Jim O’Neill assesses the health of the NHS in Scotland as we celebrate its 70th birthday.


It is now 70 years since Nye Bevan had to “stuff doctors’ mouths with gold” to usher in the single most important success of the Attlee government. As a child of the NHS, I couldn’t let that go past without comment.

My mother was a nurse pre-NHS and post-NHS, and her view was that it was the best thing to happen in her long life. My sister is a nurse, my brother is a nurse, one daughter is a phlebotomist, I have two nephews who are doctors, and one niece runs a care home. I am surrounded by the NHS. I am extremely grateful for the care it has given me and my family over the years. So, how is it faring, this old lady of the welfare state?

The first comment has to be that she has been successful in surviving so long, through long years of Tory government, periods of desperate underfunding, and attempts to dismember her. And this has, sadly, been mirrored in Scotland in recent years, by one health minister cutting the number of nurses in training, and her bestest friend presiding over scandal after scandal of mismanagement and underfunding which sees four health boards having to be bailed out by the Scottish Government. This at a time when GP practices are closing through lack of GPs, GPs being replaced by nurse practitioners, and the largest shortfall of consultants in the history of the NHS.

So will the new health minister, Jeanne Freeman, turn this around? She, like her predecessor, represents an area where the health board is in dire straits, but no-one has taken the simple step of having these boards investigated to see why these things have happened. Is it a simple lack of funds, or is it a case of maladministration of the funds that they have? If it is the former, then it’s over to you Derek Mackay. If the latter, then Ms Freeman has to intervene. After all, it took one board member, the North Ayrshire leader Joe Cullinane, to draw the growing gap between funding and need in the Health and Social Care Partnership to the attention of Ms Robinson. And even then, little was done despite promises.

The UK spends less on healthcare than many of our European neighbours. So how can we say we have a better healthcare system, free at the point of need? It may be free, but you will have to wait for that need to be met, as targets are missed year after year, in A&E, in cancer care, in elderly care leading to bed blocking, and in many other parts of the service. I have personal experience in this. After my GP diagnosed that I needed a new knee I had to wait 10 months to see a consultant, only to be told that the GP had misread the X-ray and I didn’t need a new knee after all. That was 10 months of worry and waiting, and it all proved unnecessary. How is this an example of a service not in crisis?

I have the greatest regard for the workers in the NHS, who had to wait months extra in Scotland until the First Minister could make a political point of an offer that they can’t and won’t refuse. But they won’t have the first stage of that increase paid until the end of July at the earliest, and for many the end of August, four months after their colleagues in England. Using the hard-working staff of the NHS for political aggrandisement is shameful. There is no reason that this offer could not have been made in April. And it was the First Minister who announced it, not the Health Minister. Micro-managing much, Nicola?

It is about time that the old lady had a makeover. An independent assessment of the health needs of Scotland and our ability to fund that need is required. If the Scottish Government does not have the funding to ensure that no more health boards need bail-outs, then they should say so and either introduce taxation to pay for it or dip into the large underspend from last year. Or even tranfer funds from other departments to pay for it. As Nye Bevan said, “the language of priorities is the religion of socialism”. Being healthy is a priority for every woman, man and child in Scotland. I’m sure the founder of our great NHS would agree.

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17 thoughts on “Happy birthday, NHS

    1. Richard, I don’t live in Wales. I am only interested in how our NHS is faring in Scotland

      1. You should be, Jim. Every cut in health budgets in England and Wales resulting from the creeping privatisation of the N.H.S. there has implications for Barnett consequentials and thus cuts the budget of the Scottish N.H.S.

        1. Actually it doesn’t. Barnett consequentials are a percentage of the total spend of the UK Government. As more is spent, the total increases. It is never related to specific departmental spend. So we even get a percentage of the spend on Trident!

