Kevan Christie: Health Secretary Shona Robison should not be sacked

The predictable calls from opposition MSPs for Health Secretary Shona Robison to resign go little way to addressing the real problems highlighted by Audit Scotland's latest annual report.

Health Secretary Shona Robison chats with health staff at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert

The watchdog listed a string of failures including missed targets, longer waiting times and increasing pressure on budgets.

However, perhaps the most alarming finding of all was the Auditor General’s assertion that Scotland’s health “is not improving”.

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All of this is easy pickings for the likes of Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar, who has sought to ramp up the pressure on Ms Robison by branding her “out of her depth and out of ideas” while calling for her to go.

Certainly, the Cabinet Secretary is far from playing a blinder and should perhaps consider answering questions more directly, but is a shift in personnel really the answer given that the overall policy isn’t going to change?

No, shuffling ministers like pieces on a chess board will not improve the nation’s health and the shocking disparity between the poorest and richest in Scottish society.

Playing politics with our health makes for ready-made sound bites and gives the opposition the impression they’re making a difference, but Ms Robison is the one with the health job and the next election is well over three years away.

This gives the SNP Government a fighting chance to get things right. It may be a big ask, but initiatives like the obesity strategy and moves towards minimum pricing on alcohol are steps in the right direction.

With under three years in the job, I would say the Health Secretary should be given another year to see if she can turn things around.

By that time the Scottish Government’s flagship health proposals should be bedded in and we can judge if they are truly making a difference.

The ageing population, with more of us being diagnosed with early dementia, is a problem that’s not going to go away no matter who’s in charge.

But there are definitely key areas where the Government could do a lot better.

Scrapping the one per cent cap on public sector pay in Scotland was long overdue, especially given the need to address the current recruitment crisis in nursing and midwifery.

Calls from the Tories for more to be invested on General Practice echo the concerns of the Royal College of General Practitioners and have reached an impasse.

Hopefully the roll-out of the new GP contract will herald a thawing in relations between local doctors and the Government but don’t hold your breath.

The GP recruitment crisis needs serious attention and more has to be done to attract homegrown students into medicine. So many factors are at play if the Scottish Government’s plans for a multi-disciplinary approach to healthcare in the community are to come to fruition.

‘Realistic Medicine’ is an interesting prospect but a huge shift in the public’s attitude is required if we are ever to become ‘realistic’ in terms of health proviison.

Ms Robison is right to say health inequalities are a challenge which “will not be addressed by the actions of the NHS alone” as poverty is the real enemy here.

But the NHS is often forced to bear the brunt of society’s problems and it needs leadership that knows how to cope with that reality.

The Robsion report card reads “must try harder” but she should stay in the job for now.