Leader: ‘We need to think about our lifestyles’

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how do we cure the ills of our NHS? We all know the problems which the health service is facing. Soaring patient demand, an ageing population with increasingly complex health problems, staff shortages and growing financial pressures. It’s a recipe for disaster.

There are no easy answers, but is there an alternative to a system that is constantly creaking at the seams? Or do we simply have to realise that the NHS cannot cope with the demands we place upon it and accept long waits for treatment and reduced local services?

In the coming years, we are all going to have to accept more responsibility for our own health. We can’t eat what we like, drink generous amounts of alcohol, take too little exercise, and then expect the NHS to pick up all the pieces. The alternative is that sooner or later the entire system will “fall over”, as NHS Lothian chairman Brian Houston has warned.

In the meantime, we all have to play our part. For each of us, that means thinking about our lifestyle, and making the adjustments that we can. For health service bosses, it means better planning at a national level, and increasingly creative management locally.

The most pressing problem facing NHS Lothian, as we report today, is the shortage of specialist staff in several key areas, including Accident and Emergency.

The Scottish Government needs better planning to help ensure enough staff are trained for each discipline. In the meantime, the health board has a great challenge as it competes with hospitals around the world, for staff.

That means finding smart ways of making less popular specialisms more attractive, be it changing shift patterns, offering short-term placements for doctors considering specialising so they can try without committing, as is happening at St John’s, or creating compelling job adverts like the ERI’s neo-natal nurses who inspired a rush of applicants by recording their own video messages.