Added pres­sure in win­ter months

Perthshire Advertiser - - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR -

Win­ter is upon us and so is talk of the an­nual win­ter cri­sis in our NHS.

Ev­ery year NHS ser­vices ex­pe­ri­ence greater strain on their re­sources dur­ing the win­ter months.

When the nights draw in, an age­ing pop­u­la­tion com­bined with sea­sonal ill­nesses and de­layed dis­charges bring many hos­pi­tals and GP surg­eries to their knees. Nowhere will this be more pro­nounced than in NHS Tay­side. The em­bat­tled health board is fight­ing on all fronts, and at the end of Oc­to­ber an­nounced there would be a three week shut-down for all elec­tive surg­eries dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod.

Last­ing be­tween De­cem­ber 18 and Jan­uary 8, health board bosses have cited staffing short­ages as one mo­tive for can­celling all but the most im­por­tant of op­er­a­tions.

Make no mis­take, this will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on pa­tients

In the past 12 months a num­ber of pa­tients have con­tacted my of­fice with tales of 20-week wait­ing times, de­spite a man­dated treat­ment time guar­an­tee of 12 weeks.

Back­ing this up were sta­tis­tics in Septem­ber de­tail­ing a 60% spike in the num­ber pa­tients not been seen within this time­frame

Ul­ti­mately, for these pa­tients, many of whom are in aching pain ev­ery day their wait will have to go on.

I have asked the health board for the ex­act num­ber of pa­tients af­fected, with­out re­sponse so far, but I would imag­ine it will run into the hun­dreds.

For these pa­tients Christ­mas and New Year will be all the worse as a re­sult of their can­celled op­er­a­tions.

Ear­lier in Oc­to­ber a re­port from pub­lic spend­ing watch­dogs, Au­dit Scot­land, warned that NHS Tay­side is fac­ing a fund­ing gap of al­most £50m this year.

Added to this are sta­tis­tics re­veal­ing a con­cern­ing build­ing main­te­nance back­log and re­ports of ro­dents in hos­pi­tal kitchens. The top team at NHS Tay­side are work­ing hard to turn per­for­mance around and it is right to recog­nise the un­prece­dented chal­lenges they face, but this can­not be a free pass for poor per­for­mance.

And whilst ac­knowl­edg­ing the prob­lem is wel­come, pa­tients would pre­fer an­swers rather than apolo­gies.

Au­dit Scot­land has called for a re­al­is­tic ac­tion plan to help de­liver the re­quired ef­fi­ciency sav­ings needed over the com­ing years.

Whilst this might bal­ance the books, I be­lieve more sup­port is re­quired from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to de­liver clin­i­cal so­lu­tions to im­prove pa­tient care. Long-stand­ing is­sues with work­force plan­ning must be sorted out. NHS Tay­side like health boards across the coun­try are strug­gling to re­cruit enough GPs and nurses and we must in­crease train­ing places to help com­bat this.

In ad­di­tion to more places we need to drop red tape for con­sul­tants look­ing to be­come GPs later in life. Fun­da­men­tally, the NHS is in a pe­riod of tran­si­tion and it looks as if the SNP does not have the ideas or im­pe­tus to lead this change and I be­lieve it’s time for a gov­ern­ment that does.

Ms Smith can be con­tacted via El­iz­a­beth.Smith@ par­lia­, or the Con­trol Tower, Perth Air­port, Scone, PH2 6PL. Al­ter­na­tively, call 01738 553 990. Only emer­gency surgery will be car­ried out at Perth Royal In­fir­mary be­tween De­cem­ber 18 and Jan­uary 8


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