The chairman of the BMA in Scotland has acknowledged that the NHS system in Scotland is struggling to cope with increasing demand.
Dr Peter Bennie asserts that the stagnation of funding for the health service could be extremely damaging to the quality of service offered to patients in the foreseeable future.
Bennie believes that politicians must engage in an honest debate on how the NHS can be maintained for future generations.
In his Christmas message, Bennie stated that the health service in Scotland faces serious challenges in the coming years.
“Report after report on the state of the NHS in Scotland have set out the increasing scale of the challenges the health services faces. Audit Scotland reiterated what BMA Scotland have been saying for some considerable time: the NHS in Scotland is struggling to cope. But despite the body of evidence to show that urgent action is needed now, the much needed plans for action have been allowed to slip.”
The BMA has particularly highlighted the problems that Scottish NHS trusts face in recruiting and retaining doctors, with this being exacerbated in rural areas of the nation.
“The government’s response must not simply repeat the tired mantra that Scotland is spending more money on the NHS than ever before, and has more nurses and doctors than ever before. This completely misses the point. Vacancies in the medical workforce are increasing and the range and scale of pressures on the service continue to grow. There are significant problems in recruitment and retention of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, yet the official figures still struggle to capture the real extent of medical vacancies. Action is needed now to make Scotland a more attractive place to work if we are to address these vacancies which exist across consultant, GP, trainee and specialist posts,” Bennie asserted.
Yet despite the increasing pressure being placed on Scottish NHS services, the BMA notes that funding has flatlined in recent years since austerity was implemented as a guiding ethos of government policy.
“If the NHS does not get the resources it needs to keep pace with demand, then the only alternative is to look at the range and models of services that can realistically be delivered within the budget provided. If the gap between demand and resources is going to continue, then there is no choice but to ask what the NHS in Scotland can and can’t deliver in the future,” Bennie commented.
Responding to Dr Bennie, Health Secretary Shona Robison broadly agreed with his comments, and outlined some of the efforts currently being made by the Scottish government.
“That’s why the last few months has seen the publication of three crucial building blocks for the transformational change required. The National Clinical Strategy is a blueprint for what health and social care will look like in the decades to come. The Chief Medical Officer’s annual report focusing on realistic medicine calls for a new relationship between doctors and patients and families built on mutual trust and shared decision making. Finally, just this week, we published a National Delivery Plan with concrete actions for the next year and beyond.”