IN recent years, opposing politicians have been engaged in a battle over who can make the most impressive promises on reducing waiting times for hospital treatment.
Unsurprisingly, such pledges are popular with voters. Equally unsurprisingly, the promises made are often difficult to achieve.
Politicians with an eye on elections don’t necessarily think through the implications for health workers of the guarantees that litter their manifestos.
As we reveal today, NHS Lothian shelled out almost £1 million each month last year to send patients to private hospitals. Driving this use of the private sector is a conflict between the Scottish Government’s guarantee of treatment for inpatient or day-case patients within 12 weeks and the hard reality of the level of service the health board is able to offer.
The cost to NHS Lothian of using private hospitals has soared in recent years. What was supposed to be a last resort is now visited as a matter of course.
Public services across the country remain under severe financial pressure yet politicians continue to make vote-grabbing promises that are difficult or – too often – simply impossible to deliver.
The promise that no patient should have to wait more than 12 weeks for treatment is right, and we would be in favour of that time becoming shorter still.
But doctors simply cannot be expected to perform miracles.
If the government is serious about keeping its promise to voters then it seems clear it is time for further investment in the NHS.
More doctors and nurses are needed to ensure that treatment is delivered effectively and on time.
The Scottish Government has made much of its commitment to keeping the private sector out of the NHS. If ministers are sincere about this then they cannot allow the current situation to continue. It’s time they provided health workers the resources they need to keep the promises made on their behalves.