I recently led a debate in the Scottish Parliament about the amazing role that Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) take in improving the health of people all over Scotland.
Across Aberdeenshire, AHPs can include Art therapists (Art, Music and Drama), Dieticians, Occupational Therapists, Orthoptists, Paramedics, Podiatrists, Prosthetists and Orthotists, Physiotherapists, Radiographers (diagnostic and therapeutic), Speech and Language Therapists – and each one of them provide an invaluable service, ensuring that local people can live full and independent lives within their own community.
But there are challenges that come with an ageing population. The number of over-65s in Scotland is predicted to increase by 39 per cent by 2031. This is significant because by the age of 65, two thirds of people have a long standing illness. When aged 75 or over, this figure rises to three out of four people. As may be expected, those with a long-term health condition are twice as likely as those without to be admitted to hospital, and they stay disproportionately longer.
I announced during the debate that there will be a new £3 million fund to go towards active and independent living for those recovering from illness or injury over the next three years.
AHPs support people of all ages in their recovery, helping them to regain mobility, overcome visual problems, improve nutritional status, develop communication abilities and restore confidence in everyday living skills.
Through the AHP National Delivery Plan 2012-2015, AHPs are working together with other health professionals and community services to reduce unnecessary admissions to hospitals or care for older people with long-term conditions and dementia, and facilitate early discharge.
For many people, staying in their own home is key to their sense of wellbeing and recovery as their health deteriorates, and I would like to see this become a reality for the vast majority of people across Scotland.
It is important therefore that AHPs are recognised for the value they add to the lives of people in our communities, helping them contribute and take an active role alongside their family and friends.