As a Health professional and Deputy Convenor of the Health and Sport Committee at Holyrood, I am constantly impressed by the hard work and dedication of our staff in the Scottish NHS. Like many other UK and European Health services we face many challenges, but there are also many successes.
The Health Service is an important and treasured pillar in our society and we are privileged to have a service that is still free at the point of need. As such, it is important that the service works effectively when it is required and that its effectiveness is, quite rightly, monitored by politicians.
However, too often, some politicians are quick to criticise without properly checking the facts and, very often, in a manner which can frustrate and demoralise hard working NHS staff.
Misquoting a report by the Society for Acute Medicine, Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, recently made such an ill-informed intervention when she claimed that the Scottish NHS was “on the brink of meltdown.”
In fact, the report she quoted surveyed only 3 Scottish hospitals and 87 English hospitals. The “meltdown” comment by the report’s author, as quoted by Ruth Davidson, was aimed squarely at her own UK Tory Government’s terrible handling of NHS England, where Trusts are facing severe financial deficits, Junior Doctors are being forced out on strike and multi million pound private commissioning deals are going to large corporations like Virgin Health.
Raising a point of order in Parliament I tried to give Ms Davidson an opportunity to correct her mistake but, so far and unsurprisingly, no correction has been forthcoming.
Of course, longer life expectancy, whilst a positive indicator of ongoing health initiatives over the past twenty years, has increased demands on the National Health Service, including in general practice and primary care.
It is just plain wrong, however, to claim that the Scottish Government, working with local NHS Boards, has not been addressing these acknowledged issues. In fact, the Government are acutely aware of the challenges and have been working hard since 2007 to invest in, support and structure the service, to ensure that it meets current and future needs.
The Government will spend £13 billion on Health this financial year, an increase of £500 million on last year. In each year of this Parliamentary session we will increase the proportion of the NHS budget being spent on primary care, community care, mental health and social care. This includes proposals for national and regional workforce planning for health and care which will seek to give equal status to mental and physical health.
Additionally, Health boards across Scotland are sharing an additional £9 million this coming winter to help emergency departments, hospitals, primary and social care teams prepare. This includes an additional £870,000 for Lanarkshire and £1,583,000 for Greater Glasgow. The funding will support dedicated multi-disciplinary teams to improve patient flow in A&E, across the hospitals and in the community.
We have also created Scotland’s first graduate entry programme for medicine, 100 training places, which will help attract people from a wider range of backgrounds into General Practice and will support students who work in the Scottish NHS after they qualify.
The Government has a continuing positive partnership with Doctors Union, the BMA, which means that, unlike the situation in England, Scotland is the first part of the UK to abolish the bureaucratic Quality and Outcomes Framework, which will support the negotiation of a new GP contract in 2017. This will help to make General Practice in Scotland an attractive option for medical students from Scotland and elsewhere.
Whilst the UK Government’s plans to scrap free tuition and bursaries for nursing and midwifery students in England, both free tuition and nursing bursaries will be retained in Scotland.
Under the SNP, patient satisfaction continues to rise and staff numbers in our NHS have grown significantly – with more GPs, consultants, nurses and midwives delivering high quality care for people across Scotland than ever before. Our Accident and Emergency performance has been the best in the UK for seventeen months.
So, if Ruth Davidson wants to act as a champion for the health service, perhaps she should learn where Scotland’s NHS ends and England’s begins.
She should then apologise to the hardworking staff working in our health services and correct her false and fatuous claims