Responding to today’s Scottish Government NHS briefing, Dr Iain Kennedy, Chair of BMA Scotland said:
"Scotland’s NHS is not just being pushed to the limit, in many places it is well past that. Bed occupancy of 95% across our hospitals is just not sustainable in terms of providing the safe and effective care that patients need on a daily basis either in A&E or across all wards. And we know demand is far exceeding capacity at GP surgeries too and has been for some time. In that context, the very fact that the First Minister and Health Secretary provided today’s briefing should emphasise the seriousness and urgency of the situation. Our members provided us with first hand testimony from all across the health service just before Christmas, and the picture that painted was really harrowing. Services and staff are on their knees.
"In terms of the short term actions that the Government indicated today, we have long emphasised the need to focus on ensuring people who are able to leave hospital, can do so – freeing up desperately needed capacity and therefore ensuring those who need to can be admitted from A&E more quickly and safely. So the focus on this is welcome, but we will need to see the details and extent of the proposals to make any judgement on the immediate impact it may have. Extra interim care beds – while something which could help as part of the overall plan - will also deliver nothing unless there are people there to staff them, which we know is a huge issue in social care.
"More fundamentally, many doctors remain to be convinced that the Scottish Government’s practical response matches up to the huge scale of the problems the NHS is facing. In particular, staffing shortages will only get worse as more staff burn out and dread going to work, unless there is a more comprehensive and urgent package of investment in staffing to support and retain them in our NHS for good. Longer term, these pressures are the culmination of the warnings the BMA and many others have delivered for some time, that Scotland’s NHS isn’t sustainable within the resources – both staffing and financial – we are willing to provide it with. We have to get serious about this and have a proper long term discussion about the future of our health service rather than just struggle to survive from crisis to crisis as the NHS and its staff endure the kind of perpetual pressures which in the past were reserved for the worst of winter. We absolutely agree with the assessment of the First Minister that there are no easy solutions, so the sooner we truly get to grips with the big picture issues, the sooner we can get away from having to implement short term measures in the desperate hope of bolstering collapsing services and begin actually start talking about an NHS fit for the future. That’s why a national conversation on the NHS in Scotland is required without delay."