Call for national conversation about future of NHS

by Jennifer Trueland

The leader of Scotland’s doctors has called for a national conversation on what we want from the NHS as it moves forward from the COVID-19 crisis.

Location: Scotland
Last reviewed: 9 July 2020
Lewis Morrison portrait

BMA Scotland chair Lewis Morrison said the pandemic had led to more honesty and plain speaking from those in power, and a new sense of partnership between public, politicians and people who work in the NHS.

However, he warned this had not been universal, and there were worrying signs in some places that there was a ‘return to old habits of command and control’.

‘The potential for a new collaborative way of working, and one based on need not just targets, is clearly there, and enough to give me some hope that change for the better is possible,’ said Dr Morrison, a consultant in older people’s medicine in East Lothian.

‘We need more honesty. Honesty about necessary staffing not soundbites about record staffing. Honesty about funding and what we can do with what we have, and what we could do if it was better, and what it is we want the NHS to be and do in the first place. The NHS cannot be a shopping list you just keep adding to.’

COVID-19 distraction

Dr Morrison said that a national conversation on the future of the NHS between the Scottish Government, public, and health professionals was long overdue.

‘Let’s not forget, before COVID the NHS was close to breaking in places under the weight of what was expected of it. COVID may have distracted us from that, but it also represents a real chance to ask what the NHS needs to do and needs to be for and not return to that unhappy place,’ he said.

‘Whilst this year marches on with our focus on COVID and its effects on society, not just healthcare, we also can’t forget there’s a Scottish Parliamentary election next year, so we need the conversations before that to be less about easy soundbite driven point scoring using the NHS as the traditional political football. In unprecedented times we need an unprecedented approach.

‘We need an NHS that focuses on individuals – staff and patients alike – and their welfare, not just numbers and throughput and targets. It’s got to be more about the quality than the quantity. And everyone concerned behaving better.’