Comment: Selling NHS assests no long-term solution

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if you are a reader of the Evening News, then the chances are you are a very lucky person indeed.

Why? Because it means that you almost certainly live in Edinburgh and the Lothians. And this newspaper reckons that means you have won the location lottery.

Many of us have lived in the Capital our whole lives. Perhaps, we know little else. But we should be thankful. Edinburgh is one of the world’s great cities. And the word is getting out.

Our population is growing as more and more people move into the region to take advantage of a thriving economy, spectacular architecture, world-class festivals and a great quality of life.

But this has consequences.

As council budgets are squeezed, our roads are creaking, our sports centres need an upgrade, and we need further investment in school infrastructure.

And when it comes to our health service, the pressures are just as worrying.

NHS Lothian is in a unique position. Nowhere else in Scotland is the population growing so quickly.

And that is leading to a growing black hole in the finances of an organisation that serves 800,000 people already.

Until now, the health board has got by through selling assets. And the possible sale of the Sick Kids site in Sciennes, Astley Ainslie in Morningside and Liberton Hospital, will certainly alleviate pressure in coming years.

But this is not a long-term solution. A root and branch review that examines the amount of money given by the Scottish Government is required. Given the changing demands, does the service need greater support?

This should be looked at together with an audit on how spending can be cut and efficiencies made.

In even the smallest business, there are always ways to cut costs that don’t impact on the front line,

NHS Lothian should use its 24,000 dedicated employees and ask for innovative ideas on cutting waste and improving efficiency. Tough decisions will need to be made.

But if we don’t make them now, we may wake up in five years and find we have a local health service that can no longer cope with Edinburgh’s success.