Doctors concerned NHS is prioritising targets not patients

A majority of doctors feel patient care is being given a lower priority in Scotland's NHS than both finances and national targets, a major new survey has found.

A majority of doctors feel patient care is being given a lower priority in Scotlands NHS. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The British Medical Association (BMA) polled 999 doctors across Scotland, with 72 per cent saying they think targets are given higher priority than the standard of care. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) thought the same of finances.

The full results of the survey, which was conducted over the summer and published yesterday, reflect the “deep concerns our members repeatedly express”, according to BMA Scotland chairman Lewis Morrison.

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The report also highlights concerns over excessive workload pressures, making it difficult to retain staff and a belief that workforce levels have deteriorated in the past year.

Dr Morrison said: “Our survey provides clear and worrying evidence that doctors in Scotland believe both national targets and finances are prioritised above the quality of patient care.

“This would indicate that the way our NHS is currently run is skewing priorities and not always putting the patient first. That simply cannot be right. Everything our health service does should be about delivering the best care possible and not simply meeting financial or waiting times targets, which often tell us little about the actual quality of care.”

He added: “It is clear from the results that there are simply not enough doctors to deliver the quality care we all strive to provide.

“Doctors are fearful of making mistakes and then being blamed for them despite being overworked and in a system under too much pressure.”

Dr Morrison said the survey showed bullying and harassment of doctors was “far too prevalent”. He said urgent steps needed to be taken to promote a more positive culture in Scotland’s NHS, adding: “This survey must be more than just a means to highlight the problems doctors are experiencing. It has to be the start of a process that begins to reverse the deterioration in working conditions for doctors and other healthcare workers in Scotland”

Nearly four in ten (38 per cent) say bullying and harassment is an issue in their workplace and a quarter of doctors would not feel confident in reporting such behaviour.

The overwhelming majority of doctors (93 per cent) are often or sometimes fearful of making a medical error and nearly half (48 per cent) say that fear is getting worse.

Opposition politicians were quick to highlight their concerns over patient care.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said “nothing should come before the welfare of patients”. He said: “It’s alarming to read this damning verdict from doctors. Under the SNP’s stewardship, which began in 2007, the NHS in Scotland has seen a workforce crisis and increasing financial mismanagement.

“It’s becoming ever clear to Scots that you can’t trust the SNP with the management of our Scottish NHS.”

His Labour counterpart, Monica Lennon, said: “When seven in ten doctors say that staffing and waiting times have worsened in the past year, the SNP Government needs to sit up and listen.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Since 2007 we have ensured that NHS funding has not only been protected, but has increased to record high levels.”