart said “ Drink and drug driving are not socially acceptable in today’s society. Clearly there are a hard core of drink and drug drivers that need to be educated as no form of campaigns or media coverage have addressed this issue. I have recently muted the proposal to make all convicted drink or drug drivers attend a mandatory Drink/Drive Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) which would enhance the work already being done in this field.

“The course combines presentations, group exercises, group discussions and videos used in conjunction with a course workbook with various exercises to complete and is all geared to educate the convicted driver as to the error of their ways.

“Let’s face it, if the convicted driver is not referred to such a scheme, where are they to be educated as to the danger they pose to other road users and what is to stop them continuing to drink/drug drive once their ban has been completed.”

The DDRS is an informal educational training workshop that provides participants with knowledge to reduce the likelihood they will be re-convicted of drink/drug driving again.

David Stewart said the incentive for the drink/drug driver is that if they complete the course they can not only get up to 25% off their driving ban, but also become more responsible and safer drivers in the process. Let’s face it we have to try something



Kirsty Ewen Wins Prestigious Award

Adding to the successes of Kirsty Ewen from Inverness, the Volunteer swimming coach who has trained young swimmers across the North, Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, David Stewart, has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating her on winning the unsung hero award at last night’s Sports Personality of the Year Award. Kirsty has already won this year’s Volunteer of the Year at the Sport Scotland Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering Awards 2018.


David Stewart speaking today said ” Kirsty is an inspiration to us all. She has overcome mental health issues and helped so many others through her passion for swimming and coaching in this sport for over 12 years now. Last night she did the nation proud as she was awarded the Sports Personality Unsung Hero Award at Birmingham. What a role model, well done Kirsty. I felt the least I could do was recognise the passion, drive and determination of Kirsty by tabling a motion within the Scottish Parliament.




Motion Number: S5M-15168

Lodged By: David Stewart

Date Lodged: 17/12/2018


Title: Kirsty Ewen


Motion Text:

That the Parliament Congratulates Kirsty Ewen, who is from Inverness, on being presented with the unsung hero award at 2018 Sports Personality of the Year Awards; recognises what it sees as the drive, determination and endeavour shown by Kirsty to overcome mental health issues by coaching swimmers across the Highlands for over 12 years; notes that she is also a member of the Sports Scotland Young People’s Sports Panel and was named Volunteer of the year at the 2018 Sports Scotland Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering Awards; acknowledges her drive and passion to help others through her volunteering and coaching; believes that Kirsty is an inspiration and role model, and wishes her the very best.


Tyre Safety


Highlands & Islands (including Moray) Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart has taken this opportunity to highlight the importance of tyre safety.


“Your vehicles tyres are the only part of the vehicle which actually touch the road surface. Acceleration, braking, steering and cornering all depend on your tyres and their contact with the road, that is how important they are,” said David Stewart.


“The law indicates that to be legal there must be a minimum of 1.6mm of tread across the central ¾ of the tyre and around the circumference.”


“Here is a tip for checking your tyre tread depth if you do not have a gauge. You take a 20pence piece and place it within the tread. If you can see the outer rim of the coin, then the tyre is approaching the legal limit and you should seriously consider replacing it,” he said.


“In winter, good tyre depth is as important as ever. I cannot emphasise this point enough. I ask Motorists to please check their vehicle tyres now and make sure they are legal. ”


“I have come up with the pneumonic ‘TREAD’ to highlight my message. If you have tyres with a good tread and grip you reduce you chance of losing traction, control and a collision.


T-tyre safety

R-reduces risks of


A-accidents and even




MSP takes up concerns of defibrillator group

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is being asked about the ‘shambolic’ system of registering community defibrillators after an MSP heard the concerns of a Highland campaign group.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart met with the volunteers from the Caithness Defibrillator Campaign Group who told him there was currently no legislation covering the registration, proper governance, maintenance and storage requirements for the life-saving equipment.
The group’s Chairman, Billy Mitchell explained: “When you buy a car it must be registered before you can drive it away and it must have regular checks to prove road worthiness as a legal requirement.
“But there is no legal requirement for an owner to register a vital life-saving device such as an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) or for any checks to be carried out. These devices may be used on members of the public and members of the public should be confident that they are registered and well maintained as they are a vital link in the chain of survival.”
Mr Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “I was really impressed by the work of this keen community group and believe volunteers raised very valid points about how this equipment is registered and the need for changes to help save more lives, especially in remote and rural areas.
“I am more than happy to take up their points with the Health Secretary and the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) to see where we can go from here.”
Mr Stewart has also written to Stagecoach and Scotrail/Abellio asking if they would consider putting defibrillators on trains and buses, another issue raised by the campaign group.
The group, which launched this year with Caithness Heart Support Group and the Community Heartbeat Trust, set out to map all AEDs in the Caithness area and had completed roadshows highlighting the importance of registering defibrillators and the importance of regular checks being carried out.
Mr Stewart was told that the group discovered AEDs being placed outside in unsuitable cabinets, with no heater to keep the device at an appropriate temperature and full of dead flies and insects.
Key pieces such as the pads were out of date, there was no record of keeping checks and batteries had not been changed. Communities gifted an AED were sometimes given no guidance, help or advice on how to operate and run them.
The group also told Mr Stewart that when someone calls 999 and the ambulance establishes that it is a cardiac arrest, the service will not send someone for an AED if it is outwith a 150m radius of the incident.
“I have asked Pauline Howie, the Chief Executive of SAS, about this rule which does seem inappropriate for a rural area where there are sometimes long distances between emergency medical help,” said Mr Stewart.
Mr Mitchell added: “We would like to see AEDs on trains and buses on journeys to Inverness as they travel to out of the way places and some stations are unmanned.
“At the same time, we are also keen to encourage more signage directing the public to the nearest AED.
“In 2017 a Bill was presented to Parliament which would have made defibrillators compulsory in schools, leisure centres, sports centres and major public places, but due to the 2017 election the Defibrillator (Availability) Bill was tabled but never became law. The group is disappointed that this never became law. However, we hope to present evidence to the Public Petitions Committee.”

* Photo one David Stewart with Chairman Billy Mitchell
* Photo two Back row: volunteers Willie Marshall, Bob Bell and Kay Rosie
Front row: Chairman Billy Mitchell, David Stewart and Ron Gunn