VOTERS in Helensburgh and Lomond will have a choice of seven constituency candidates on election day next month - and this week we’re launching our election issues spotlights.

Each week we’ll give the seven candidates in the Dumbarton constituency the opportunity to set out their plans for local and national life that matter most to you, the voter.

First up, we asked each candidate (listed in alphabetical order of surnames below) for their position on health matters, such as the Vale of Leven Hospital and mental health services.

Healthcare was already a core employer in the constituency and a vital service even before the global pandemic focused all our attention on the front line of medicine and saving lives.

But how do you want to see health and mental health services change during the lifetime of the next Scottish Parliament?

Email editorial@helensburgh advertiser.co.uk with your priorities, and your views on the candidates’ thoughts.

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Jackie Baillie - Scottish Labour Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jackie BaillieJackie Baillie

THE last year has shown just how much we should value our health and social care service and, more importantly, the people who work there.

Staff at the Vale of Leven Hospital, and our local GPs and nurses throughout Helensburgh, Lomond, Dumbarton and the Vale have worked so hard to keep us safe.

Many of the challenges that exist for our much-loved NHS predate the pandemic. 
Waiting times for cancer treatment and diagnosis are too long; people are not receiving the mental health support that they need, and health and social care workers are overworked and underpaid.

Scottish Labour’s NHS recovery plan will create a health and social care service fit for the future.

I will always fight for the Vale of Leven hospital and we also need to get services back on track - prioritise cancer treatment and care; invest in mental health services to improve support and end rejected referrals; create a national care service to transform social care; and provide a real pay rise for NHS staff and raise social carers’ pay to £15 an hour.

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Maurice Corry - Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Maurice CorryMaurice Corry

THERE are many issues with health in Scotland currently, a lot created by the pandemic and mismanagement from the SNP government.

Mental health is a growing problem and one which has not had the services to deal with it.

The recent Covid pandemic has only increased the scale of this issue. I am proud to have successfully campaigned and launched improved mental health services at the Vale of Leven hospital.

Through the pandemic some vital services provided by the NHS were stopped, primarily cancer testing.

The NHS should be there for everyone with any problem or worry.

I have had numerous constituents write to me with accounts of tests and treatment being cancelled.

This really is unacceptable. Some of these constituents had to have treatment in England during the easing of restrictions last summer.

The Scottish Conservatives have pledged more money for the NHS to ensure that it is properly funded and that services can remain open for people.

We need to protect the NHS for the benefit of us all.

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Andy Foxall - Scottish Liberal Democrats

Helensburgh Advertiser: Andy FoxallAndy Foxall

THIS pandemic has brought extreme pressure on our NHS. Staff are exhausted, having gone above and beyond the call of duty.

We should thank them by giving both health and social care workers a well-earned pay rise, but also the resources they need to work.

We know that delayed treatments, a consequence of the pandemic, have left a long queue of patients. Our mental health was in crisis before the pandemic and now even more people are unwell because of it.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed policies to get more professionals trained, especially counsellors. We want more walk-in services in A&E departments.

We can prevent more people becoming unwell in the first place by putting mental health first-aiders in every workplace and more counsellors in schools. We can improve our healthcare if we decentralise medicine, with more services locally available.

In the months ahead, we should not just get back to where we were before Covid. We can strive for a higher standard for our fantastic NHS, benefitting patients and staff.

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Toni Giugliano - Scottish National Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Toni GiuglianoToni Giugliano

OUR NHS has kept us safe during the toughest of times.

That’s why the SNP government is delivering a 4 per cent pay rise for NHS staff – the single biggest pay increase in the history of devolution.

As a mental health worker I’ll put Scotland’s health at the top of my agenda. My work in the field has led to the creation of new services and resources.

So you can be certain that I’ll fight for our local hospital. Labour downgraded the Vale of Leven Hospital, then spent the next decade portraying it as vulnerable for political gain.

The SNP has created 15 new services at the Vale since 2015. The hospital has a bright future, and as your MSP I’ll champion the expansion of even more services.

The SNP has delivered record NHS funding and employed 19,500 more staff. Our Covid vaccination programme has led the UK, and prescriptions remain free of charge.

If re-elected, we’ll set up a National Care Service and establish fast track cancer diagnostic centres in every health board area.

On May 6 elect a public health champion.

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James Morrison - Independent

Helensburgh Advertiser: James MorrisonJames Morrison

A RESIDENT should not be more than 20 minutes away from an accident and emergency unit and must be able to get a doctor’s appointment within 24 hours.

Artificial intelligence is already working hard at saving lives. If we invest in healthcare technology, then health in Scotland can be improved and lives saved using artificial intelligence to detect medical conditions, improve healthcare delivery and provide better pharmaceutical solutions.

Waiting lists could be cut, and people treated faster. Every adult should have a full medical assessment every five years to fully utilise preventative care, and a fight on obesity must be our priority.

This would allow health budgets to be spent on care such as the re-instatement of the in-service mental health facility at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

Mental health and poverty are linked and must be addressed.

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Andrew Muir - Independent

Helensburgh Advertiser: Andrew MuirAndrew Muir

IT is a human right to decide what drugs you wish to enter your body – especially psychiatric drugs, which come with significant side effects, including severe shortening of your life.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which I support, recommends the abolishment of forced treatment of patients.

However people like me who speak out about this issue are in danger.

In only the last couple of weeks, I have been sent a letter from lawyers representing Voices of Experience, which is described as Scotland’s national voice on mental health.

They are based at the same address as the Mental Health Foundation, of which Toni Giugliano, the SNP’s election candidate in this constituency, is the policy and public affairs manager.

This letter accuses me of defamatory remarks, and states that I have sent emails amounting to harassment for the purposes of the Protection of Harassment Act 1997.

The letter also states that non-harassment orders are available which are quasi-criminal in nature, and says that court proceedings may be raised against me and that I may have to pay damages for distress.

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Jonathan Rainey - Scottish Libertarian Party

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jonathan RaineyJonathan Rainey

The Scottish National Party has not done very well in its 14 years in power at Holyrood to protect standards in Scotland’s hospitals from declining.

It has also not done enough to prevent our hospitals, including the Vale of Leven Hospital, from cutting back on departments and services that are vital to the people who live in our community.

Nor has the SNP done a good job in the opening up and looking after of certain hospitals such as the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

What we need to see is a significant change to a system in which taxes that are paid towards the upkeep of the NHS are voluntary, and in which regulations surrounding the private health sector, including private hospitals, need to be loosened up.

It is highly important that staff whistleblowers within the NHS are given full legal protection from any reprisals should they dare to raise any concerns about what has been happening in hospitals - including with treatments applied, especially with what has happened over the past year. Medical censorship cannot be tolerated.

I will also fully oppose any move towards mandatory vaccinations and mandatory face mask or visor laws - medical consent must remain voluntary and must not be taken away.

More in next week's Advertiser