The NHS funding gap is “just as real in Scotland” as other parts of the UK, the chairman of the organisation which represents doctors has warned.
Dr Peter Bennie, of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, said the gap means the country will not have enough money over the next five years to provide all the services patients require without “urgent and significant change”.
The warning came ahead of his address to the BMA’s annual meeting in Belfast today, in which he will also set out some of the organisation’s most pressing concerns, including targets “skewing” clinical priorities, GP shortages, excessive workloads and recruitment problems.
Dr Bennie will say: “With the impact of a growing, ageing population, who require more support from health services as they manage multiple complex healthcare needs, the pressure on doctors to respond to these rising demands is escalating, with a workforce with growing gaps and insufficient funding.
“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.”
Dr Bennie will highlight Scottish Government plans to shift healthcare from hospitals to the community, establish elective treatment centres and integrate health and social care.
He will add that there has been “little evidence” of the government’s aim to put clinicians at the centre of redesigning care.
Dr Bennie will also tell delegates the BMA in Scotland has been expressing concern about targets “skewing clinical priorities” for some years.
“We welcome the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary earlier this month of a full review of targets in NHS Scotland,” he will say.
He will also highlight “a shortage of GPs and growing gaps in staffing, excessive workload and concern about the future”, adding the government response to the recruitment crisis in general practice is “inadequate”.
Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said Dr Bennie’s comments were a warning sign for the government.
“Under this SNP government, we have seen the biggest crisis in family doctors for a generation, with over £1 billion cut from general practice,” he said.
“Social care partnerships are millions of pounds in the red. Meanwhile, health boards across the country have to make tens of millions of pounds of cuts.”
Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Reducing the pressure on NHS staff and improving services for patients and their families starts with increasing the resources that we are putting into our health service.
“The BMA are right to say that unless we close the funding gap facing health services we cannot hope to ensure that doctors and nurses get the support they need.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said: “Evidence is building that we are on the brink of an NHS staffing crisis.
“The SNP has been warned about this for some time but has completely failed to plan for it.
“Now, we need to look not just at the next five years, but the next 25 years.”
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