Helen Martin: Our NHS needs intensive care

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FOR patients registered with the same medical practice for years, the “crisis” in GP surgeries may have gone unnoticed – other than a sign in the waiting room or elsewhere indicating that it can’t accept new patients.

If you belong to a particularly popular and busy practice surely new patients will just have to sign up with another a few streets or a short bus ride away?

But in NHS Lothian, out of 124 practices, 31 have restrictions in place. That could be a limit on the number of new patients they can take or only accepting immediate family of existing patients. Throughout Scotland, others have had to close lists altogether, for months or even years.

My son is a case in point. I’ve had the same practice for over 25 years, but he (having lived in flats in different areas of the city and been away at university in Dundee) could not stay registered there.

At uni there was a campus surgery, but back in the Capital he has been reliant on NHS24, following various attempts to find a practice that could take him.

For one-off minor injuries or conditions, that’s not so bad. But with a long-standing foot injury which could need referral, he wanted a GP.

He eventually found a practice in his area taking new patients and queued an hour and a half before he was due at work to apply. I texted him later to find out if he was successful, which was when he told me that the early-morning queue was only to get his hands on an application form. And if you think that’s bad, my nephew who is a GP himself also has problems finding a practice in his area.

My husband hasn’t been registered at all for decades. He’s a sporty, outdoorsy type who adheres to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, and he’s been extraordinarily lucky to have reached his early sixties without needing a doctor. While I get called up for the usual tests every few years, or get sent the wee bowel cancer testing kit through the post, he gets none of that. . . no blood pressure check, no poo kit, no prostate check . . . to that extent he is a non-person. And, getting older, the chances are he will need a GP’s attention sooner or later.

I imagine new, older patients who are likely to require more services in the near future are not high up on the average surgery’s wish list. So I nag him and keep my fingers crossed.

The SNP is getting flak for not recruiting enough GPs to defuse this ticking time bomb. But just as it takes years to train a GP, it takes decades to build up to the shortage we have now, so the problem started long ago.

Meanwhile, waiting times to be seen at Accident and Emergency in the ERI are the worst in Scotland, with dozens having to wait more than 12 hours. A&E has to work on the basis of triage and priority so those with the longest waits probably had the least urgent need. But if they don’t have a GP, of course they’ll turn up at A&E instead.

Our NHS needs intensive care. Safe in any political party’s hands? I don’t think so.

Freedom to play outside should be priceless

PLAYING Out projects, where folk in residential streets can agree to close the road for an afternoon to let children play free from traffic, are popular in London. It costs nothing. Line up your wheelie bins to block the road, put up a sign and let everyone know in advance – job done.

But as the Evening News revealed last week, here the council charges up to £1500 a time for official barriers and advertising. The concept of community and “owning” your street of family houses is accepted in England and Wales but not in Edinburgh where the council seems to think it owns everything and everything has a price.

Community cohesion and feeling is worth a hell of a lot more than a paltry £1500 in the council’s gaping deficit. And common sense costs less than mindless bureaucracy.

Watch ‘em queue for compensation

A Glasgow care worker was awarded a five-figure sum for slipping on ice in severe weather because her employers didn’t provide her with adequate winter footwear. If she was wearing trainers she has herself to blame. If she was wearing sensible, winter boots with stout treads and still slipped, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Watch out for a queue of posties, parking attendants, police officers, bin men and anyone else working outside in Scotland, falling over and demanding thousands of pounds because they weren’t issued with crampons.

Aftermath of the recession still felt

RETAIL research shows households are still shopping as if we were back in the recession caused by the 2007/8 crash. And that’s because we are.

The crash might be over and economists might talk about recovery but for Mr and Mrs Ordinary, austerity and poverty is getting worse. Tax is going up, services are being cut, jobs are being lost, wages are static and London has its first 25p shop.

The division between rich and poor is still getting wider and despite what pundits and politicians say, Britain is not a rich country. It just has some rich people living in it.