Wellbeing Session 3: Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport- Jeane Freeman MSP.

The recent Wellbeing Session was held with the Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport- Jeane Freeman MSP.

If you missed this you can view the session here:


We received a vast amount of questions and didn’t have time to have them all answered. The Cabinet Secretary has provided the following written answers to the Questions we didn’t cover during the live session:

Julie: Why were cancer support scientists not classed as key workers?

Cabinet Secretary: Defining key workers was a very difficult task. As we responded to an unprecedented pandemic we had to define key workers, within three categories, that would be directly involved in the COVID19 response, were on the front line of the response, or supporting key services that had to be maintained for the overall safety of the population.  A list of the categories can be found below: Category 1– Health and Care workers directly supporting COVID response, and associated staff; Health and Care workers supporting life threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; Energy suppliers staff providing childcare/learning for other category 1 staff. Category 2– All other Health and Care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency/critical welfare services (for example: fire, police, prisons, social workers), as well as those supporting our Critical National Infrastructure, without whom serious damage to the welfare of the people of Scotland could be caused. Category 3– All workers (private, public or third sector) without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland (but where the response to COVID-19, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised).

Alison: Cancer is such an individual disease and we are constantly living with the fear that treatment may stop working. When this happens people rely on trials to prolong their life. Can the health minister assure us that cancer trials will be available as an option for people whose treatment has stopped working and will prioritise this area in terms of funding. People’s lives depend on this.

Cabinet Secretary:  The Scottish Government is aware of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer research as well as health research in general and that many studies have been paused as a consequence.  The Chief Scientist Office (CSO) is working closely with partners across the UK and within Scotland to coordinate and support the restart of research that has been paused as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.  CSO is convening a NHS Research Scotland Strategic Research Restart Group which includes a wide range of representatives including patient groups. CSO has already convened an Operational Restart Group to work through key issues affecting restart at the operational level. This convened for the first time on May 28th and is meeting weekly. In Autumn 2020, CSO plans to resume the independent assessment process of applications already submitted to CSO’s research grant schemes and to take new applications to these schemes in January 2021.  

Julie: What support will be available for 3rd sector orgs and patient support groups who will be providing wellbeing support for those whose cancer diagnosis, treatment and prognosis has been affected during Covid

Cabinet Secretary: The Scottish Government appreciates and acknowledges the critical role that the third sector has played throughout this pandemic, in particular the support role that it has played to various groups including those affected by cancer. To ensure these vital services of support have continued throughout the pandemic we have established a few funds, including the third sector resilience fund and the wellbeing fund, part of a £350m support fund we announced. We remain absolutely committed to working with third sector organisations, who are vital to cancer services and patient’s experience. Our partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support will make Scotland the first nation in the UK where all people with cancer will have access to a key support worker. We have worked with the Scottish Cancer Coalition to raise awareness of their services among health professionals.

Anonymous (UK Charity staff member): I hear many cancer charities are making sizeable redundancies in Scotland due to loss of income. This will invariably impact support services for cancer patients. What alternatives are Scottish Government going to put in place to make sure patients keep get the same level of support

Cabinet Secretary: The Scottish Government has established the £25 million Third Sector Resilience Fund as part of the £350 million emergency coronavirus funding announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government on 18 March. The third sector has been an invaluable partner throughout the pandemic, and we continue to work alongside a number of third sector organisations as we continue through the recovery phase. Ensuring support for those impact by cancer has and will continue to be of importance to the Scottish Government. We do recognise that there will be a need for further support for the sector and we are considering our approach to Recovery, this will include the consideration of the impact of different phases of lockdown. Details will be announced in due course

Leigh: Can you explain how plans made in the late 70’s / early 80’s have been put aside or forgotten and the preparations we had in place at HB level – responsibility of PH Consultant with ID Cons and Infection Control Nurse – to tackle Ebola or other fevers? We had large plastic crates full of then Tyvecsuits, masks and visors, ready to go with the three of us – on to any plane coming from infected areas. Any potentially infected person/s were then to be sent to, then Kings Cross in Fife and the rest of the passengers and crew quarantined. Had that happened with Covid 19 we may not have had anywhere near the numbers of deaths. Allowing folk off of planes and to scatter the length of the country? Not the sort of Public Health I was taught at Ruchill!

Cabinet Secretary: Plans for the 1970s will of course look very different to plans for the 2020s as we have a very different health service and society, with a considerably increased amount of international travel. As Border Control is reserved to the UK Government, this is primarily a matter for them. We will continue to be working very closely with the UK Government to carefully consider issues around testing and isolation of those coming into the country as part of any measures going forward.

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