Working with Scottish Parliament

BMA Scotland works with the Scottish Parliament to ensure members’ voices are heard. We also help you to lobby MSPs and raise your concerns.

Location: Scotland
Audience: All doctors Patients and public
Last reviewed: 23 February 2022
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The BMA in Scotland works to ensure your voice is taken into account by policymakers at the heart of government:

  • we work closely with opposition health spokespeople,  parliamentary committees, cross party groups and individual MSPs
  • we brief members of the Scottish Parliament on issues that are relevant to doctors and medical students
  • we support our members to lobby MSPs and raise their concerns.

 

Our priorities

Health service delivery and funding

If the NHS must remain free at the point of use, and continue to provide the kind of health care service the public has come to expect, now is the time to consider what we want our NHS to deliver and how we can adequately and safely resource it. 

BMA Scotland has been calling for a 'National Conversation' with all stakeholders. We invite them to take a long-term approach to what we want from our NHS and its financial sustainability to deliver such asks. We have called for politicians from all parties to share in this vision, to put party politics aside and unite for our NHS.

Transforming and improving how we measure performance in healthcare

The way NHS activity is measured relies on an oversimplified view of what is ‘success’ and more often ‘failure’. It fails to reflect the complexity, range and sheer scale of all the NHS does. The pursuit of targets should not override clinical judgement, or excuse poor behaviours, in a drive to meet arbitrary goals.

BMA Scotland has called for a move away from measuring ‘success’ by a blunt focus on high level targets that disregard clinical needs. We need to ask what we want our NHS to achieve in its entirety. Then we can set out an appropriate system of measurement that supports those overall aims and is focused on patient outcomes.

Comprehensive workforce planning

BMA Scotland is clear that the Scottish Government needs to work alongside stakeholders from across healthcare services and educational institutions to identify what the future workforce will look like. We have been calling for a full and clear workforce plan that focuses on the number of doctors required in the short, medium and long-term - across both secondary and primary care - with clear measures set out to boost recruitment and retention.

BMA Scottish consultants committee published ‘Consultant retention in Scotland 2021’. Our report brings together evidence to highlight the worsening crisis in the consultant workforce and the need for urgent action – in particular on retaining the senior doctors we have, but also across the whole of the consultant career path. 

A clear focus on staff wellbeing

Spiralling workloads result in increased demands on all doctors across the profession. Work must be done to deliver a better work-life balance for them. That means more doctors and steps to manage workloads like the creation of multidisciplinary teams in primary care, or digital rota design and rest facilities in secondary care. 

BMA Scotland has conducted a wellbeing survey of junior doctors focussing on some key priority issues and themes to inform our ongoing discussion with the Scottish Government, employers, and NES. We have published a report informed by survey feedback and SJDC’s input around the highlighted priorities.

Tackling bullying and harassment and workplace culture

For far too long poor behaviours and bullying have been far too prevalent in NHS Scotland. The Sturrock Report into bullying at NHS Highland revealed long-standing and serious problems. We have no doubt these are replicated in many parts of the NHS across Scotland.

BMA Scotland is campaigning for a recommit to delivering the recommendations of the Sturrock report across NHS Scotland. This is part of a concerted effort to improve workplace culture and make our caring services a better, more positive place to work.

Pensions, pay and reward

The punitive, unfair and complex pension tax charging regime has a negative impact on retaining doctors in Scotland. This continues to be a key issue for BMA Scotland. We have been calling on the new Scottish Government to introduce measures to ensure that Scottish doctors are not forced to either reduce their hours or consider early retirement to avoid punitive and unexpected pension tax charges.

GPs contracts

BMA Scotland remains committed to the full delivery of the 2018 GMS contract. We call for the future Scottish Government to give an early commitment to continuing the work towards full implementation.

SAS contracts 

In March 2021, BMA resumed discussions with the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland employers on SAS contract reform in Scotland.

 

How to lobby your MSP

Lobbying is a way of informing your elected representative directly of your concerns and securing their support and assistance on issues.

MSPs are generally accessible, and if you think they can help you don’t hesitate to make contact. MSPs value information from their constituents, particularly if it is presented concisely. 

MSPs can help by:

  • tabling questions to obtain information from the Scottish Government
  • meeting or writing to ministers
  • putting forward your views during debates, committee meetings, or when talking to colleagues
  • initiating debates
  • leading delegations to meet ministers.

You will have one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs to represent you and you can choose which of them to contact.

The BMA Scotland public affairs office can provide a list of your local MSPs and their details, covering their political and personal background, areas of interest and attitudes on health-related issues. 

Contacting your MSP

The position held by an MSP affects your request. For example, it is not normal practice for a member of the Scottish Government to publicly campaign on issues affecting other government departments, but of course, they can be very helpful in speaking privately to ministerial colleagues and writing to their colleagues in their capacity as an MSP.

Try to involve doctors who live or work in the MSP’s constituency or region – this carries more weight. MSPs receive a large volume of correspondence, but their assistants ensure they prioritise constituency correspondence. Failing that, stress that you are representing the MSP’s local doctors when applicable.

Where to contact your MSP:

  • at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP, or by calling the Scottish Parliament switchboard at 0131 348 5000. All post is forwarded to an MSP when necessary, even during parliamentary recess
  • the Scottish Parliament website is an excellent resource; enter your postcode to see your MSP’s contact details and short biography
  • in the constituency: most MSPs maintain a local office in the area they represent; contact details are also on the Scottish Parliament site. Some MSPs organise regular surgeries in their constituency (see below) while others arrange individual meetings when contacted.
Tips for corresponding with MSPs

Here are some suggestions to help you throughout the process. 

  • If you write a letter to more than one MSP at the Scottish Parliament, do not put all the letters in one envelope. Some MSPs have any post they receive in Parliament automatically forwarded to their constituency office.
  • Write individually to each MSP so they do not feel they are receiving a standard letter. Vary any examples you give to be appropriate to that MSP’s area. A standard letter is likely to attract a standard response.
  • Sign the letters personally.
  • Make sure your name and address (and position if relevant, eg LMC chair) are clear and easily understood. If possible, give a telephone number and email address.
  • Give your correspondence a clear heading so the MSP can easily identify the subject.
  • Start your correspondence by introducing yourself to the MSP. Where possible, write as a constituent from your home or place of work;  failing this, stress that you are representing the MSP’s doctors.
  • Introduce the issue immediately.
  • Keep your correspondence short. If you want to go into detail, it is better to do this by enclosing a separate briefing paper or by arranging a meeting.
  • Use examples where possible but take care that you can back them up (publicly if necessary).
  • End your correspondence with a question, so the MSP has to think about a reply rather than just send you an acknowledgement. If you can’t think of a specific question, say that you look forward to hearing their views on the situation.
  • If you want to meet the MSP personally, add a note that you will be contacting them to arrange a meeting.
After contacting your MSP

Once contact has been made, either by meeting or correspondence, make sure you keep the MSP informed of any developments.

The BMA Scotland public affairs office is always happy to give members advice on meeting MSPs and may be able to suggest further actions to consider following a meeting.