The chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland has said that the extreme pressures placed on the NHS this winter have highlighted the need for funding and a long term plan to make the service sustainable.
Increased demand has led to more people waiting longer to be seen at A&E over the festive period.
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Speaking as doctors and healthcare staff continue to go above and beyond what is asked of them, in challenging circumstances, Dr Bennie praised the dedication of those working to deliver safe and effective care.
He said: “We have seen staff in NHS Scotland working incredibly hard, in extremely difficult circumstances over recent days, to deliver the care that people need.
“I’d like to add my gratitude to the many expressions of thanks that teams working across the country have received.
“But, to be honest, it is not thanks that doctors and their colleagues want. Instead of gratitude, we need a long term, sustainable plan that closes the growing gap between resources - in particular, finances - and the demand for services. And we must not simply dismiss this as the inevitable increase in pressure that winter brings.”
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Dr Bennie said multiple targets, an ageing population and a gap in funding were stretching the system and workforce “beyond their means”.
He said: “In winter, that results in the type of rapid deterioration of services that we have seen over recent days.
“But over the course of the rest of the year it also means the ongoing eroding of standards, care and services.”
The organisation has called for more effective funding, less focus on targets and action on healthcare staff vacancies.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Flu rates in Scotland doubled in December, and there was a 20 per cent increase in A&E attendances leading up to Christmas. During Christmas week, the Scottish Ambulance Service reported an almost 40 per cent increase in the number of calls on Hogmanay alone.
“Having the right measures on the performance of our NHS and care systems is vital.
“That’s why we welcome Professor Sir Harry Burns’ recent report on targets and indicators, and the principles that he outlines, which we will now use to underpin further work to develop better ways of understanding people’s wider experience of care.”
Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Anas Sarwar said: “While the SNP accepts that demographic changes are impacting services, the government continues to shirk responsibility for previously cutting medical and nursing training places, a decision which has resulted in vast numbers of unfilled posts.”