NHS crisis in Scotland: SNP must realise major reform is required to save the health service – Scotsman comment

Hardly a week goes by without further evidence of the depths of the NHS crisis.

The NHS performed heroically during the height of the Covid pandemic (Picture: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
The NHS performed heroically during the height of the Covid pandemic (Picture: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

In the latest sign that the future of our much-loved National Health Service is increasingly in doubt, the British Medical Association has warned that overworked GPs are so “exhausted” that there are now “serious issues” affecting both patient and staff safety. It reported about a third of surgeries have vacancies for doctors which they are struggling to fill.

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said he was “deeply disappointed that there has been no improvement at all in 12 months despite pledges from the Scottish Government to support general practice and recruit more doctors”.

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Given how fundamentally important GPs are as the first port of call for many patients, their situation threatens to undermine the whole system. Stories abound of how difficult it is to get an appointment and there will be some people who decide not to bother trying. This may have fatal consequences for them and could also increase the workload for the NHS if the lack of a swift referral by a GP means staff are forced to try to treat a more advanced condition.

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While there is a lot wrong with the way the NHS is organised, there are also problems with how the public are using it. One simple step could be better education about who to contact first, such as the NHS 24 helpline, a pharmacist, practice nurse or GP etc.

Those with the financial means to do so can, of course, switch to private healthcare. However this is a trend that will undermine support for the taxation required to properly fund a health service free at the point of delivery. If it continues, the NHS risks becoming little more than a service of last resort for the poor.

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To avoid this fate, all those who love the NHS should now accept that it is not working, for patients or staff, and root-and-branch reform is required. The Scottish Government’s piecemeal, firefighting approach to a crisis that dates back years suggests it does not recognise this. It is past time for ministers to give the NHS the priority it deserves and move heaven and earth to save what was once the brightest jewel in the crown of modern Britain.

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