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17.01.18

Scottish doctors say services have become stretched ‘beyond their means’

The BMA in Scotland has hit out at the government for failing to provide enough funding to services, which has in turn created a “vicious circle.”

The news comes in response to statements from Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and health secretary Shona Robison, who recently apologised to patients for problems caused by the heavy pressure on health services this winter.

Sturgeon and Robison both thanked staff for their efforts in what has been a difficult period for the NHS across the UK, however the BMA’s Scottish council chair Dr Peter Bennie said that services needed more than just gratitude.

He explained that the problems highlighted by heightened winter pressures were a result of year-round funding shortages and increasing demand on services.

“Instead of gratitude, we need a long-term, sustainable plan that closes the growing gap between resources – in particular finances – and the demand for services,” he commented.

“We must not simply dismiss this as the inevitable increase in pressure that winter brings. This time of year can bring the challenges the NHS faces on a daily basis into a sharper focus. But ultimately, there is simply not the funding or plans in place to go on as we are, regardless of what season we are in.”

Bennie went on to say that high targets for services had created a “vicious cycle” where a lack of funding leads to health boards missing their goals while stretching services “beyond their means” and causing more damage.

As well as apologising to patients, Robison explained that NHS boards had put “robust planning” in place for the winter, but the level of demand on services has been higher than expected, just as it has in the NHS in England.

She said an extra £22.4m had been invested across the service to deal with the pressure over winter, pointing out that there had been no blanket cancellations of routine procedures in January, unlike in other parts of the UK.

Top images: David Cheskin PA Archive

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