The most eminent doctor in Scotland has suggested that the Scottish health system is heading towards an absolute breakdown.
Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, indicated his belief that the system in Scotland is currently stretched to breaking point.
Yet Bennie also believes that the government in the nation tends to pretend that everything is okay, and is effectively misleading the general public.
Just last week Nicola Sturgeon had argued that the Scottish NHS was performing better than the healthcare service in England.
But this claim has been undermined by the country’s largest hospital being forced to turn away pregnant women poised to give birth.
Bennie painted a very different picture of the current situation in Scotland to that offered by Sturgeon.
“We’re stretched pretty much to breaking point, just trying to keep things going. If you take the situation with consultant vacancies, we have consultant posts vacant for over six months that are advertised that can’t be filled. Basically what happens with that is that is that all of the other staff – consultants and other doctors and nurses – are taking on more work to try to keep things going. And eventually that leads to personnel breakdown and eventually it leads to system breakdown.”
Bennie did concede that the NHS budget had increased in recent years, with more medics employed.
But he diminished the importance of this statistic and instead suggested that the question was whether or not there were adequate staffing measures in place to deal with demand.
Bennie asserted that this is not the case, and concluded that the Scottish NHS was not yet at the point of “system breakdown” but “it is moving towards that.”
Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman, understandably made political capital out of this serious issue.
“This is an incredibly serious warning from the BMA. A decade of SNP mismanagement has increased pressure on staff in every part of our health service – from nurses who say their workload is getting worse, to GPs who say their surgeries are understaffed.”
Shona Robison, the SNP Health Minister, defended the efforts of the nationalist party, and outlined the efforts being made by the Scottish government.
“We recognise that change is needed and last month published the health and social care delivery plan to set out the actions and timescales to support healthcare professionals, charities and patient groups. It recognises that we must up the pace of change if we’re to deliver modern, sustainable health services and that local health boards and integration partnerships have an important role to play in taking this forward over the next year and beyond.”