Bernard Harkins on the NHS

Monday January 4th 2016

Bernard Harkins

Bernard Harkins, Scottish Labour Party candidate in the Midlothian North & Musselburgh seat in the 2016 Scottish Parliament Elections and shortlisted list candidate for Lothian Region, writes an article about the NHS.

“So, here we are at the end of another year and like a number of people I’ve done a bit of looking back over 2015.

I guess one of the things that comes to mind, is that as you get older, you might have to access medical services a bit more often.

Aside from the occasional visit to the doctor over the years, until this year, my main contact with the NHS had been when my daughter was born.

My experience of the care we received at the time was excellent and the dedication and professionalism of the staff was truly impressive.

It was the same again this summer, when for the first time I had to stay overnight in hospital.

Again, I left the NHS having had a positive experience and being impressed by all of the staff that I come into contact with.

It is the same any time I’ve had to attend my local medical centre, but the service that the NHS provides is increasingly coming under pressure.

In September of this year, Quarryfoot Medical Practice in Bonnyrigg, announced that it would no longer be taking new patients due to recruitment difficulties as it struggled to fill GP vacancies.

Eskbridge Medical Practice in Musselburgh has also experienced problems in recruiting new GPs to replace two doctors who left over the summer.

It would appear that this experience is not unique to people staying in Midlothian and Musselburgh.

A few months ago the Labour Party published a consultation paper called ‘Fit for the Future’ which highlighted some of the issues that primary care is facing in Scotland.

The consultation which is being led by Dr Richard Simpson MSP is based on a survey of GP practices and states from the outset that:-

No party or organisation has a monopoly of wisdom. This paper seeks to start a discussion which will secure the future of general practice in this country, and ensure better care for Scots for decades to come.

The 330 practices out of 990 which responded to the survey highlighted a number of different issues, but there are 3 which underline the issues experienced by people living in Midlothian and Musselburgh these are:-

  • a growing level of practises being taken over by Health Boards as GP partner vacancies remained unfilled;
  • a growing number of vacancies for GP partners [92/330];
  • a growing number of practices who were restricting new patient registrations either to a specific number weekly or to members of existing registered households. This on top of more restrictive geographical practice boundaries. E.g. 23 Edinburgh City practices operating restrictions had introduced these since 2014.

There are no easy solutions to these problems and the paper is seeking views on a number of immediate and medium term actions.

The immediate actions include:-

  • training more GPs;
  • cutting down red tape for substitute GPs;
  • ensure practices notify Health Boards on unfilled posts.

Health will be a key part of the debate we have about Scotland during the forthcoming election campaign.

My hope is that ‘Fit for the Future’ will help to shape that debate and it will help all parties to reach a consensus as to the way forward.”

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