Dear Ms Lamont,
In May you protested at First Minister's Questions about the lack of funding for some cancer treatments in Scotland (a Scotland that is dependent for its spending money on a Tory government, which it didn't elect, you may recall).
You even, to prove your point, lest the First Minister thought you were making it up (and let's be honest, in health matters, among others, your party has form... [I'm talking about you Jackie]), brought along a woman who was suffering from cancer and who had been denied a drug that might have extended her life...a drug she would be able to access in England. She was, you said, obliged to move to England to get the treatment.
This seemed, if I may allowed to say so, to be a cheap trick on your part.
It was pointed out to you at that time that, wherever you go, in whatever country in Europe, there are treatments you can get one place and not another.
In this case a drug that had not been approved for use in Scotland was available in England, and you gave the impression that you felt that that was the norm by saying that Scotland was in danger of "exporting health refugees", as if England was the place where, regardless of cost, second to none treatment was available..
There are differences across Europe. A drug available free of charge in Italy might not be available in Spain. A treatment regularly used in Malta might not be available in Bulgaria.
Quite simply each country has its own organisation which decides which drugs are considered a good use of the limited amount of money that most countries can afford to spend on them.
I've thought a lot about you in the last few weeks when all these stories of unbelievably appalling standards of care have been highlighted in the English National Health system, involving thousands of needless deaths attributable to corner cutting and downright neglect of patients.
You were on my mind too when I read in the Metro the other day a story about a young lad of 8, who had been promised an operation to help him to walk.
Just as little Joseph Hill, from Leeds, was preparing himself for this operation which would allow him to lead a more normal life, his parents got a letter saying that due to reorganisation, the operation was no longer available on the national health. Instead his family would have to find £20,000 to pay for it. An unbelievably cruel thing to do to an 8 year old who only wants to be able to walk, would you not say?
In the meantime, in a matter a little closer to your original complaint against the Scottish government, NICE has decided that "pertuzumab" will not be available to patients in England. The drug which can extend life in some breast cancer patients when used in conjunction with other chemo, is not, according to NICE, cost effective.
You might also note that Mr Hunt has been obliged to find emergency funding of £500,000,000 to prop up disastrous A & E services in England as his privatised 111 call centres fall apart in front of his eyes, and we discover that patients are being left to the tender mercies of laymen with 5 weeks' call centre training to diagnose and advise treatment.
The Scottish Health Service leaves a good deal to be desired, but there I feel that, given the parlous state of NHS England, it is more likely that health refugees will be coming to Scotland rather than leaving it.
I trust you are enjoying our extended break. It seems so long since we saw the leader of her majesty's Scottish opposition.
I look forward to your return to the front line.