Unlike the majority of MPs at Westminster, I am not a career politician but was a Consultant Breast Surgeon at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock until the start of campaigning for the election.
While I was born in Belfast, I came to Scotland at the age of 10 and have spent the vast bulk of my life here; indeed I have lived in Troon longer than I have ever lived anywhere else and consider this my home. Until the height of the referendum campaign I would have described myself as an “adoptive Scot” but, having put my heart and soul into the campaign this year, I realise that I have morphed into simply considering myself Scottish.
This was brought home to me during the Commonwealth Games when I realised that I was overlooking athletes from Northern Ireland while waving my large Saltire and cheering myself hoarse for Scotland.
After studying medicine at Glasgow University and carrying out my residencies in the city, I went back to Belfast for a year to start my surgical training in 1983 during “the troubles”. I then spent most of my surgical training around the West of Scotland from Lanarkshire to Inverclyde.
I served as a medical volunteer by working as a consultant in a UN hospital in Gaza, Palestine from August 1991 to December 1992. This was just after the first Gulf war and during the first Palestinian Intifada. I then spent a short time in Southern Lebanon doing project planning for our charity, Medical Aid for Palestinians, after the war.
When I returned to work for the NHS in Aberdeen in 1994 I was shocked at the creation of the “purchaser/provider” split between GPs and hospital “Trusts” which was introduced by the Conservatives. Having spent nearly two years where people died due to lack of access to healthcare, I could not believe we were planning to tear our NHS apart.
Since devolution in 1999, Scotland has turned on its heel and reversed many of Mrs Thatcher’s changes while Labour introduced private providers and the Private Finance Initiative into the NHS in England.
The Conservative/LibDem coalition government built on Labour’s foundations by forcing the tendering of service contracts between private providers and the NHS in England. I believe that this threatens the very fabric of the NHS.