Responding to the NHS Overview report by Audit Scotland, BMA Scotland chair Dr Lewis Morrison said: “This is a detailed and interesting report from Audit Scotland that highlights a lot of issues around Scotland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the future of the NHS.
“There is obviously some concern that the Scottish Government could have been better prepared and acted quicker on learning from various planning exercises. This would seem particularly true on doctors’ experiences of PPE – where early concerns needed to be rapidly addressed. Going forward, lessons such as these must be learned so that such issues are addressed before they arrive, given the safety of the staff caring for patients must be at the top of the list of priorities during times like this.
“We very much welcome the proposal to monitor and report on the effectiveness of the measures introduced to support the health and wellbeing of NHS staff, as we know the ongoing and serious impact the pandemic is having on doctors and their colleagues. The recognition of the contribution of staff throughout the pandemic is also very positive.
“We agree that restarting services is going to be a substantial challenge, and we also agree that NHS leaders need to work collaboratively, in partnership across public services, to deal with the ongoing challenges caused by COVID-19 and to remobilise services. A priority here must be giving staff the break they need to recover from the past year – we will not be able to return the NHS to a more normal state if we simply drive staff even harder to meet pent up demand for care and risk forcing them out of the workforce for good.
“The requirement to update the workforce plan on the back of the pandemic is also crucial – and this time it absolutely must be a solid plan, rather than just planning for a plan as has been the case too often in the past. It is concerning that the existing financial and operational challenges in the NHS have since been exacerbated by COVID-19 – particularly given how serious the warnings from Audit Scotland have been in previous reports. It absolutely underlines our long-held view that the NHS is substantially underfunded. Going forward we need an honest conversation with the public about what our NHS can deliver, within the resources we are able or willing to make available to it.
“Finally, the fact that the death rate from COVID-19 is more than twice as high in the most deprived areas – 183 per 100,000 population – than in the least deprived areas – 79 per 100,000 population – underlines the pressing need to address the scandal of health inequalities in Scotland. Your life chances should not be determined by the postcode you were born in and we urgently need sustained action across Government to deal with that.”