Scotland politics

Alex Salmond pledges to 'sort out' lack of patient blankets

Two patients who complained about a lack of hospital blankets have been told by Alex Salmond that his government will "sort out" the problem.

The first minister's pledge came after Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont urged him to meet Helen Macbeth and Jack Barr to hear their stories.

Mrs Macbeth, 92, said she was left "freezing" in Paisley's Royal Alexandra Hospital due to a lack of blankets.

Mr Barr, 65, said he had no blankets during his stay at the same hospital.

Ms Lamont raised the cases of the two patients as she challenged Mr Salmond at first minister's questions over NHS care in Scotland.

In response, Mr Salmond said Labour had already had to "partially apologise" for a previous "scare story on the shortage of blankets" in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board area which "turned out to be totally untrue".

However, Ms Lamont insisted her party had found "at least seven recent cases of patients going without blankets at the Royal Alexandra Hospital".

Ms Lamont said: "If the first minister won't believe me, why doesn't he come and meet with Mr Barr and Mrs Macbeth in my office after this session and explain that we don't have a problem with the NHS.

"They'll tell him, as I am telling him, what the NHS is really like under the SNP."

Following the chamber exchange, the SNP leader met Mr Barr and Mrs Macbeth.

Speaking afterwards, the first minister said every Scottish hospital patient should be secure in the knowledge they will "get a blanket when they need it".

In an interview with BBC Scotland, Mr Salmond said that the issue at the Royal Alexandra appeared not to be about "overall supply" but getting the blankets to patients on wards.

He added: "This is not a fault of the staff on the ward - they did their best. They provided other covers but they weren't adequate and every person that goes into a Scottish hospital must be secure that they will get a blanket when they need it.

"I think it's right and proper that when people have concerns about the health service they bring them forward so as we can deal with them and sort them out.

"I have to say Jack and Helen, given the experiences they had, were absolutely great about it and what they wanted happening was to sort it out for other folk - and that's what we'll do."

Mr Salmond said his Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon would be "undertaking to sort it out to make sure the blankets are not just there but they actually get to the patients that need them".

Mr Barr told the BBC that during his three-day stay at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, he was without a blanket and had to make do with a towel.

The great-grandfather said: "My daughter went and asked the nurse, could she get a blanket for me as I was just out of theatre - the answer was 'I am sorry, but they are like gold-dust just now'."

Fellow RAH patient Mrs Macbeth said her daughter had to bring linen in from home because she had been left "freezing" in her bed.

She said: "When I asked for another blanket, they didn't give me one."

The blankets issue was highlighted a number of weeks ago by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie during her party's spring conference.

In her address, the health spokeswoman claimed patients were having to use dressing gowns as an alternative for blankets.

At the time, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde insisted there was no truth in the claims.

'Blankets available'

A spokesperson, said: "This matter was raised with us a few weeks ago, and we were able to provide proof that there was no truth in this claim.

"Extra blankets are available in all our hospital as and when patients need them."

Following Mr Salmond's meeting with the two patients, Ms Baillie said: "At the heart of this is a question about the first minister's honesty and integrity.

"When we first raised the cases of Helen Macbeth and Jack Barr having to sleep without blankets in hospital, the Scottish government dismissed their suffering as untrue and a scare story.

"Even today, in parliament Alex Salmond said their story was untrue.

"Only when confronted by 92-year-old Helen and 65-year-old Jack, who had travelled to Edinburgh from their homes in Renton, did Alex Salmond order an investigation into their treatment.

"They deserve better from the first minister, just as they deserved better than having to sleep without blankets."

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