POLITICIANS must not make “unqualified, unfunded and unrealistic promises about the NHS” in the run-up to next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, a leader of Scottish doctors has warned.
Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association’s Scottish council, will use a key speech today to urge parties to find a sustainable model for the NHS, rather than using it as a political football.
Dr Bennie, a consultant psychiatrist based in Glasgow, is set to say: “I want to encourage politicians to avoid falling into the much-too-easy trap of making unqualified, unfunded and unrealistic promises about the NHS.
“I would urge each of the parties to think clearly about what needs to change for the NHS to be sustainable for the long term – not just the next five years.”
He welcomes plans for a national conversation on the future of the health service in Scotland announced by health secretary Shona Robison in an address to NHS staff earlier this week.
He will say: “Politicians must listen to the profession and we all need to engage with the people of Scotland to make sure our NHS survives the current pressures, and doctors can regain the confidence that comes from working in a system that delivers the best care to patients.”
In an address to the BMA’s annual conference in Liverpool, Dr Bennie will also state that weekly reporting of A&E targets was “missing the point” on the NHS performance just four months after the Scottish Government ordered this for waiting times.
Health boards across Scotland have struggled to achieve the strict targets of treating 95 per cent of patients within four hours, with the latest figures showing only 92.2 per cent were seen within the time limit in the week ending 14 June.
Dr Bennie believes ministers “bowed to pressure from opposition parties” in reporting the data, which does not show the wider picture or improve patient care.
He will add: “We need a rethink on targets in Scotland. If we are to continue with them, the targets must drive improved clinical outcomes for patients rather than an expensive obsession with reducing waiting times, irrespective of patients’ best interests.”
The calls were backed by Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson Jim Hume MSP, who called for an “evidence-driven” approach to policy making.
He added: “We understand that the nurses, doctors and staff running our NHS know the best treatments for the problems faced by our health service.”
The A&E targets had been supported by clinicians, argued Ms Robison, who maintained it was not the only measure on which the NHS should be judged.
She said: “Our NHS also has a world leading patient safety programme, which has reduced hospital mortality rates substantially in recent years, demonstrating the benefits of an outcome focused approach, as highlighted by the BMA.
“Alongside this, we recognise that tackling health inequalities and encouraging healthy behaviours are a vital part of the overall approach.
“However, we accept that we need to do more to ensure we fully support the superb professionals working in our NHS.”