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Final Health Bill debate

Voice equipment and e-cigarette regulation among measures.

The NHS will have a duty to provide equipment and support to people who lose their voices if legislation passes parliament today.

There are a range of health conditions and illnesses that could result in a person losing their voice. By providing equipment and support, NHS boards can help people to continue to communicate if their condition takes away their ability to speak.

The commitment is contained in the Health Bill, which will be debated for the third and final time this afternoon. The Bill also proposes:

  • Regulation of e-cigarettes - banning the sale of non-medicinal e-cigarettes to under-18s or the purchase by an adult for a minor. Retailers would also have to join a central register
  • Making it a statutory offence to smoke in the vicinity of hospital buildings
  • A statutory Duty of Candour, which would apply to all health and social care organisations. This would place a duty on organisations to be open when a patient has suffered unintended harm during a period of treatment or care
  • Creation of new criminal offences of wilful neglect or ill treatment that would apply to the rare cases where there has been intentional neglect or ill-treatment in the health or social care system. This would apply only to deliberate mistreatment and not instances of genuine error or accident

Maureen Watt, Minister for Public Health, met people with an interest in voice equipment at a visit to the headquarters of Euan’s Guide website in Edinburgh this morning.

Ms Watt said: 

“I’m delighted to be able to present this Health Bill to parliament for the final debate today, and I’m pleased that we have been able to add amendments to provide voice equipment and support. The prospect of losing your voice can be extremely worrying and I hope that this legislation will provide some comfort and assurance that equipment and support will be available. 

"I would also like to acknowledge the important role of Gordon Aikman, MND Scotland and others in helping to bring about the voice equipment provisions contained in this Bill.

“This is a wide-ranging bill. If passed this afternoon it will mean the introduction of regulation of e-cigarettes for the first time. While they are almost certainly safer than cigarettes, and have a role to help people quit smoking, we don’t want children to take them up, and that’s why we are proposing these age restrictions.

“Making it an offence to smoke near hospital buildings is common sense, and it will help NHS boards to enforce their existing smoke-free policies. Hospitals are places people go to recover from illness, and they shouldn’t have to walk through clouds of smoke.

“This is also a Bill that seeks to improve patient safety and rights. Our proposals on duty of candour will ensure that health and social care providers are fully open when a patient has suffered unintentional harm. They will improve transparency, raise standards and help us to learn from past mistakes. 

“We also hope to create a new criminal offence for wilful neglect. Thankfully these cases are very rare, but when they do happen it will give our courts the power to deal with the worst cases of neglect and ill-treatment.”


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