It is now less than a month until voters head to polling stations on May 6 to decide who they want to represent them in the next term of the Scottish Parliament.

The candidates who will be standing in the constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley at this year's Holyrood election have now been announced, and over the next three weeks, they will be setting out their stance on key issues such as health, education and climate change in a bid to win over voters at the ballot box.

This week, the candidates talk health.

SNP’s Elena Whitham on health:

Ayr Advertiser: Elena Whitham.Elena Whitham.

The pandemic has reinforced our love and dependency of our Scottish National Health Service and it is therefore incumbent upon us to recognise the need for an adequate pay increase. 

The SNP has committed to a four per cent uplift for all NHS workers to reflect this.

The SNP is committed to delivering a National Care Service that will be free at the point of delivery on par with our NHS with human rights and fair work principles at its heart. We have also pledged to scrap non-residential social care charges meaning that community alarms, lunch clubs and supported living assistance will be available to all who need it.

Our Cancer Treatment Recovery Plan includes Scotland wide provision of Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres backed with £114.5m of investment to ensure cancer patients get equitable access to treatment regardless of where they live. We know this is urgent due to the many who may not have come forward for assessment during the pandemic.

The SNP’s Women’s Health Plan aims to tackle the health inequalities faced by women including in cardiac care and reproductive health to ensure improved access to healthcare.

The SNP has recognised the impact the pandemic has had on our mental wellbeing and has increased mental health spending to over £1.2bn with a focus on speeding up access to treatment from psychological services.

Labour’s Carol Mochan on health:

Ayr Advertiser: Carol Mochan.Carol Mochan.

NHS staff here in Ayrshire and Arran have worked non stop to keep us safe and protected from COVID but the past year has not come without a cost.

Waiting times have soared, there are missing cancer patients, a growing mental health crisis, and an exhausted workforce.

And now NHS Ayrshire and Arran have admitted a funding deficit of £31.5million in 2021/22. The NHS board are planning £9.3million of cuts immediately but will still be heading into the 2021/22 with a £21million deficit.

Labour has a recovery plan for the NHS. We need to get cancer treatment back on track to clear the backlog of appointments within a year. Second on the list is improving mental health care with much better access including dedicated assessments for every school pupil. We want to see mental health support workers in every GP clinic.

Our proposals also include the creation of a national care service, “a real pay rise” for NHS staff and an increase in social carers ’pay to £15 an hour, with an immediate rise to £12.

This election should be about restoring the NHS. It should be about solutions for the future, a recovery plan to unite the country, not the arguments of the past and not an obsession with what divides us.

Lib Dem Kirsten Herbst-Gray on health:

Ayr Advertiser: Kirsten Herbst-Gray.Kirsten Herbst-Gray.

All of us have used the Health and Social Care system at some point in our lives and we continue to enjoy the service and the care the NHS provides.

As your MSP, I would insist that Scottish Government and Health Boards recognise the importance of local services to the health and wellbeing in our constituency.

Waiting times for treatments must be cut without compromise: 18 weeks for a referral to the chronic pain service in Ayrshire is completely unacceptable.

Every effort must be made to ensure we receive treatment when we need it.

The pandemic has put pressure on health and social care service, highlighting problems which have existed for many years. Lockdown rules and lack of social interaction also underscored the urgency to provide better mental health services which the Scottish

Liberal Democrats have been calling for over many years.

Liberals have already won an extra £120million for mental health in this year’s Scottish Budget but if we really value our NHS, then those that can afford should pay a bit more in tax and National Insurance to support our lifeline.

It is time for a change – put recovery first.

Conservative Sharon Dowey on health:

Ayr Advertiser: Sharon Dowey.Sharon Dowey.

Healthcare is devolved. In other words, it is the sole responsibility of the SNP Government. Even before this crisis, our NHS was suffering under the SNP. 

After 14 years in charge of health, the SNP have failed to cut waiting times or improve services. Indeed services are being cut from our rural communities and centralised, causing undue stress to those who are ill, and their families, when they least need it. 

Despite this, throughout this pandemic, Scotland’s NHS has performed incredible feats and every single frontline worker deserves our utmost thanks.

Our NHS needs to get the funding it requires to tackle the treatment backlogs that were already causing serious problems before the pandemic struck.

That is why we will invest record funding in the NHS. We would guarantee that the NHS budget will increase by Barnett consequentials or two per cent more than inflation (whichever is higher) in each year of the next Parliament. This would result in the NHS budget increasing by at least £2billion over the course of the next Parliament.

The only way to stop an SNP majority again and get the Scottish Parliament 100 per cent focused on our recovery from coronavirus is to vote for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party with your party vote in May.