NHS crisis: Despite SNP hype about funding, our health service needs more cash and staff – Susan Dalgety

It’s welcome news that NHS Lothian has been given its biggest ever funding package, a record £1.6 billion for the coming year (2022/23).

The NHS needs more money and more staff (Picture: Greg Macvean)
The NHS needs more money and more staff (Picture: Greg Macvean)

So welcome in fact, that every SNP MSP in the Lothian region seems to have issued the same news release, praising the Scottish Government for its generosity.

“This will go a long way in ensuring NHS Lothian is well on its way to recovery from the pandemic,” said both Midlothian South MSP Christine Grahame and Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop. Oh, and let’s hear it at the back for Colin Beattie, who represents Midlothian at Holyrood. “This will go a long way…” You get the gist.

You can’t fault the SNP’s spin machine, but you can question its accounting. NHS Lothian may have just received its biggest cheque since its inception, but with inflation running at seven per cent and energy bills set to soar by more than 50 per cent, the extra money will be eaten up in no time.

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And no doubt about it, our NHS is in a mess. As SNP MSPs busy themselves boasting about budget increases, stories emerge daily about the real state of our health service. Here’s just a few.

There is now a six-month wait for dementia diagnoses in the city, putting more than 500 people at further risk.

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NHS in Scotland is broken and all the staff I know are working on an escape plan...

There has been a 670 per cent increase in the number of patients forced to cancel ambulance calls and make their own way to hospital, and when they do get to A&E they often find themselves trapped there for hours. Scotland’s emergency departments now face their worst waiting times on record.

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And the Auditor General, Stephen Boyle, revealed earlier this week that there was no record of patients who drop off waiting lists. He said poor record-keeping is a regrettable feature of Scotland’s public sector. Worryingly, he added that claims of progress in health were based on “anecdotal” reports rather than robust data.

I have an anecdote about people disappearing from waiting lists. Last January my husband was diagnosed with a very painful hernia, but his GP told him he would have to wait at least ten months before seeing a consultant, with another interminable wait before an op.

His life shrunk as he found the slightest exertion triggered severe pain, and he faced more than a year of enforced inactivity.

Frustrated, I googled private treatment for hernias and found a package for under £4,000. I had to persuade him to put it on an interest-free credit card, but he finally gave in, and within three weeks he was back to his usual self after a surgeon fixed not one, but three, hernias. As instructed, he gave his GP surgery the treatment report.

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A few weeks ago, he got an appointment for the original consultation – 15 months after the initial diagnosis. He called to cancel only to discover that no-one had recorded that the op had taken place more than a year before.

Our NHS needs more cash and staff, that’s for sure. But it also needs a root-and-branch reform of how it operates, because if the NHS is not keeping proper records, how can we know our money is being well spent?