Scots believe health policies ‘made to win votes’

The head of Scotland's doctors said people were fed up with the NHS being treated as a political football
The head of Scotland's doctors said people were fed up with the NHS being treated as a political football
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The majority of Scots believe health policies are made to win votes rather than do what is best for the NHS, research ­reveals.

A poll for the British Medical Association (BMA), at the start of their annual conference, found 74 per cent thought health policies were designed to be vote-winning instead of ­taking account of what the service ­needs.

The head of Scotland’s doctors said people were fed up with the NHS being treated as a political football. Their survey also found most people believed doctors and not politicians or managers should have a greater say in how the NHS is run on a daily basis.

The Scottish Government said the NHS operated best when clinicians worked with ministers.

The Ipsos MORI survey found that more than half – 57 per cent – of people in Scotland were ­satisfied with how the NHS is being run, which was a figure similar to those across the rest of the UK. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of Scots said they were in favour of doctors having a greater say in how the NHS is run.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) also thought that the NHS should be free to manage itself without ­interference, while 41 per cent said parliaments should not set overall ­targets for the NHS.

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said: “It is interesting that while ­Scotland has chosen to go down a completely different route in terms of health policy to that in England, the results of this ­survey are broadly similar across the UK.

“In Scotland, we have not endured the massive reorganisation of the NHS that has happened in England, but political agendas here have stifled change and, in my view, placed the NHS, as it is currently run, in an ­unsustainable position.

“This survey shows that the public is increasingly disenchanted with the use of the NHS as a political football by all ­political parties in Scotland.”

Dr Keighley said while the NHS remained high in public estimation, there was a significant majority of the population showing increasing impatience with decisions “made with ­reference to opinion polls and potential votes rather than on grounds of clinical need”.

He added: “The public is not naive and is clearly suspicious of political interference in the NHS.

“They need to be convinced that decisions about their local health services are primarily about improving the care that they receive.

“Doctors and NHS managers are clear that there are problems in the NHS, yet politicians on all sides of the parliament are unwilling to make difficult choices for fear of losing votes.”

Dr Keighley said that the NHS in Scotland needed to be protected from day-to-day political control and managed so planning of services and investment was on a far longer timescale than that of elections.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While ­clinical leadership remains vital, the most effective way to ­operate the NHS is with ­medical staff working closely with ­government, which is what this administration is committed to.”