I think we all knew that the NHS was finding it ever harder to meet people’s needs for healthcare. This is more about excessively bureaucratic organisation and not enough staff than it is about money, the cash increases delivered to the NHS in England continuing to come to Scotland through the Barnett formula.
So far the main sign of difficulty was the on-going failure in many parts of Scotland to meet the Scottish Government’s targets for waiting and treatment times. Now in a startling escalation of the problems, NHS Tayside has announced it is to operate all its out of hours care from a single base in Dundee because of a shortage of doctors. They say this is temporary, but how do they know when and how a shortage of doctors to deliver out of hours care will be resolved? The French have a saying to the effect that it is only the temporary which lasts, and this could well be the case here.
It is for the Scottish Government to take action now, with all the Scottish Health Boards, to ensure that this crisis is resolved now in the summer, before pressure increases this autumn. They should be consulting with the GPs and their representatives to find an agreed way forward, using no doubt their £40 million primary care development fund which they have yet to allocate. Having centralised so much in Scotland, the Scottish Government has to demonstrate that centralisation works. Otherwise the price of their failure will be paid in rural Tayside, both Perthshire and Angus, for the foreseeable future.