These commentaries by John Macgill represent his opinions only and not those of any Ettrickburn client.

Medicines shortage – a new prescription for an old problem

Ettrickburn commentary - Labour's plans to radically shake-up the pharma industry (part 2)

Ettrickburn commentary - Labour's plans to radically shake-up the pharma industry (part 1)

Cost of medicines falling

Three Nations Three Practices

Community Pharmacy Eliminating Hepatitis C

Homeless People make Glasgow

Heart Failure – we can get treatment right for everyone

Bundles of Safety

Community Pharmacy’s Leader in Scotland

CPO: On the Road to Achieving Excellence

Pharmacy technicians may become prescribers

Profile: Dr Norman Lannigan OBE

Profile: Jonathan Burton MBE

Profile: Clare Morrison MBE

Deep Dive Pharmacy

Mind the Gap - Diagnostic Skills for Pharamacists

Bundles of Safety

Supporting Excellence - Alison Strath Interview

2018 Pharmacy Forum Agenda Launched

Which Referendum to Choose

Three Perspectives on Pharmacy and Mental Health

Pharmacy and the New GP Contract

Bordering on Problematic

Recognised by the Queen and her community

VACANCY Reporter/Researcher: Health and Care Policy in Scotland

Prescribing in Mental Illness – A Practice Pharmacist’s Perspective

What Matters to You? Communication in Pharmacy

Prescribing in Mental Illness – A Patient’s Perspective

Focusing the Vision: Dr Rose Marie Parr on the new strategy for Scottish pharmacy

All the things that could go wrong - looking ahead to the SNP conference

Ask Once, Get Help Fast? Pharmacy and Mental Health

Automation and Delegation in Pharmacy: Understanding the Moving Parts

Pharmacy First in Forth Valley One Year On

Initiatives Highlight Potential of Community Pharmacy

Trying to concentrate on the day job

Health and the Local Elections – a strange silence

The Pharmacist Will See You Now – The Growth of GP Pharmacy

Montgomery’s Review – Dr Brian Montgomery answers questions on access to new medicines in Scotland

An afternoon with SMC

Pharmacists at SMC

SMC – are drug firms voting with their feet?

Radical Surgery on the Horizon for Scotland’s NHS

The Future’s Bright – in General Practice

Community Pharmacy in a Changing Environment

Disclosing payments to doctors – has Sir Malcolm done the pharma industry a favour?

Health and Care in the First Minister’s Programme for Government

CMO: Scotland’s pharmacists “absolutely ideally placed” to practice Realistic Medicine

Profile: Maree Todd – MSP and Pharmacist

Scottish Parliament Health Committee Work Programme

Scotland’s new NHS – a Summer of Speculation

Scotland’s New Health Committee

Two million voices in Scotland – is integration the big opportunity to listen?

Medicines – levelling the playing field

Key appointment raises the bar for health & social care partnerships

What did our new MSPs do before?

SMC says no then NICE says yes – three times

SNP promises single formulary and a review of Scotland’s NHS

More Generous than the CDF – but less transparent

Comparison of Funds: New Medicines v Cancer Drugs

Bonfire of the Boards? SNP signals NHS Review

A tribute to five retiring MSPs

New Medicines Review - Health Committee sends findings to Government

Medicines New & Old in the Scottish Cancer Strategy

Great Ambitions, Slow Progress – New Models of Care in Scotland

Scottish Minsters Demand Up-Front Medicine Price Negotiation

Opportunity and Disappointment: MSPs Investigate New Medicines Access

Scottish NHS Strategy calls for 'Realistic Medicine'

The Scottish Model of Value for Medicines: Taking Everything into Consideration

When SMC Says No: An Access to Medicines Lottery

Reviewing the Review: Access to New Medicines in Scotland

A day of psephology and kidology

Insulting the Lifesavers

Worthy of Mention – Health and Science in the Honours List

News Silence from North of the Border

A Christmas PPRS Present from Pharma

Tuesday, June 14, 2016: Scotland’s New Health Committee

So it's up and running. In the few minutes before it went into private session, members of the Scottish Parliament's new Health and Sport Committee declared their interests and elected a convener and deputy convener.

