​Scottish health service stuck in a rut - John McLellan

Health Secretary Michael Matheson remains under pressure (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)Health Secretary Michael Matheson remains under pressure (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
Health Secretary Michael Matheson remains under pressure (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
With reports this week of sick people spending three days on trolleys in hospital A&E department corridors, there is no service in greater need of reform than the NHS.

​No politician thinks it can continue as it is, but apart from throwing more money at increasingly militant unions, solutions are thin on the ground.

Labour’s health spokesman Wes Streeting might have big ideas for reform, but any plans he has will stop at the Border. Here, SNP health secretary Michael “iPad” Matheson has refused to countenance help from English hospitals.

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Into the breach this week stepped defeated SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes, who called for a “national conversation” about the NHS, whatever that entails, but it was at least acknowledgement of political failure.

And perhaps there is something in establishing a non-party-political assembly with a cross-section of the population drawn randomly to examine a specific issue, like the way Ireland used a convention to cut through the politically toxic abortion debate.

But her article for the Reform Scotland think-tank will not build bridges with the SNP leadership, particularly her criticism of the SNP’s plans for a national care service. “Let’s not rearrange the deck chairs while the ship sinks,” she wrote.

And by pointedly attacking politicians who “give the appearance of caring without actually delivering what is required to sustain the NHS for the very patients who rely on its services,” which sounded rather like the man who was health secretary until March last year, Humza Yousaf, she made sure it won’t happen.

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