Responding to the Audit Scotland NHS report chair of BMA Scotland, Dr Lewis Morrison said: “The issues the Audit Scotland report raises, yet again, highlight the parlous position our NHS and its staff are in – pre-pandemic and with Covid having undoubtedly made things worse. Its findings will be instantly recognisable to those working within the sector and backs up the calls we have been making for the past two years about having an honest and open conversation with politicians, the profession and the public about what our NHS can deliver within its current limitations.
“Today’s report also supports the view we have long held – and was clearly the case pre-pandemic – that the NHS in Scotland is financially unsustainable, and that position is worsening. NHS boards are facing massive challenges and uncertainties to try to deliver the care asked of them with a predicted hole in their plans of £116m of ‘unachievable savings’. And amongst all this, the report is absolutely right to focus in on staffing, and the clear danger that a lack of proper workforce planning, based on reliable data, will undermine any possible NHS recovery. It is undeniably true that ‘recovery ambitions cannot be met if the right people with the right skills are not in place’ – and you can have all the operating theatres and beds you want, if you do not have the workforce to staff them, you cannot treat patients effectively.
“The report also rightly highlights the danger that driving exhausted staff to meet unattainable and unrealistic targets risks making things worse – with individual wellbeing suffering, and the obvious conclusion being that this will simply push more people out of the NHS altogether at this crucial time. It emphasises the glaringly obvious need to focus now, and urgently, on retaining the staff we have – through better work life balance across all parts of the profession, improving workplace culture, and valuing our doctors through fair rewards – particularly given rising inflation, and finally tackling the punitive pension charges that are proving the final straw for many.
“As Audit Scotland rightly reports, there is a long and uncertain road ahead for our NHS – just because we are entering calmer waters in terms of the pandemic, this must not be the time to in any way sit back and take our eyes off the constant crisis our NHS has been in for many years. Instead it is time for a renewed focus on making things better – and that must start with the staff who have led our response to the pandemic heroically, and a proper plan for their future. They are the ones who got us through the worst stages of COVID-19. Anything less for them would be a dereliction of duty – but most importantly, would deprive patients of the standards of care they need and deserve. Scotland deserves better than the state NHS Scotland is currently in.”
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.