SMA Weekend School 1971

The S.M.A.’s weekend school was held this year from 17th to 19th September at the Pollock Halls of the University of Edinburgh. It was attended by almost one hundred people, and gave an oppor­tunity for S.M.A. members from Scotland and elsewhere to meet and discuss many aspects of the Health Service and plans for the future with Trades Unionists and members of Labour and Co-op parties. The main theme was the role which Trades Unions can play in the preservation of the N.H.S. In the opening Session, Dr. John Dunwoody described the damage created by the Tory Government, and the necessity for plans for the future of the N.H.S. and social services.

Mr. Alex Kitson, Scottish Commercial Motormen’s Union, spoke of the fight of the Trade Union movement over many, many years to introduce and maintain a free health service as part and parcel of the standard of living which their members should enjoy. He described the present involvement of the Trades Unions, instigated by the Transport and General Workers’ Union in their efforts to improve the lot of the old age pensioners not only for more money but for more services for the elderly. He felt that there must be a tangible link between the Trade Union movement and their members on retirement. Pensioners should actually sit on Trade Union Com­mittees if their points of view are to be realised.

Naturally the Trade Union movement is also deeply involved in the extension of the Occupational Health Service and in formulating future plans on the return of the Labour Government.

Mr. Lawrence Daly, National Union of Mineworkers, described the very rigid legislation of his Union for safety standards since 1872, and how Medical Centres had been established at each colliery. In spite of all improvements mineworkers still have shorter than average expectation of life and their children higher infant mortality. Mr. Daly called for the establishment of a kind of srciety in which we can make a net through which people do not fall; they must not only be given a subsistence but the amenities to which they are entitled. He believed that the Trades Union Move­ment could not do enough to support the S.M.A. in examining the deficiencies of the service and preparing for its extension.

Dr. Dunwoody explained how the Occupational Health Service is one of the issues under special consideration by a working party of the S.M.A. supported by Trades Unionists. He felt that the Occupational Health Service must vary from industry to industry. The service for small industries could be based on Health Centres, whereas in large ones it must, be within the industry itself. Pilot services would be a wise step before endeavouring to initiate a service for the whole country.

During another session of the school, Mr. J. H. O’Reilly of C.O.H.S.E. and Mr. J. Edwards of P.O.E.U. joined with Dr. MacLean, a Glasgow General Practitioner, and members of the S.M.A. Executive in discussing the role of Health Workers in the N.H.S. and in the final session, there was a forum of all speakers with many helpful contributions from the floor.

The success of the School proved the value of these discussions and the S.M.A. is deeply indebted to the Edinburgh branch for the part it played in making the school possible and enjoyable. Much valuable discussion took place, and many contacts were established so that one hopes that similar events can be arranged to continue to stimulate interest in other parts of the country.