Comment: ‘The Scottish NHS needs to be reformed’

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There has been a lot of talk about the future of the NHS in Scotland ahead of next Thursday’s vote on Independence.

Both sides in the referendum claim that the health service is safe only in their hands.

What you believe depends more than anything on which side you trust most.

But regardless of the outcome of the independence vote, it is clear that the Scottish NHS needs to be reformed.

Today’s revelation that the number of women attending cervical cancer screenings in the Lothians has fallen to an all-time low is ample proof of that.

Awareness of the risks involved has never been higher. Yet the number of women of all ages acting on those risks is continuing to fall.

One in four women do not now attend cervical cancer screenings. The reasons for this are not all straightforward and deserve further examination.

It is easy to understand why many people would rather not dwell for too long on the risks of contracting cancer. Maybe the health message being relayed to women can be refined to help ensure it hits home.

But one factor seems clear and that is the failure of the health service to keep pace with the changes in the way we live our lives today.

So much of what used to be done only during the hours of nine til five is now done around the clock.

Shopping and banking are now 24-hour-a-day activites thanks largely to the internet. Sports centres stay open from early in the morning until late into the evening.

But if you want to see a doctor then the chances are you will only get to see them during traditional working hours.

There are some honourable exceptions, but on the whole the NHS has been particularly slow to make its services available at the times when people want to use them.

Making treatment easy to access is one sure way of increasing the number of women undergoing these life-saving tests.

Being more flexible and offering them during other routine appointments would undoubtedly help too.

Regardless of the political battle raging over its future, the Scottish NHS has a long way to go before it can say that it is making the best of the resources that it does have available to it.

It needs to change. And those changes could help to save the lives of many people reading this newspaper today.