BMA Scotland: Doctors suffering “huge fatigue, frustration and unhappiness” and need a plan for a better future

by BMA Scotland media team

Press release from BMA Scotland

Location: Scotland
Last reviewed: 29 December 2021

Hard pressed doctors, who continue to show extraordinary dedication on the frontline of Scotland’s battle against the Covid pandemic deserve better for 2022, Dr Lewis Morrison, Chair of BMA Scotland said today.

In his last festive message to doctors in his role, Dr Morrison praised their "astonishing" efforts of the last 12 months – but warned that if his successor was as worried about the future of the healthcare profession this time next year "then as a country we will have failed our NHS and the people who work in it."

As part of the message, Dr Morrison sets out several actions that he believes are possible in 2022 – and will help the profession and the NHS including:

  • A proper plan to reverse the shortages of doctors in many parts of Scotland and in many specialties and general practice. This will need to deal with the very real issue of retaining the doctors we do have when so many are exhausted and looking to reduce their workload, leave or retire.
  • An open and honest conversation on the future of our NHS with genuine consensus building and cross-party working
  • A more mature, appropriate and honest approach to measuring our NHS and an end to the damaging, target driven culture.
  • Full delivery of the 2018 GP contract, a new contract for staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors and implementation of the recommendations of the 48-hour working group to improve junior doctors’ working lives.
  • Better, fairer pay that truly values all doctors against a backdrop of rising inflation
  • and a complete fix from Westminster in the long term – with the Government at Holyrood doing all it can within its powers in the meantime - to pension tax charges issues impacting senior doctors and forcing them to cut hours or retire altogether.

Dr Morrison, who steps down as Chair of BMA Scotland in the autumn of 2022 having completed his four-year term in the job – says in his message:

"Obviously the current anxiety about just how much the omicron Covid variant will affect the public and ourselves looms very large, but in many ways the pressures we found ourselves under for virtually all of 2021 are not because of Covid but so many other things, many of which were there before the pandemic.

"Indeed, if my successor is in the same position of genuinely fearing for the future of our healthcare workforce when they write this message next year – even though Covid is potentially presenting less of a threat – then as a country we will have failed our NHS and the people who work in it.

"I want to say a huge thanks again to doctors everywhere for continuing to provide amazing standards of healthcare in the most trying circumstances.

"It has however become crystal clear that the main reason that we cannot keep up with all the demands on us is we simply haven’t the number of doctors we need; to deliver “normal” healthcare, let alone manage the massive additional burden the pandemic has placed on us.

"We have been waiting a very, very long time for Scottish Government to produce a proper plan to reverse the shortages of doctors in many parts of Scotland and in many specialties and general practice, and even if we see one soon, it will need to not just plan for the future, and in detail, but deal with the very real issue of retaining the doctors we do have when so many are exhausted and looking to reduce their workload, leave or retire.

"More doctors will take time to train and recruit, but again that can’t be an excuse for not dealing with the huge fatigue, frustration and unhappiness many doctors are currently suffering from. Improving the working circumstances of the doctors we do have must also be at the top of government and health boards’ to do list – across all aspects of our jobs for 2022 as we hope the threat Covid poses will begin to recede.

"We must have an open and honest conversation on the future of our NHS. Surely now is the time for genuine consensus building and cross-party working, not merely to survive this winter, but beyond that to look to the long term. And part of that must be a more mature, appropriate and honest approach to measuring our NHS and an end to the damaging, target driven culture that is still far too prevalent.

"All of these things are must-dos if we are to get from where we are now to a better place, and we will keep focussing on them and doing all we can to make sure government give us the tools we need to do our jobs."

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

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