Value NHS staff, demands BMA

by Jennifer Trueland

The BMA is calling for politicians of all parties to demonstrate NHS staff are valued ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

Location: Scotland
Last reviewed: 7 April 2021
Lewis Morrison portrait

Launching its manifesto today, BMA Scotland council chair Lewis Morrison said it was time politicians transformed warm words and rounds of applause into tangible action.

It follows a BMA Scotland survey of members which shows 65 per cent of doctors do not believe politicians value doctors, 46 per cent feel the Scottish Government isn’t committed to involving the medical profession in its decisions about the future of the NHS, and 79 per cent don’t have a clear understanding of the long-term visions of the future of the NHS.

Dr Morrison said it was time to put party politics aside and depoliticise debate around the NHS, and that there should be a national conversation about the future of the health service, including how it should be funded and what it should provide. Health professionals, members of the public, and politicians of all parties should be involved in this conversation, he added.

Better care

The manifesto includes specific measures which BMA Scotland said should be implemented to help improve the working lives of doctors and show that they are valued. These include looking after healthcare staff better, with a focus on outcomes rather than blanket, arbitrary targets, and making sure that staff work in environments where they feel safe and secure.

‘No one should go to work feeling anxious, worried or to be bullied,’ Dr Morrison said.

‘The results of our survey made for stark reading. It’s likely this is built on years of warm words, but little real action or honesty from all parties about the NHS, what we ask of it, and how we treat the people who work in it. And let me be clear, that people who work in our NHS, are our NHS.

‘As we emerge from this pandemic, we are now presented with a real chance to make a change – and show that the weekly claps and fulsome tributes really did mean something. That the incredible commitment and selfless dedication of doctors over the last year may lead to something better in the future: for them and the people they care for. This is finally our chance to wipe the slate clean – it’s now or more than likely never.

‘That is the basis on which we present this manifesto: of course, we don’t have all the answers, but we do have a clear premise on which we hope all parties can approach the NHS in Scotland during the next parliament.’

NHS’ future

Dr Morrison said that, if Scotland were truly to get to grips with making the NHS sustainable, then now was the time for a national conversation about its future. ‘We have to be honest about the challenges, realistic about our needs and wants, and consider how much, as a nation, we are prepared to invest in our health and care services,’ he said.

‘Over the last year, I have never been prouder to be a doctor and part of the team that is NHS Scotland. We have pulled together, putting patients at the heart of all we do – not the demands of the system we work in. Looking forward, it is vital that we don’t lose that momentum and keep patient and staff wellbeing at the centre of all decisions that we make. We owe it to the people of Scotland to make sure our health service is the best it can be – but importantly we also owe it to the many thousands who work in it.’

BMA Scotland is calling for:

  • A sustainable future: a national conversation with all stakeholders to take a long-term approach to what we want and expect from our NHS
  • Better IT infrastructure: future Scottish governments should work with all partners to examine ways of working in a post-COVID world, based on vastly improved IT infrastructure and support
  • Transforming and improving how we measure performance in healthcare: replace blunt targets with a system focused on patient outcomes
  • Sustainable, long-term funding: an honest debate on the future of the NHS, including a full review of spending
  • Comprehensive and effective workforce planning: this includes supporting medical students and a full and clear workforce plan that boosts recruitment and retention of doctors at all stages of their careers
  • Valuing doctors: this includes year on year uplifts of significantly above inflation to restore doctors’ pay to a reasonable level, plus tackling punitive pension charges
  • Staff wellbeing and culture: this includes ensuring the system allows for a better work-life balance for doctors but also makes sure that work environments feel safe and secure
  • Building recovery for NHS staff into plans to remobilise the NHS: doctors cannot be expected to step from one high pressured situation (the pandemic) to another (work to resume capacity post-pandemic)
  • Public health: the next Parliament must hold a wide-ranging review into health inequalities which have been emphasised by the pandemic, and also must consider the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the people of Scotland.