Neil Findlay: The Crisis In Our NHS Is Damaging lives
In his first regular column, Neil Findlay MSP exposes the scale of the Crisis in Scotland's NHS.
With the Parliament back after recess the campaign to force the SNP government to atone for their cuts and disorganisation has not missed a step.
Scottish Labour are committed to presenting an anti-austerity alternative that invests in services and protects communities from cuts.
Sadly, the SNP have sought to only manage decline, rather than present a vision of government for the many, not the few.
This is especially concerning when it comes to our beloved health service – the greatest social policy of any UK Government.
Across Scotland there is a growing GP crisis. From Shetland to Dumfries and all stops in between communities are seeing their local GP practices buckling under the pressure of increased demand with fewer doctors to cover this growing need.
This is a very real crisis that is damaging lives here and now.
Last Summer I held a drop in session for Doctors and Practice Managers in my own region of Lothian – what they told me was shocking.
• 40% of GP practices across the Lothians have closed their lists to new patients because of a lack of available Doctors
• More and more practices rely on locum cover to keep the doors open
• When vacancies are advertised there are often zero applicants for posts
• Health centre staff are under huge pressure to cope with rising demand despite having fewer GPs
At Carmondean in Livingston and East Craigs in Edinburgh whole practices have gone under and at Breich Valley Medical Practice resignations mean that the health board are facing an acute crisis trying to provide ongoing services for local people in Stoneyburn and Fauldhouse.
This is an abject failure of long term planning by the Scottish Government – they cannot pass the buck to anyone else after 11 years in power.
A recent Freedom of Information request I submitted reveals the extent to which practices rely on locum cover with 94% of Lothian GPs having used locum or sessional staff over the last year.
In rural areas of Scotland such as Orkney locum cover can cost up to £1400 a day. We cannot go on like this. Whilst the new GP contract will hopefully begin to address some of these issues what we really need is effective planning and investment to sustain the future of the General Practice workforce.
These hard working people are the backbone of our NHS and they are not being encouraged to work in our local communities by this Government.
In West Lothian, Labour pioneered the partnership centre approach bringing services such as GPs, community facilities, housing, libraries, leisure and Job Centre Plus outreach under one roof.
This approach would allow cross service working to deliver more effective health and social services. But these new buildings need people in them providing front line care and help to the public as a priority.
I am convinced this is the way to go but we need to ensure that the roll out of these centres continues across Scotland so that all communities reap the benefit of a coordinated approach supported by the right number of qualified staff.