There will be widespread dismay at the way hospital waiting lists have begun to soar again in the Lothians.
Despite £40 million being ploughed into tackling the problem over the last year or so, more than 5000 people are now waiting nearly three months or longer to be treated in the region’s hospitals.
Everyone agress that this is unacepptable, but no one seems capable of sorting it out.
The latest move to appoint a £100,000-a-year “waiting list tsar” promises at least to bring some new drive and fresh thinking.
Jim Crombie comes to NHS Lothian fresh from heading up the Scottish Government’s drive to tackle soaring waiting times at emergency deparments across the country. The former Western General nurse looks well-qualified for his new post. He will certainly have his work cut out.
Bringing down waiting lists, as this newspaper has noted in the past, is far from straightforward. There is competition from around the world for staff with the right qualifications and health boards have to be increasintly creative in the way they attract and retain them.
Questions are inevitably being asked about whether Mr Crombie’s £100,000-a-year salary is justifiable. Would it be better to hire another surgeon or four nurses instead of another senior manager?
There is certainly a tendency among public bodies in general to grow bloated over time with new and unnecessary levels of management. The SNP have been right to challenge that culture and insist on health boards slimming down.
Is Mr Crombie’s appointment, therefore, a step in the wrong direction? If he can bring about serious and sustained progress in dealing with the intractable problem of waiting lists in the Lothians, then few will question that he has offered value for money.
Certainly, the 5000-plus people currently facing interminable waits for treatment will have reason to be grateful.