Well, here we are in 2018 – “another year over and a new one just begun”, to quote the man. It certainly is a truism that the older one gets the quicker the years go by! And, not only that, in politics it seems some things never change.
Every year there are winter pressures on Scotland’s National Health Service, and every winter Scotland’s NHS is kicked around as a political football by opponents of the Government of the day. This year has been no different. Of course there have been problems, more severe this year than over previous recent winters.
However, despite the fact that this Christmas has seen the number of people in Scotland suffering from flu double compared to the same period last year; despite the challenging temperatures seeing a rise in respiratory problems for patients; despite the icy conditions leading to increased sprains and fractures, the Scottish Health Service has generally coped. NHS Boards have robust planning in place for such exceptional pressures, from community nursing and GP services through to ambulance and hospital staffing. Health professionals and support staff do an incredible job of looking after us over the festive period and throughout winter. All of these people should be celebrated and thanked for their commitment and teamwork.
It was good news that NHS Lanarkshire office staff volunteered to help hospital colleagues deal with managing unprecedented numbers of patients needing care for winter illnesses. It’s good news that a number of GP practices in Lanarkshire are opening on Saturday mornings through January to help meet the increased need for GP appointments as a result of the exceptionally high levels of winter illness.
It’s excellent news that here in East Kilbride we have one of three Accident & Emergency Departments in Lanarkshire. Interesting that Labour Party politicians are so quick to talk about Accident and Emergency waiting times and perceived failures – they were the ones who abandoned health service targets and tried to reduce the Lanarkshire A&E Units to only two! For those who don’t remember, it was the SNP Government in 2007 which immediately reversed that decision. It’s the SNP Government too which has continued to invest in Scotland’s NHS, keeping it free at the point of need. This includes of course expansion of free personal care and no charge for prescriptions for required medicines. It’s the SNP Government which has increased NHS staff numbers and now agreed to lift the public sector pay cap in Scotland.
The UK national news has given much coverage to the situation with the NHS in England and Wales over the last few weeks, sometimes with no clear differentiation between the situations current in either Labour-run Wales, or the Tory-run NHS in England. The latest Audit Scotland report showed that Scotland’s Accident and Emergency Departments consistently outperform the rest of the UK and that over the last few years the number of delays in Scotland over four hours have decreased by 10% compared to an increase of 180% in England and 56% in Wales. And of course in Scotland there is no ongoing dismantling of the NHS for the benefit of private companies, unravelling key aspects of public health care. This is currently happening in England.
None of us should ever be complacent about our precious Health Service, and there is much improvement that can be made I am sure. However, neither should politicians be prone to such disingenuous reporting and manufactured outrage as we’ve heard over the last wee while. Talking down Scotland’s National Health Service in the language of ‘crisis’ and ‘meltdown’ does more harm than good – it’s demoralising for hard-working staff in such a high-pressure health environment, and causes undue stress for people who may need hospital treatment. Let’s keep discourse within perspective and recognise that to share ideas and improve our health and social care services would benefit all of us.
I have a message from NHS Lanarkshire as the current winter pressures continue and our hospitals are still extremely busy. They would ask that people do not attend A&E unless they require urgent and immediate necessary treatment. They would ask that consideration is given to visiting the local pharmacy for advice on a range of minor illnesses including cold, flu and stomach bugs, or of course calling 111 for advice. Important too that if folks have been unwell in the previous 48 hours they do not come into hospital to visit patients – even if you are feeling better you could still pass on your illness to patients in the hospital.
I have a message FOR NHS Lanarkshire and all their staff and volunteers – thank you for your service throughout 2017, and all best wishes for 2018.