Existence of the NHS as we know it is under threat, warns BMA Scotland chair

by BMA Scotland media team

Press release from BMA Scotland 

Location: Scotland
Published: Tuesday 25 June 2024
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In a speech to the BMA’s 2024 Annual Representatives Meeting in Belfast, Dr Iain Kennedy, chair of Scottish Council is to issue a warning that the “very existence of a national health service as we know it” is under threat.

He will highlight that the NHS is facing a permanent crisis as winter pressures are here “365 days a year”, and warn that Scotland is “sleepwalking” into sacrificing an NHS that is free at the point of use, with the growth of a two-tier health care now “beyond question”.

Dr Kennedy will also warn the Scottish Government’s plans for engagement on NHS reform “lack clarity and urgency” and that it has so far this year failed to deliver on promises over pay – but the only path to a sustainable future for the NHS is through properly valuing and supporting its workforce.

He is expected to say: “Scotland’s NHS is in a state of permanent crisis. Winter pressures are here 365 days a year.

“Since my last ARM speech and the end of April this year, over 58,000 patients have waited more than 12 hours in a Scottish A&E department – that’s 24 times greater than five years ago.

“This massive deterioration in performance is completely outwith the control of our doctors who work tirelessly in traumatic circumstances.

“And these figures are a warning light that the whole health and social care system is not coping with the demand.

“Long waits are forcing those who can afford it, to go private. A two-tier health service in Scotland is now beyond question. If you can stump up the cash, then you can get the care you need.

“But we all value an NHS free at the point of use.

“Yet, Scotland is sleepwalking into sacrificing this principle, threatening the very existence of the national health service as we know it.”

Dr Kennedy will again call for an urgent national conversation about the future of the NHS – pointing out it is an idea now widely supported across Scotland.

He will say: “While I welcome the Scottish Government’s plan for direct engagement with the public and stakeholders this year, it lacks both clarity and urgency.

“So, today, I urge the Scottish Government to come forward now with a detailed plan to guarantee an inclusive national conversation, along with a plan to implement what it tells us.”

Dr Kennedy will conclude the speech by saying that the path to a better future for the NHS can only be based on properly valuing doctors.

He will add: “If we are to emerge from Scotland’s NHS perma-crisis, we must properly invest in doctors, and support doctors to look after patients.

“The path to a sustainable future for Scotland’s NHS must be based on properly valuing doctors.”

Notes to editors

Dr Iain Kennedy will address the ARM on Tuesday 25th June at 11.15am – see the full meeting agenda.

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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