Scottish NHS 'stretched to the very edge'

26 June 2018, 08:20

NHS Scotland

The NHS in Scotland is being "stretched to the very edge" doctors leaders will warn as a new survey revealed just 3% of them believe the service is adequately resourced.

Just 6% of doctors questioned believe there are enough staff working in the NHS to provide quality patient care - with 89% disagreeing with this.

Meanwhile two thirds of doctors (66%) said "inadequate" resources were now "significantly" impacting on the quality and safety of patient care.

A further three out of 10 (31%) felt the lack of resources was "slightly" affecting the service, while only 3% described resources as being "adequate".

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland will use a speech to warn that the survey shows the "stark reality of a profession pushed to the brink".

He will add: "While doctors are delivering high quality care wherever and however they possibly can, we are stretched to the limit of what we are capable of.

"Perhaps we have not quite reached the dire working conditions and morale seen in England, but we are clinging by our fingertips from sliding down a similar path."

His speech comes as the NHS across the UK prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its formation - with Mr Bennie to insist ministers at Holyrood must act to "ensure we have an NHS in Scotland that we can celebrate for many birthdays to come".

Almost 1,000 doctors in Scotland took part in the research, with seven out of 10 (71%) of the opinion the health service in Scotland had become worse over the last year.

Meanwhile 88% of doctors believe that without a "significant" increase in funding, the NHS will no longer be able to provide comprehensive care within a decade.

Mr Bennie, delivering his final speech to the BMA annual representative meeting in Brighton before stepping down in the autumn, he will stress the NHS in Scotland must aim higher than the "very low bar" of providing a better service than in England.

The demands and pressures on doctors have been "increasing substantially year on year", he will say, while pay has been "hit in real terms" and vacancies become harder to fill.

Dr Bennie will add: "It is just not sustainable, for our NHS or for our profession.

"We know from the survey that two thirds of Scottish doctors who responded think resources are inadequate and this is significantly affecting the quality and safety of care, while 71% feel that overall NHS services have worsened in the last year.

"Nine out of ten Scottish doctors say staffing is simply not adequate to provide quality patient care. This is simply not good enough, either for patients or doctors.

"We all want to provide the very best care we can, but we are being prevented from doing so by an under resourced and under staffed system. It illustrates the urgent need for action at all levels of Government."

While the UK Govenrment has promised a £20.5 billion-a-year boost to the NHS budget in England and Wales, Mr Bennie will argue the amount of cash that would come to Scotland as a result of this would be "insufficient to move NHS Scotland to a fully sustainable footing for the longer term".

He will say: "Investment on a greater scale is still going to be required in the years ahead, along with concerted action to tackle the issues with recruitment and retention."

The BMA Scotland chair will also call for pay and conditions to be improved, while urging the Scottish Government to "end the obsession with a narrow range of targets that tell us little about outcomes for patients, and lead to a culture of blame and political pressure".

While he will accept there will always be a need for data on the NHS, Mr Bennie will claim "the political and media narrative is often driven by waiting times that say very little about standards of care or what is best for the patient".

Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "It's no surprise to see doctors speak out over the state of Scotland's NHS.

"They've put up with more than a decade of SNP mismanagement, and worked exceptionally hard to keep problems at bay."

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: "NHS staff are fed up with government inaction. Struggling services such as GPs and mental health clearly need a cash injection, fresh ideas and for Nicola Sturgeon to change her health team."

Scottish Labour's health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: "Scottish Labour has already launched an NHS workforce commission to find solutions to the SNP's workforce crisis in our health service - and we would end SNP and Tory austerity and invest in our health service so our doctors and nurses get the support they need."

Scottish Greens health spokewoman Alison Johnstone said: "Peter Bennie is right that Scotland must aim higher than comparing our NHS with that south of the border - we should be comparing with where we want to be."

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "We welcome Dr Bennie's recognition of our enduring commitment to the NHS and the strong progress we've made with the new GP contract in Scotland.

"Our NHS faces the welcome challenge of meeting the changing needs of the people of Scotland, with people living longer and driving rising demand.

"Our investment has taken NHS funding to record high levels, and we continue to push the UK Government to deliver a net benefit to Scotland's budget following their recent NHS funding announcement.

"We're committed to taking forward a programme of investment and reform in our health service - including offering a pay rise of at least 9% over the next three years to the over 147,000 staff covered by the Agenda for Change system in NHS Scotland."