NHS Scotland crisis: Top doctor warns Scotland's NHS won't make it to its 100th birthday
A top doctor is warning NHS Scotland will not make it to its 100th birthday unless there is a “national conversation” on how to fix the health service.
Dr Iain Kennedy, chair of BMA Scotland, said the problems facing the NHS were “getting worse” and has urged health secretary Michael Matheson to launch an independent conversation on how to turn things around.
His plea comes in the NHS’s 75th year, and coincided with Mr Matheson launching NHS 24’s annual winter preparedness campaign on Wednesday, reminding people to have cold and flu medicines on hand during the Christmas and new year period.
Speaking at the campaign launch in Edinburgh, Mr Matheson said: “Winter is going to be a really challenging time, I’ve been very clear about that for a number of months now.”
He said the Government had announced a number of funding packages to help ease pressure on the NHS, including £12 million for “hospital at home” schemes and £50m for the Scottish Ambulance Service.
Mr Matheson claimed a lack of funding from the UK Government was having an impact on the devolved health service. He said: “The challenges we have in health service in terms of finances is a reflection of the wider austerity that we’re experiencing from UK economic policy.
Dr Kennedy had previously warned a year earlier the NHS was “broken” and couldn’t survive in its existing form.
He told the BBC said: “The crisis in the NHS is well-documented and has been going on for 15 years. Problems with waiting times are only getting worse and the demand for healthcare is increasing, as we knew it would.
“We have an ageing population and we have failed to plan for the workforce needed for that. In my work as a doctor, and as I hear from my colleagues, mental health is a big issue.
“People are encouraged to come and see us, but if you refer them onto mental health services, most are rejected and people are waiting a long time. There are similar issues in orthopaedics, gynaecology and ENT [ear, nose and throat], so it is across the board.”
Dr Kennedy said it was “very frustrating” for both patients and healthcare professionals “who are continually having to apologise”.
The BMA Scotland chair, who works as a GP in Inverness, said government funding had been consistently withdrawn over the past couple of years, particularly in general practice.
He also warned those who suffer the most from these cuts are older and frailer people, and this will continue “until the middle of this century”.
“BMA Scotland is calling for a national conversation on the whole NHS to make the decisions on where the money should be spent, otherwise I predict Scotland’s NHS will not last until it is 100 years old,” he said.
“I believe politicians in Scotland know the conversations need to happen. Humza Yousaf, when he was Cabinet secretary for health, told me a national conversation was a good idea, and I have raised the matter with Michael Matheson.
“I am meeting him again next week so I will be discussing that with him.”
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