As NHS's 75th birthday approaches, SNP should hang their heads in shame | Will Tram Inquiry report be published during Holyrood recess? – Miles Briggs

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The health service should be the envy of the world

In under a month’s time, the NHS, a health system that epitomised the post-war consensus and Britain’s new attitude to social and economic order, will celebrate its 75th birthday. In doing so, it is approaching the average life expectancy in Lothian which sits at over 80 years.

The pressures the pandemic has had on our health services are well documented, but so is that, prior to Covid, SNP ministers had not met their own NHS waiting-time targets and we were overseeing a service facing significant crises. Our health system continues to suffer under SNP-Green mismanagement, with little sign of improvement.

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In NHS Lothian, the inpatient waiting list over 52 weeks has stayed consistently high in the first quarter of 2023, sitting at 7,747 at the end of March. Since March 2019, the percentage of A&E patients seen within four hours has dropped from 86.6 to 60 per cent, which is an embarrassment not just to former Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, but also to Scotland.

Our health system should be the envy of the world, but it is being neglected and mismanaged by those who are tasked with improving it. Those who work in our NHS are clear that they have never seen such a challenging situation.

Attempts at deflection won’t wash any longer. The SNP government has now been in power for over 16 years and there is little evidence that its priorities have changed, with another divisive independence referendum being priority number one.

The figures are an embarrassment for Humza Yousaf. He was unable to find a solution to the mess he created as Health Secretary and must, as a priority, ensure that his ministers can develop solutions going forward. That starts with the need to develop a credible NHS workforce plan – something I have called on ministers to prioritise since I was elected in 2016.

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For years, Scotland has carried the unwanted title of being ‘the sick man of Europe’. I’m afraid that under the current Scottish Government, that title looks set to remain unless we see a new vision for how we deliver on health outcomes.

Nurses dress in uniforms from each decade that the NHS has been in existence (Picture: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)Nurses dress in uniforms from each decade that the NHS has been in existence (Picture: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
Nurses dress in uniforms from each decade that the NHS has been in existence (Picture: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to remove an incorrect figure about the number of people on NHS Lothian’s inpatient waiting list for more than 52 weeks at the end of March. The correct number is 7,747, not 27,994. We apologise for the error.

Will Tram Inquiry report be published during Holyrood recess?

Meanwhile, it has now been more than nine years since the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry was announced and over five years since the conclusion of the public hearings. The inquiry has cost the Scottish taxpayers over £13 million, but has yet to be published, despite being sent to the printers almost two months ago.

I have raised my concern with SNP ministers that if the inquiry reports during the Scottish Parliament and Edinburgh City Council summer recesses, then we will not see the opportunity for a full debate and full and proper accountability – a cynic may also draw the conclusion that such timing would minimise publicity around the inquiry findings.

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What is important now is for the opportunity to debate both the findings of the inquiry and also to understand why what was said would be a “swift and thorough” inquiry has taken so long to report and cost so much. It’s time for the public to be given answers and for those responsible for the failings to be held accountable.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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