The BMA has called for urgent action to put the NHS in Scotland on a sustainable footing after a highly critical report from watchdogs.
Audit Scotland’s annual review of the NHS in 2017-18 found that health boards struggled financially, with three requiring a Scottish Government bailout and others being forced to make major one-off savings.
It also revealed that performance against targets declined, with no health board meeting all eight national targets, while more people waited longer for outpatient appointments and inpatient treatment.
BMA Scotland council chair Lewis Morrison said the findings would ‘come as no surprise’ to frontline doctors facing the consequences of underfunding.
‘As the BMA and others have warned for some considerable time, funding in the NHS is simply not keeping pace with demand and that has pushed NHS services across the country into the parlous position this report details,’ Dr Morrison said.
‘This latest report from Audit Scotland must be the wake-up call that finally prompts the Scottish Government into credible action.’
The right people
The report shows that the NHS in Scotland faces ‘significant’ recruitment challenges, with evidence that boards are struggling to recruit and retain the right people and ensure they have the time and support to do the job.
It says that pressure is building in other areas too, such as rising drug costs and a significant maintenance backlog.
Auditor general Caroline Gardner warned: ‘The performance of the NHS continues to decline, while demands on the service from Scotland's ageing population are growing. The solutions lie in changing how healthcare is accessed and delivered, but progress is too slow.’ She said ‘decisive action’ was needed now to deliver fundamental change.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government was already taking action to act on Audit Scotland’s recommendations. This includes a new waiting times improvement plan, involving £850m of investment over the next three years.
Dr Morrison was unconvinced, however, warning that action needed has to be ‘much more than simply a numbers game, focused on a narrow range of politically driven waiting times targets for access to acute care’.
‘We need to adopt a more mature, wide ranging way to asses our NHS and the care it delivers, that trusts much more in the clinical judgment of medics. Simply piling more political pressure on the meeting of existing targets that tell us little about the overall quality of care will do nothing to put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the long term,’ Dr Morrison said.
Read more from Jennifer Trueland and follow on Twitter.