EEN leader: ‘Will these problems ever be solved?’

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THE return of soaring NHS waiting lists will cause widespread concern in homes across the Lothians.

The fact that 4200 people are facing unacceptable delays of more than 12 weeks for treatment is bad enough. What is perhaps even more worrying is that the latest rise comes on the back of one of the most concerted pushes in recent times to tackle the waiting list backlog.

The question in many people’s minds now is whether these deep-seated problems will ever get solved or will we just have to get used to these kinds of waits as standard?

NHS Lothian under the leadership of chief executive Tim Davidson has proved willing to embrace change, including sending patients to private hospitals, drafting in private specialists and opening operating theatres at weekends.

Yet the health board finds itself fighting with one arm tied behind its back when the health service has such great difficulties recruiting the specialist staff it needs and local authorities are forced to cut millions from their social care budgets.

These problems affect not only NHS Lothian, although the problems are particularly acute in the Lothians, and Health Minister Shona Robison needs to take the lead in finding the long-term solutions. These will certainly include more effective joint working between the health board and local councils to tackle problems such as so-called bed blocking. Major steps are being taken in this area and a lot of expectation rests on the shoulders of the Capital’s incoming chief executive, Andrew Kerr.

It is clear that the way in which health and social care are delivered will have to change. Cutting waiting times, while protecting standards of patient care against a background of cost-savings is a tall order, but that is the challenge facing city services.