Pressures Facing Health Service Require Urgent Action Warns Scottish Health Leader

Politicians must rise above the current political instability and focus on what must be achieved in the health service if the NHS in Scotland is to flourish, BMA Scotland Peter Bennie has asserted.

In his speech to the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Bournemouth, Bennie commented that the NHS in Scotland faces a challenging climate.

“The health service is never out of the political spotlight. Over the past three years, the NHS has been front and centre in two referendums, the Scottish election, and two general elections. And we live with the on-going debate over the impact we can expect from leaving the European Union and the possibility of a second independence referendum in Scotland.”

Bennie also suggested that BMA Scotland will play a central role in ensuring that adequate healthcare services are delivered.

“Throughout this period of political instability, we at BMA Scotland have worked hard to deliver a consistent message to our politicians, urging them to focus on what must be achieved if healthcare is to flourish in Scotland.”

Bennie has identified a number of key areas where urgent action is needed.

These include the underfunding of the health service; a shortage of doctors to deliver adequate care to patients; a lack of resources to deliver a truly integrated health and social care service; and the lack of time for doctors to keep themselves up to date, to teach others, and to make joint decisions with patients.

Bennie believes that the pressure the health service has experienced has made achieving these changes more challenging.

The eminent doctor believes that healthcare professionals feel increasingly stressed and overburdened, and that patient care often suffers as a result.

“Scottish Government repeatedly says that there are more doctors than ever before – but this is simply ignoring a major risk to the health service, and it is demoralising and frustrating for doctors to hear time and time again. We need a realistic approach to workforce planning in Scotland which is based on an honest and shared understanding of the current medical workforce numbers, and an evidence based view of what future healthcare demand will mean for the number of doctors required. We need a clear and agreed approach to delivering and retaining this future workforce.”

Bennie particularly pointed to the publication of a major report from BMA Scotland, intended to point the healthcare service and doctors in the right direction.

“Our Chief Medical Officer has produced a report called Realistic Medicine in Scotland. This embodies the way we have all been taught to practise, and that we all try to practise. It is about sitting with a patient, discussing all the options, and helping them to decide what is best for them. It is about patients having clear information about their own responsibilities for their health, about the full range of help available, and about how to use it.”

Bennie also asserted that a process of collaboration is vital.

“It will only work if doctors and patients have enough time together to make joint decisions. And it will only keep working if doctors have the time to keep themselves up to date, and to train others to provide that expertise in the future. If the government and employers in Scotland are truly committed to realistic medicine, they need to demonstrate this by properly valuing the contribution and leadership role of doctors beyond the direct patient care they provide.”

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