Leader: ‘The NHS is creaking at the seams’

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NHS Lothian has not had its troubles to seek over the last year.

But today’s revelation that emergency heart surgery will have to be stopped in the Capital the weekend after next due to staff shortages will cause deep concern.

First and foremost, there is the immediate risk to patients to consider. The stark fact is that anyone who might need emergency heart surgery in the Lothians on that weekend is likely to have less chance of surviving than they otherwise would have done. There is a real fear that the delay in getting into theatre caused by transferring patients to Glasgow could prove critical in some cases.

Then, there is the wider issue of staff shortages. This is just the latest case where NHS Lothian’s struggle to recruit and retain specialist staff has impacted on patient care.

The health board is not the only one to find it impossible to keep the right skills mix within its workforce.

This is a national issue which must be causing great concern to Health Secretary Alex Neil.

Unless he can find a way of
tackling the root causes of these shortages, the health service in Scotland will continue to creak at the seams for a long time to come.

Tough questions

It has now been more than four months since the Evening News first exposed the Mortonhall ashes scandal.

Since then, we have seen a city council investigation, a police inquiry, the setting up of an independent probe headed by former lord advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, and now the Scottish Government establishing a commission with a view to changing the law.

All of this is, of course, to be welcomed as we attempt to unravel the unfathomable practices which have seen grieving parents denied their child’s ashes for decades.

However, we also need to ensure the various investigations are working quickly and efficiently at establishing the truth, providing answers and ensuring that this can never be allowed to happen again.

Events of recent weeks have made clear that this is now a national scandal.

While bereaved families in Edinburgh will take comfort from the Angiolini inquiry, there are questions about whether this is enough and frustration that it is yet to begin.

The charity Sands Lothian, which first unearthed the scandal, supports calls today for a full public inquiry with greater powers and a wider remit.

After all we have learned since
the end of last year, it is hard to
disagree.