          1. “Q: Why doesn’t the data show UK Government spending in areas such as defence and welfare?
            A: In non-devolved or reserved policy areas, public expenditure is the responsibility of the UK Government. The Barnett Formula does not apply to this spending as it is UK-wide.”
            From the Treasury publication
            “Block Grant Transparency;
            December 2017 Publication”

  1. It would be a great help if Health boards were not being buried in dept by so called loans they cant repay .
    Also I agree the whole funding scenario needs to be looked at .
    President Trump is to scrap guidelines that encouraged universities to give places to people from ethnic minorities .
    And Barack Obama called Boris Johnson the British version of Donald Trump for referring to his part Kenyan ancestry during the EU referendum campaign

  2. Well folks I have returned had to order a new hub from BT
    Ordered last Friday BT call centre operator in Glasgow anybody but England said don’t worry new hub at your address Tuesday don’t worry .Follow up text said Wednesday .
    Wednesday no hub .
    Phoned BT got Dublin Call Centre operator anybody but England Don’t understand whats happened definitely sent it. Don’t worry you will have it by Friday .
    Today I got a text from Royal Mail .Order placed with them yesterday coming today .
    Posty said not us to blame its BT .
    Sorry BT the packaging does say sent on the 11th .
    No signal on new gear so I am using a combination of old and new

  3. For the first time since last Friday I had a look at the news websites found this on the BBC.
    With one third of NHS staff unwilling to speak up
    The Scottish Government has created the post of Independent National Whistle Blowing Officer NWO
    Annas Sarwar said our doctors and nurses deserve support not a culture that makes them afraid to raise concerns

  4. Kevin Pringle used to work for Alec Salmond Now has a column in the Sunday Times wrote a piece in last weeks Sunday Times
    Titled its hard to believe but only Corbyn can save the UK
    .He said a split cabinet the antics of Boris Jacob Rees Mogg and David Davis are about as funny as a carry on film long after the franchise went stale
    He mentions all the warnings coming from business chiefs on Brexit
    He says Corbyn should commit labour to a fresh referendum the SNP Lib Dems would come on board .
    He says he is no Labour fan but it has been an agent of Britains deliverance .
    One of the best ever commons speeches by Michael Foot at the end of the no confidence debate which Labour lost by 1 vote in 1979
    Michael said Labour had come to the rescue of the country on at least 2 occasions .
    It is in the most difficult and painful moments of our history sometimes that this country of ours has turned to the Labour party for salvation. And they’ve never turned in vain so far we saved the country in 1940 .We saved the country again in 1945 .
    Kevin writes he was right
    It was Labour that forced a vote in 1940 that resulted in Chamberlains downfall
    And brought about Churchills wartime coalition
    Then in 1945 Clement Attlees Labour party had the ideas and determination to rebuild an exhausted Britain including creating the NHS 70 years ago .
    He says this is another historic moment and once again only a decisive Labour intervention can set the country right
    Can I say one of Harold Wilsons greatest among many achievements was keeping us out of the Vietnam War

  5. As everyone will have noticed. While I was in Hub imposed exile
    I caught up on some tv programmes including inside the American Embassy .
    It was over 3 episodes .
    In no 1 The new Ambassador a multi millionaire business friend of President Trump .
    There was a large reception for business leaders not as well attended as they thought it would be .
    The Ambassador is filmed asking senior staff do you think we should collect the names of those who did not turn up .
    I thought that’s straight out of the Godfather scene when they noted who did not send flowers to a funeral.
    In another scene and through all 3 episodes the Ambassador kept emphasizing to senior staff if its a good deal for the customer it has to be a great deal for us .
    And for American jobs. And that’s a message they are repeating worldwide .
    Rex Tillerson when here told a large meeting of sceptical farmers and Michael Gove he was sick of hearing scare stories about chlorinated chicken .
    And post Brexit we will discover America is not paying European bills anymore .
    Including for the UK they did not like it .
    Then Rex himself got fired via twitter
    In the final episode the Ambassador is showing the US Nato Ambassador round his new embassy
    The voice over and its John Michie of Taggart fame said after the USA expelled 60 Russian diplomats over Salsbury the Trump administration called in the favour when we and France joined the USA in the missile attack on Syria after their use of chemical weapons
    Everyone better realize its America first and American jobs first that is popular in America and we have no idea how to deal with it

  6. I will increase Jims comments total 1 last time tonight
    Denmark from next year Non Danish mothers of children living in areas the state has designated as immigrant ghettos will have to send their children including 1 year olds to 25 classes a week on Danish culture and language or face having their benefits cut.
    The so called axis of the willing Italy Austria and Germanys interior minister are trying to get the EU to speed up plans to post 10thousand border guards on European borders to keep out migrants
    This is a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions the plight of migrants often fleeing disaster and war including Syria where Putin has openly stated its a great place to test new weapons and train soldiers in War
    The med with ships being turned away and remember here in the UK immigration for me had a decisive factor in securing Brexit .

