Brian Monteith: NHS in dire need of intensive care

Tory research shows the NHS in Scotland spent £248m on locum doctors and nurses last year. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA WireTory research shows the NHS in Scotland spent £248m on locum doctors and nurses last year. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Tory research shows the NHS in Scotland spent £248m on locum doctors and nurses last year. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
We know our once enviable education system is at breaking point with falling numeracy and literacy, a need for more schools and growing teacher unemployment '“ but, like buses, problems never come alone and now we are learning just how bad the NHS is getting under the SNP government.

I can already hear the refrain, “Ah, but it’s all London’s fault, it’s those politicians down south deciding in Westminster what happens to our NHS and hospitals”, only it isn’t true.

For one thing the NHS north of the Border is fully devolved to the Holyrood parliament and all the decisions are, like girders, made in Scotland. “Ah, but it’s all those Tory cuts, its austerity politics and we have to suffer it even though we never voted for it”, only that’s not true either.

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Spending on the NHS in England was protected from austerity cuts and has risen. As part of the Scottish block grant the same percentage increase was then passed on to the SNP government – only for it to decide to spend less on the NHS and redirect some of that extra money away to other projects. The politicians Scotland voted into power – the SNP – did that themselves, no-one else.

Unfortunately the problems do not stop there. This week a new report about the state of our public health came out and it made shocking reading. According to the annual research nearly a third (30 per cent) of people in the Lothians drink more than the recommended levels of alcohol each week, compared to only a fifth in Tayside. Two-thirds of Scots are overweight, with some areas reporting one in three people to be obese, while only one in five is eating sufficient levels of fruit and vegetables. There has been no change in diet, exercise or mental health but levels of anxiety are increasing and Scots are getting heavier.

The official government report revealed that since the nationalists came to power “Overall, average levels of wellbeing for adults have changed little since 2008.” and shamefully that “Wellbeing among 13 to 15-year-olds decreased.”

Don’t bet on it getting better any time soon. There is a looming GP crisis coming with a lack of recruits being trained to replace the aging profession that is set to retire in huge numbers. Figures show that one in five GPs in Scotland is aged over 55 and could feasibly retire within five years time. Indeed, the BMA recently found that one in three Scottish GPs was hoping to retire in the next five years, no doubt because over half of GPs feel their current workload is unmanageable or unsustainable.

The SNP says it is fighting privatisation of the NHS but it has spent millions more on agency staff rather than recruit their own.

Research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed the NHS spent £248 million on locum doctors and nurses last year – an astonishing £41m more than last year, with some health boards even doubling their spend. The figure in Lothian was almost £45m.

The dedicated staff are clearly overstretched and wards and departments are being threatened with closure despite promises the NHS would be safe in the SNP’s hands.

If I could afford it I would be looking up private health insurance. Instead I’ll have to settle for a wee dram every night as solace.

I’m living in a state of Grace

As of tonight I’m going on the Grace Jones diet.

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Grace, who just celebrated her 110th birthday, swears by the tot of Scotch whisky she has had as a nightcap every night since she turned 50. I reckon that’s 842 bottles of Scotch worth over £10,000 in today’s money – not a bad investment compared to a gym membership over the same period! I’m already on the Mediterranean diet of red wine with my dinner every evening so I might just live long enough to see Hibs win the Scottish Cup a second time well in the future.

Mind you, my Scottish diet of fry-ups could be a problem, so I might have to settle for only a League Cup in ten years’ time.

‘Will they, won’t they’ posturing is damaging economy

Evidence is mounting that the uncertainty over Scotland’s future in the UK is damaging the economy.

There are plenty of business leaders who will admit quietly to shelving investment plans because they don’t know if there will or will not be another independence referendum – and cannot know the outcome or what it will mean. Better then to invest in the rest of the UK where there is no such threat.

Now we are discovering the SNP don’t even know what to do – leading SNP figures Kenny MacAskill and Joan McAlpine have both said now is the wrong time for a second referendum while gung-ho Alex Salmond is keen to get going now.

If push-me pull-me Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t know what to do and everyone around her is disagreeing how can we honestly expect business people to plan ahead?

The SNP needs to get its act together or kill it altogether and get on with the day job they were elected to do.

The generation game’s a bogey

Alex Salmond has claimed that when he said the 2014 independence referendum was “once in a generation” he only meant it as an estimate.

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Unfortunately that’s not the whole truth for he also said live on television (September 14, 2014) that “this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

He might be able to bluff that by saying “generation” he was making a rough estimate but a lifetime is a one-off. When it’s done it’s done. If Alex Salmond was a plumber nobody would believe his estimates and he’d be out of work.