Covid in Scotland: Something is terribly wrong with our NHS - Alastair Stewart

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of being admitted to a hospital or having family there will all tell you the same thing.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 7:00 am
A lack of interest in the state of the health service was common long before the pandemic
A lack of interest in the state of the health service was common long before the pandemic

You oscillate between frustration and gratitude for the staff who look after you. All of it is under an umbrella of fear, but it's about control: an inability to alter or change circumstances and events as you wait for the next visit, the next update.

Covid-19 has exacerbated this process. It's no one’s fault, but ‘faff’ is the word that now springs to mind. You need to book visiting slots, be suited and booted in masks and plastic pinnies. Everything is rightly regulated, but it compounds a feeling of a total loss of control over circumstances.

As Omicron starts to strain the National Health Service, you half to wonder if political leaders are as honest, whatever their rhetoric is.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Indeed, it seems the NHS and the wider care sector suffers from a total disconnect.

It was a big taboo even to suggest you would not clap for the NHS during the first lockdown. Not standing at your window or doorstep was worthy of a social pillorying. In retrospect, the whole thing was less a thank you and more a weather dance; during those terrible days, we would have done anything, said anything, not to chance or jinx our chances of ending up in a ward bed.

And now the months and years have gone by, and we debate tax increases and scoff at the suggestion that these same NHS heroes should be paid more.

When things are good, no one stops to think about the same people who helped them. Others are callous enough to dismiss their stresses and tribulations and enormous sacrifice during Covid as "part of their job".

What to do?

Disinterest in the state of the health service was common long before the pandemic. But flash forward, and those efforts seem collectively tokenistic as there has been no coordinated effort to industrially expand the sector: nothing less than a Second World War-style to get, train, retrain and support staff will do as part of a national emergency.

Pay increases will always play a factor, but anyone who has ever needed an appointment, waited for an ambulance, been to A&E or listened to staff will know the NHS has been struggling along with capacity for years.

Contingency planning has become the de facto norm. But massively expanding the NHS workforce in complete preparation for another wave or pandemic has forever fallen down the list.

Covid-19 is back, laying waste to seasonal plans. While Omicron is a new name, it is hard not to feel our political leaders have dropped the ball, that everything is a last-minute scramble. And it's our health service that will suffer.

How could any family sleep at night without staff's attention, updates, and patience?

Like most people, the overriding reaction to Covid-19 and its variations is fear. In this mess of emotion is the worry and panic of what will happen if I get sick.

Sub-conscious warnings are a powerful force. If somewhere in the pit of your stomach and the back of your mind is a fear about what happens if you need to wait for an ambulance or go into hospital, something is terribly wrong with our NHS.

Politicians need to realise that and act.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​