To be honest, the process of writing the first page of the next chapter in the committee’s story was pretty boring. 

However, if the history of this committee is anything to go by, ‘boring’ is an adjective that is unlikely to be used very often. Last session the Health and Sport Committee held 171 meetings, scrutinised 13 bills, ran 15 inquiries, heard from over 1000 witnesses and published 62 reports. 

Only one member of the committee that sat in the last parliament a few months ago remains. Richard Lyle MSP opened proceedings to elect the new convener, not as a representative of the past but as the oldest member – as good an arbitrary way as any other that the rules choose who presides over the election. 

The parliamentary deal-making allocated the convenership of the Health and Sport Committee to Labour. Neil Findlay MSP, a former health spokesperson for Labour, was his party's nominee. 

He declared amongst his interests that his wife and daughter are both employees of NHS Lothian. Of all the interests declared around the room, including membership of trade unions, professional registrations and the ownership of rental properties, this was perhaps the most relevant: the real world experience of working in the NHS will always be part of his day to day life at home. 

Two others at the table bring very recent experience of working in the NHS. Clare Haughey, the SNP's new MSP for Rutherglen was elected as Vice Convener. Until the election she was working as a mental health nurse in the NHS supporting pregnant women and new mums. 

Maree Todd, a new SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has left her role as a clinical pharmacist working within NHS Highland's mental health team. She, like Ms Haughey, declared her registration to practice. Ms Todd has said she hopes to continue to remain registered to keep her skills and links alive, though admits she has no idea how. 

In all, eight of the eleven members are newly elected to the Scottish Parliament. The three returning MSPs are Mr Lyle, Mr Findlay and Alison Johnstone, the Scottish Green Party's spokesperson on health and sport, social security and children and young people. 

Indeed, it is not just the health professionals whose working lives will inform their work on the committee. Donald Cameron MSP (Scottish Conservative, Highland and Islands) brings his skills as a lawyer; Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP (Scottish Liberal Democrat, Edinburgh Western) brings a wealth of experience of working in the Third Sector for children and young people; Miles Briggs MSP (Scottish Conservative, Lothian) worked as parliamentary manager for a previous stalwart if the Committee, Dr Nanette Milne, and will have dealt with the stream of questions, answers, motions, and requests and briefings from patients and interest groups that flowed through her office. 

Musician Tom Arthur MSP (SNP, Renfrewshire South); engineer Ivan McKee MSP (SNP, Provan) and former Scottish Labour General Secretary, Colin Smyth MSP (Labour, South Scotland) bring management and organisational skills. It will be intriguing to see how the organised mind of an engineer, for instance, will cope with a less than an entirely predictable NHS. 

In their legacy paper[i], the previous committee members suggested that their successors might want to update themselves on several of the issues it had investigated, from health inequalities in early years, to the Prescription for Excellence vision for pharmacy and the National Conversation on health and care. 

The committee's priorities should become clear before long. 

But no committee is entirely in charge of its own workload. In September the Scottish Government's Programme for Government will be unveiled. It is inevitable that the Health and Sport Committee will be lead committee on at least one new bill. And, while several of the SNP's manifesto promises will not need legislation to be delivered, several can be expected to be scrutinised and discussed by the committee. 

Perhaps the previous committee’s suggestion of a review of the new landscape of integration in the delivery of health and social care should be a priority. Even at quite a late stage in the process, few health and care staff – and dramatically fewer patients and service users – know what it actually means to them. 

I also predict that this committee will seek to maintain the collegiate and (mainly) nonpartisan approach of its predecessors. Being able to be outvoted on the committee means that the SNP members cannot impose their party's will, even in event that they want to. 

I was the only visitor at the committee’s first meeting this morning. Had I not had another meeting in the parliament I admit I would not have been there. And I was chucked out after about five minutes, somewhat to the amusement of several of the MSPs, as the committee went into private session to discuss its plans. 

But I was there to see the first paragraph of the new chapter begin to be written. The coming pages are going to be interesting. 


[i] Legacy Paper: