Doctors' leader calls for change to address NHS funding gap

The NHS in Scotland simply does not have sufficient funding over the next five years to provide all the services which our people require without urgent and significant change.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2016, 9:25 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd June 2016, 10:28 am
The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland claimed that "constrained resources" meant the health service was struggling to cope with increasing demands.
Chair Peter Bennie
The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland claimed that "constrained resources" meant the health service was struggling to cope with increasing demands. Chair Peter Bennie

That is the stark warning from the chair of the BMA in Scotland as he addresses colleagues from across the UK in his speech to the BMA’s annual representative meeting in Belfast, today (Wednesday, June 22).

Dr Peter Bennie will say: “We all live in times of austerity across the four nations of the UK.

“Health budgets, although relatively protected, have been virtually static in real terms since 2010 and will struggle to cover the increasing health requirements of our people in the coming years.

“This funding gap is just as real in Scotland as elsewhere.

“Yet there is a tendency for politicians, media, even doctors, to tacitly accept this as an unavoidable reality. Professor David Stuckler, in a presentation to BMA delegates earlier in the week, laid out for us that this is not so, and highlighted the direct impact of austerity policies on the health of the people.”

With the impact of a growing, ageing population, who require more support from health services as they manage multiple complex health care needs, Dr Bennie has argued that the pressure on doctors to respond to these rising demands is escalating, with a workforce with growing gaps and insufficient funding.

“So what’s the reality for doctors working in NHS Scotland, and how worried should we be about the future sustainability of our health service?” asks Dr Bennie.

“We have warned repeatedly that rapidly increasing demands on Scotland’s NHS are outstripping available resources and creating a funding gap that cannot be ignored. We see the effects of that on the system every day.

“The challenge for our politicians is to find a genuinely sustainable way forward for our NHS.

“We are told that the Government’s National Clinical Strategy will form the platform for the future. It sets out a clear ambition to shift the balance of healthcare delivery from hospitals to community through integrated health and social care services, while concentrating more specialised services in a smaller number of centres.”

The Scottish Government has also made a series of announcements in recent months, including plans for new elective centres, a major trauma network, a new graduate entry medical programme, and most recently a commitment to review the way national targets are used in the health service.

But Dr Bennie warns that often clinicians do not feel they are being appropriately consulted and involved in plans to deliver change.

In reflecting on the key message in his speech, Dr Bennie added: “We shall make the most of the current cross-party political consensus on health issues in order to keep the focus on the funding gap and ensure that urgent and significant action is taken to secure the sustainability of our NHS now and for future generations.”