NHS existence 'under threat' as 58,000 patients in Scotland wait more than 12 hours in A&E

The warning will be delivered by a leading Scottish doctor in a keynote speech in Belfast

Scotland’s NHS is in “permanent crisis” and its very existence as we know it is under threat, a leading doctor is to warn.

In a speech to be delivered today, Dr Iain Kennedy, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, will say that winter pressures are here 365 days a year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He will warn Scotland is “sleepwalking” into sacrificing an NHS that is free at the point of use, with the growth of a two-tier, health care system now “beyond question”.

A general view of staff on a NHS hospital ward. Picture: Jeff Moore/PA WireA general view of staff on a NHS hospital ward. Picture: Jeff Moore/PA Wire
A general view of staff on a NHS hospital ward. Picture: Jeff Moore/PA Wire

In a speech to the BMA’s 2024 annual representatives meeting (ARM) in Belfast, he will also warn the Scottish Government’s plans for engagement on NHS reform “lack clarity and urgency”.

Dr Kennedy is expected to say: “Scotland’s NHS is in a state of permanent crisis. Winter pressures are here 365 days a year.

“Since my last ARM speech and the end of April this year, over 58,000 patients have waited more than 12 hours in a Scottish A&E [accident-and-emergency] department – that’s 24 times greater than five years ago.

“This massive deterioration in performance is completely outwith the control of our doctors who work tirelessly in traumatic circumstances.

“And these figures are a warning light that the whole health and social care system is not coping with the demand.

“Long waits are forcing those who can afford it, to go private. A two-tier health service in Scotland is now beyond question. If you can stump up the cash, then you can get the care you need.

“But we all value an NHS free at the point of use. Yet, Scotland is sleepwalking into sacrificing this principle, threatening the very existence of the national health service as we know it.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Kennedy will say that if Scotland is to emerge from its “NHS perma-crisis” it must properly invest in and value doctors.

He will again call for an urgent national conversation about the future of the NHS – pointing out it is an idea now widely supported across Scotland.

Dr Kennedy will say: “While I welcome the Scottish Government’s plan for direct engagement with the public and stakeholders this year, it lacks both clarity and urgency.

“So, today, I urge the Scottish Government to come forward now with a detailed plan to guarantee an inclusive national conversation, along with a plan to implement what it tells us.”

Public Health Scotland data had showed that of the 27,190 people who attended A&E in the week ending June 9, only 67.6 per cent were seen and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour target.

A total of 1,118 (4.1 per cent) of patients spent more than 12 hours in A&E, compared to 1,203 (4.3 per cent) the previous week.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “After 17 years of SNP mismanagement, Scotland’s NHS is in permanent crisis mode and they still don’t have a plan to fix this situation.

“The double whammy of the SNP’s dire workforce planning and the failure of Humza Yousaf’s flimsy recovery plan has left staff stretched to breaking point and it is patients who are paying the price.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“With the NHS’s peak winter period well behind us, we should be seeing drastic improvements, but under the SNP our health service faces winter pressures all year round.

“My colleagues in the BMA have been very clear that unless drastic action is taken then the existence of the NHS as we know it is under threat.

John Swinney needs to stop obsessing over independence and instead focus on tackling the crisis engulfing our NHS. He should start by adopting our bold plans to deliver a modern, efficient, and local health service.”

Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Dr Iain Kennedy and the BMA couldn’t be any clearer about the perilous state of our NHS.

“Waiting lists are growing, staff are overstretched, and patients are being forced to consider private treatment, but the SNP insist there is no crisis. Our NHS doesn’t need to be protected by John Swinney and the SNP – it needs to be rescued from them.

“It’s rank hypocrisy from the SNP to insist they are the party who can save our NHS when it is 17 years of SNP government that has led to this crisis.”

Health secretary Neil Gray said: “The principles of a health service free at the point of need are sacrosanct. I have been clear, reform to how health services operate has never been more urgent and our vision for transformation focuses on early prevention and intervention and improving population health.

“We greatly value our health workforce and want to hear from them, including BMA Scotland, on how best to reform services – we will collect views through a series of direct engagements with staff and key stakeholders over the next year.

“We are making progress in clearing the backlog of long waits for planned care and continue to work closely with Boards to improve A&E performance.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.