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89% of doctors say staffing inadequate for quality care

BMA survey warns comprehensive care provision is at risk

Adrian O'Dowd

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The vast majority of doctors in Scotland (89%) believe that staffing is currently inadequate for them to be able to provide quality care, according to new poll from the BMA.

The poll of 999 doctors also found that two-thirds (66%) of respondents said resources were inadequate and “significantly” affected the quality and safety of patient services, while a further 31% felt they “slightly” affected quality and safety.

In a warning about future NHS provision, the survey showed 88% of doctors who responded agreed that without a significant funding increase, the NHS in Scotland would not be able to offer comprehensive care within a decade, while 71% felt that overall NHS services had worsened in the last year.

The initial findings of the survey of Scottish doctors were revealed by chair of BMA Scotland Peter Bennie, delivering a speech to the BMA’s annual representative meeting being held in Brighton yesterday.

The results showed a profession “stretched to the edge”, Dr Bennie told the conference, who acknowledged and welcomed the “enduring commitment” to an NHS in Scotland that was not exposed to competition and privatisation, and highlighted progress in areas such as the new GP contract for Scotland introduced recently.

Dr Bennie said that doctors in Scotland were slightly less negative in their views of the state of the NHS than those in other parts of the UK, but warned that Scotland’s NHS was experiencing many of the same issues and should aim higher than the “very low bar” of simply being better than England.

“The survey results in Scotland demonstrate the stark reality of a profession pushed to the brink,” he said.

“While doctors are delivering high quality care wherever and however they possibly can, we are stretched to the limit of what we are capable of.

“Perhaps we have not quite reached the dire working conditions and morale seen in England, but we are clinging by our fingertips from sliding down a similar path.

“Over the last four years as chair of BMA, it is with dismay that I have seen more and more expected of doctors, with demand and pressures increasing substantially year on year. At the same time, pay has been hit in real terms. Vacancies have increased and become harder to fill.”

Commenting on the survey findings on opinions about quality and safety, Dr Bennie said: “This is simply not good enough, either for patients or doctors. We all want to provide the very best care we can, but we are being prevented from doing so by an under resourced and under staffed system. It illustrates the urgent need for action at all levels of government.

“First, there must be a clear plan to close the gap between resources and demand that we see impacting on the service on a daily basis. The plans for additional investment in England’s NHS announced in recent days, and the expectation of further resources for Scotland, may give us an opportunity to stop that gap growing further.

“While the precise figure for the money coming to Scotland may not be known for some time, we can be sure that this alone will be insufficient to move NHS Scotland to a fully sustainable footing for the longer term. Investment on a greater scale is still going to be required in the years ahead.”

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