  7. Told you I would return
    Info update new hub and old power pack going back to BT
    Old hub and new power pack in use .
    Found this
    UK citizens who live in EU states are entitled to low or free healthcare the S1 scheme
    MSPS are worried if S1 is lost post Brexit .
    Then 500 million would be required to care for returning expats .
    And NHS an extra 1000 hospital beds .
    In Scotland a severe impact on Social Care with more home care beds being needed for returning Scottish Expats
    This plus the serious staffing and recruiting NHS problems we are already having before we leave if anyone can find anything good about Brexit please comment
    I first saw the problems of possible expats needing to return after Brexit on ch4 news .
    I had not thought of it have our leaders .

  8. This is my opinion and mine only.
    On Scottish Indy result day in 2014
    I have said this before on the worst day of his political life Alec Salmond Stood down as First Minister and Leader of the SNP he was the one who acted with dignity that day
    1 hr later PM Cameron came out of no 10 and apparently with no warning announced English votes etc .
    In 1 sentence he unified the SNP like nothing else could .
    And set us on the road to the EU ref .
    UKIP came to the fore Nigel never of the telly civil war in the Tory party defections to UKIP what does our PM do gives them what they want an EU ref .
    If having called it he should have consulted Scottish political leaders of all parties on how to conduct a referendum campaign .As having just been through one they would know what to do.
    Someone might have told him its going to be about immigration .
    As PM he should have known that . I am a complete nobody and I could see it coming so why did he not .
    Was not hard to miss Calais people on the move from Eastern Europe .
    Then the word Brexit and the phrase take our country back a UKIP dream .Our nightmare
    Nigel and Boris the dream team not challenged so they ran riot the nearest any of them have ever got to a bus was when they put the NHS rubbish on one.
    I thought team Brexit would have a plan on what to do if they won .Not a chance did they seriously think the EU would roll over .
    Where are all those great trade deals every one was supposed to line up to offer us as Nigel and Boris promised Business worried about their future We all know what Boris thinks of that and no planning appears to have been done to address their worries .
    That NHS slogan on the side of the bus .
    Were we not told the extra NHS dosh would come from all that EU money we would save .
    Forgot to tell us it would be paid for through a tax rise .
    Last October I went to a public meeting of Ayrshire and Arran health board At that time 25 million in the red
    They said they were having trouble recruiting key staff across the area .
    A staff member stood up and said he was from Spain had worked at Crosshouse Hospital for 3 years but did not know if he can stay after Brexit .
    It was very forcefully pointed out to me today by a man who is a Labour voter and knows I am a party member as I have said before all of this should have been nailed down during the ref and was not .He was that angry he was sticking his finger in my chest .
    Nigel disappeared after the ref along with UKIP Boris and David Davis quit last week when they saw the PMS plan to clean up the mess they left because they did not plan for a win and life after Brexit
    And America first is in the UK .
    He is hear to tell us what he wants from us as he has told everyone in else USA is no longer the piggy bank to be raided when we need money.
    Then he said in front of the PM the Sun story is fake news I will ignore the fact it got recorded .
    Then he said Boris would be a great PM his only qualification he was nice to Donald .
    Need to find Boris first .
    After last weeks fiasco with Boris and David Davis gone And Rees Mogg having a tv meltdown
    Guess who made a comeback Hezza remember him nicknamed Tarzan for swinging the commons mace about
    Then Nigel turned up .
    I will never see anything good about Brexit
    And while we were all concentrating on America first
    His son arrived on the family plane yesterday with at least 40 business men aboard and I don’t think they will be here for the golf

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