Comment: NHS Lothian is now on the right course

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THOUGHTS inevitably turn to health at the start of the year – whether it is losing a few of the Christmas pounds, giving up a vice or committing to a new keep fit routine.

For those in charge of NHS Lothian, it is on the mind all year round. And that’s not just the health of the local population, but the vital signs of the area’s biggest employer.

Cast your mind back to 2012 and the health’s board’s “annus horribilis” with a waiting times scandal and allegations of bullying leaving it in crisis.

Last year was not perhaps the year of recovery which was prescribed, with continuing challenges in tackling waiting lists, new scandals, and the revelation that the ERI had more patients than beds.

But as we reveal today, there has been progress. Chief executive Tim Davison is making inroads into changing the culture and seeing results.

Scotland’s biggest emergency department is performing in line with those elsewhere in Scotland, which is no mean feat given where it has hauled itself up from.

This year will see work finally begin in earnest on the new Sick Kids hospital – a desperately needed facility.

There are many challenges to tackle, not least financial as it faces a squeezed budget and demand on services is only going to grow.

The Scottish Government has its role to play here in providing fair funding for east coast health services, with the way cash is divided up in need of urgent review.

But there is room for optimism that NHS Lothian is now on the right course.

Time will tell of course and 2014 will present its own particular challenges and problems.

One thing is assured – the dedication and professionalism of the 24,000 NHS Lothian staff is constant, and is its greatest asset going forward.

Let’s hope for a happy and healthy NHS new year.