Monday 3rd November 2014


Last week in Parliament, Audit Scotland became the latest in a long line of organisations to warn about the significant pressures facing our National Health Service.

In a private briefing to the health committee which I convene, the financial watchdog raised serious concerns about the NHS’s ability to cope at a time when budgets are tightening and demand for health is increasing, due to the growing population of elderly people and those with long-term health conditions.

They also cited cost pressures such as the growing costs of drugs and other health technologies that are exacerbating the precarious financial situation.

Their report was quickly followed by an on the record briefing from health professionals who reinforced the concerns raised by the watchdog. To take one example, the Scottish Secretary of the British Medical Association said that a number of factors had come together to create a ‘perfect storm’ including economic pressures, a rising population and increased life expectancy.

Because of these pressures we have seen a weekly crisis as to whether A&E departments will have enough staff. We have levels of early planned retirement that has never been seen before.  And some health board areas are struggling to recruit consultants.

The message coming from the experts is clear. If we want the NHS’s reputation for world class care to continue then the Scottish Government must recognise the concerns and act quickly.

The Royal College of Nursing hit the nail on the head when it said: “instead of short term measures being taken to deal with the symptoms of an NHS struggling to cope, a cure needs to be found. We need an honest public debate on how we can put the NHS on a sustainable footing for the future and this need to take place now.”