NHS reform is vital to avoid privatisation by stealth – Kenny MacAskill MP

A billion pounds pledged to the NHS by Nicola Sturgeon, who could possibly disagree?

When waiting times for treatment may be long, can the NHS afford 14 different health boards in Scotland? (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
When waiting times for treatment may be long, can the NHS afford 14 different health boards in Scotland? (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

We want the best health service we can possibly afford. Covid has proven costly and not just in lives, with waiting times lengthening and delays increasing.

But is it all about the money? With life expectancy increasing and pressures through the benefits of medical science growing, can we simply keep throwing money at it, or do we need some reform as well?

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That doesn’t mean privatisation but structural reform and consideration of how we best achieve the outcomes we want. Isn’t it time we considered that as opposed to simply throwing ever more cash into the pot?

The NHS has remained unreformed as other sectors – such as justice or education – have undergone significant change to produce cost savings as well as better service delivery. Yet I don’t know anyone in health, at whatever level or whatever part, that doesn’t bemoan waste in the system and see options for savings and improvements.

Some aspects seem positively Soviet-esque in their bureaucracy, even if it’s essential we guard against fraud on the public purse. Do we need 14 health boards and numerous other agencies? Is there a better way to allow local scrutiny whilst reducing the number of highly paid bureaucrats?

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Years ago when I first went for a jag for a holiday, it was the GP who did it. Rightly so? But, as we’ve seen in the improvisation to vaccinate a population against Covid, things can be done differently. Aren’t there other such changes that could be made?

I’ve had both family and friends who needed treatment get the detail of what was required from a pharmacist, but still a prescription was necessary. A cursory chat over the phone with the GP saw an email dispatched and the problem solved. Shouldn’t pharmacists be allowed to dispense more, they’re well trained after all?

And if poverty’s a driver of ill-health, is strategic funding targeting that not a better use of resources?

I’m hearing of folk now being told it’s go private or wait years. It’s not all about the money; we need reform to avoid privatisation by stealth.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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