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Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Health service reform promised
Patients waiting
The SNP says it will cut waiting times
Reform of the health service has been promised by the Scottish National Party as its annual conference drew to a close in Inverness.

Health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon set out her three priorities for transforming the NHS during a keynote debate on the last day of the event.

She also said that the creation of an independent health watchdog would halt the rise in hospital-acquired infections.


I will set about the tasks of reforming the NHS, making sure that every extra pound that is invested in the NHS delivers better patient care

Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon said an SNP government would tackle the staff shortages which she claimed were "crippling" the NHS.

In an effort to stop staff leaving the health service and bring in more new recruits, nurses will be given an 11% pay rise in the first year of an SNP administration.

She said that her party would move to cut unnecessary bureaucracy in by abolishing NHS Trusts and reducing the number of health boards.

"I will set about the tasks of reforming the NHS, making sure that every extra pound that is invested in the NHS delivers better patient care, and equip its staff to deliver the best care for patients," she told delegates.

And she said the SNP would take steps to combat bed blocking and tackle waiting times.

First appointment

Ms Sturgeon said that her party would meet Labour's pledge to cut the maximum waiting time under the patient guarantee to six months - and would go further.

She said this guarantee - which currently only covers inpatient treatment - would be extended to outpatient appointments.

The SNP would "ensure that by the end of our first term in office, no patient will wait longer than six months for a first outpatient appointment".

Nurses on ward
Nurses are being promised a pay rise
"The three priorities I have outlined today and the other initiatives in the resolution all have one thing in common," she said.

"They all offer solutions to the problems that the NHS faces - not headline grabbing targets that won't be met, but real solutions to real problems."

Ms Sturgeon also outlined plans for the creation of a "powerful" health inspectorate to stand up for patients' rights.

MSP Roseanna Cunningham said the move would ensure that hygiene standards were upheld across the country.

Last week two Scottish hospitals were affected by viral outbreaks.

Political opponents

Two elderly patients died at Perth Royal Infirmary after contracting viral gastroenteritis, which causes sickness and diarrhoea.

Ms Cunningham said: "This is not just an issue for Perth Royal Infirmary.

"The incidence of hospital-acquired infections is unacceptable across Scotland.

"Every one of our political opponents are complicit. They have utterly failed to address this issue."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Political editor Brian Taylor
"The SNP promises to tackle the shortage of nurses"
See also:

28 Sep 02 | Scotland
27 Sep 02 | Scotland
27 Sep 02 | Scotland
26 Sep 02 | Scotland
25 Sep 02 | Scotland
25 Sep 02 | Scotland
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