Doctors call for action on ‘unsustainable’ NHS

Friday 9th August 2019

Doctors’ leaders have called for urgent action on the future of Scotland’s hospitals, warning the NHS as it is currently run is ‘simply unsustainable’.

BMA Scotland has published a detailed set of proposals for secondary care, which sets out the challenges services face and its key priorities for improvements.

The suggested actions outlined in the document includes a progressive increase in health spending to 10 per cent of GDP to boost resources available to the NHS. This would have resulted in an extra £2.6 billion in 2017/18 alone.

It says health boards should be freed from goals such as having to make ‘stringent efficiency savings while delivering unachievable targets’.

The report adds: ‘We must stop demanding the impossible which only sets up services to fail.’

BMA Scotland also calls for end to a culture which sees doctors ‘fear they will be unfairly blamed for issues resulting from system-wide failings’.

Paediatric surgeon Simon Barker, chair of BMA Scotland’s consultants committee, says current problems across the system cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely “without increasing risk and adverse consequences for patients”.

He said: “I have frankly lost count of the number of times the Scottish Government has been warned that the NHS, as it is currently run, is simply unsustainable. 

“The care provided in our hospitals suffers from a chronic lack of coherent planning, substantial underfunding that forces impossible prioritisation decisions on front line clinicians, and undeliverable targets which seem to be driven by arbitrary lengths of time, rather than quality of care.”

Mr Barker also raised concerns about the impact on staff, saying morale was ‘rock-bottom’ – particularly among senior doctors.

He added: “The inertia of recent years is a choice: a choice for reduced services, a choice for demotivated and fewer staff, a choice for less. 

“But there is still the opportunity to do things differently and transform the system that we work in for the benefit of patients.

“I hope the document we published today, which is focused on solutions, will be a positive contribution to the debate about the future of care in hospitals.”

The Scottish Government has defended its record on health spending, saying it is investing more than £14bnin health and care services this year – ‘despite UK government austerity’.

It said: This report raises a number of important issues and we will fully consider them as we continue to work to support our NHS and care staff to provide vital care.”