Scotland’s health chief Sir Harry Burns calls for drastic action to improve country’s appalling health record

Scotland’s health chief Sir Harry Burns calls for drastic action to improve country’s appalling health record
Daily Record
13.01.13

Scotland’s chief ­medical officer has demanded emergency action to save sick Scotland.

Sir Harry Burns said ­warnings over smoking, drinking and ­obesity were not getting through and demanded a dramatic rethink to improve the country’s appalling health record.

He said better parenting was needed to tackle poor lifestyle choices which can lead to obesity, heart disease and cancer.

He also said a stronger sense of community was required to ­prevent thousands of Scots dying early or living a life blighted by ­illness, particularly in the poorest parts of Glasgow and the west.

He is urging the Government to tackle the problems head on – by offering pregnant women help with parenting, teaching families the best ways to bond with kids and introducing early years learning.

He said: “All the conventional explanations that we have been offered just don’t explain the depth of ill health that we see.

“Just telling people not to smoke, drink or take drugs is not going to put them back to where their ­neighbours in Bearsden or Barnton are going to be.

“One of the things that always puzzled me was, why Glasgow?

“There is no question west ­central Scotland is where most of these health inequalities are ­concentrated.” Sir Harry’s ­comments were backed across the political spectrum.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman said: “We ­support the efforts Sir Harry is going to to tackle these ­deep-seated problems.

“I believe smoking, excess ­drinking and poor diets are areas where we can make progress in the short term but the focus has to be wider if are going to end our unwanted reputation as the sick man of Europe.

“Reversing the health ­inequalities in our communities won’t happen overnight but that has to be our ambition.”

Lib Dem health ­spokesman Jim Hume MSP said: “Sir Harry Burns has hit the nail on the head.

“From providing free childcare to 40 per cent of two-year-olds, beginning with those from the poorest backgrounds, to building more homes for social rent, ­Scottish Liberal Democrats want the SNP to tackle health inequalities at the earliest stage. ”

Sir Harry has also won the ­backing of the SNP and Finance Secretary John Swinney has backed him with a £500million spending plan on ­preventative health.

The Scottish Government said: “Scottish ministers firmly believe focusing on ­preventing problems by intervening earlier is the right approach to many of the social, health and other issues faced in Scotland today.

“We have made an important strategic decision to move towards preventative spending, investing more than £500million in health and other social policy areas.”

Sir Harry was speaking ahead of his Early Years Collaborative ­conference this week in Glasgow where he will bring together 700 experts from local authorities and voluntary organisations to draw up a plan of action.

The aim is to find five or six things that will make a ­difference in children’s early years.

A BMA Scotland ­spokesman said, “There is still a ­significant gap between the rich and the poorest, with those living in deprived communities being more likely to die prematurely. More must be done to address the social determinants of health ­inequalities, such as access to employment, education and good quality housing as well as improving ­people’s ­ability to make healthy choices.

“Introducing health impact assessments for all Scottish ­Government policies would be a practical measure that could help close the health inequalities gap.”