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NHS Scotland pressures ‘need urgent action now’

Rise above political instability to focus on NHS Scotland’s needs, BMA urges politicians

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Politicians must “rise above the current political instability” and instead concentrate on what must be achieved in the NHS in Scotland to allow it to flourish, the leader of Scotland’s doctors has urged. He insisted the BMA would hold politicians to account to ensure that the NHS in Scotland can respond to current and future pressures.

The chair of BMA Scotland, Dr Peter Bennie, told delegates at the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Bournemouth this morning that the NHS is always in the political spotlight, having over the past three years alone been “at the front and centre” of two referenda, the Scottish election and two general elections – and now there is debate over the potential impact on the health service of leaving the European Union and a possible second independence referendum for Scotland.

Dr Bennie said: “Throughout this period of political instability, we at BMA Scotland have worked hard to deliver a consistent message to our politicians, urging them to focus on what must be achieved if healthcare is to flourish in Scotland.”

He pointed out that urgent action is needed in several key areas, including NHS underfunding; workforce shortages; lack of resources to support a truly integrated health and social care service; and inadequate time to enable doctors to make sure they are up to date, teach others and make joint decisions with patients. He argued that with the current pressure the NHS is under, making these changes is critical – and he warned that patient care is suffering as a result of doctors feeling increasingly stressed and overburdened.

Dr Bennie said: “Scottish Government repeatedly says that there are more doctors than ever before – but this is simply ignoring a major risk to the health service, and it is demoralising and frustrating for doctors to hear time and time again.

“We need a realistic approach to workforce planning in Scotland which is based on an honest and shared understanding of the current medical workforce numbers, and an evidence-based view of what future healthcare demand will mean for the number of doctors required. We need a clear and agreed approach to delivering and retaining this future workforce. We need to be able to fill vacancies so that we can look after our patients properly and take care of our own health, reducing the risk of burnout.”

He said Scotland’s chief medical officer’s report Realising realistic medicine embodies how doctors have been taught, and aim, to practise – sitting with a patient, discussing all the options and helping them to decide what is best for them, giving them clear information about their own responsibilities for their health – but this will only work if doctors and patients have enough time together to make joint decisions.

He said: “If the government and employers in Scotland are truly committed to realistic medicine, they need to demonstrate this by properly valuing the contribution and leadership role of doctors beyond the direct patient care they provide.”

He also reiterated concerns about the financial difficulties facing the NHS in Scotland. He said: “Health spending is a political choice. The UK spends a smaller proportion of its national wealth than the average levels spent by comparable leading European nations, and the BMA is calling for that to change, in all four nations. We want the Scottish public to be consulted on what they need from the health service, and they must be told honestly how much it will cost.

“Politicians must then decide if this is affordable, and if not, how they are going to bridge the gap – through additional funding, or by being honest with the public about what they are prepared to fund.”

He said: “At BMA Scotland, we will continue to do all that we can to hold our politicians to account to ensure our health service in Scotland can respond to the pressures it faces now and in the future.”

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