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Scotland's NHS in ‘permanent crisis’

SCOTLAND’S NHS is in crisis and sleepwalking toward the end to its “free at the point of use” founding principle, while Wales’s GP service is crumbling after years of cuts, medics warned today.

Addressing the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual conference in Belfast, its Scottish chairman Dr Iain Kennedy told delegates: “Scotland’s NHS is in a state of permanent crisis. Winter pressures are here 365 days a year.

“Since the end of April, over 58,000 patients have waited more than 12 hours in a Scottish A&E department: that’s 24 times greater than five years ago.

“This massive deterioration in performance is completely outwith the control of our doctors, who work tirelessly in traumatic circumstances.

“And these figures are a warning light that the whole health and social care system is not coping with the demand.

“Long waits are forcing those who can afford it to go private. A two-tier health service in Scotland is now beyond question. If you can stump up the cash, then you can get the care you need.

“We all value an NHS free at the point of use. Yet Scotland is sleepwalking into sacrificing this principle, threatening the very existence of the NHS as we know it.”

Accusing the SNP Scottish government of lacking clarity and urgency in dealing with the crisis, Dr Kennedy added: “I urge the Scottish government to come forward now with a detailed plan to guarantee an inclusive national conversation, along with a plan to implement what it tells us.”

His Welsh BMA colleague Dr Phil White warned conference that GPs services in the country were facing the “truly grim” impacts of years of cuts, with the number of patients having grown by a third while numbers of GPs fell by almost a quarter.

Dr White warned: “The service hangs on a precipice, the funding has been slashed and Welsh government continue to bury their heads in the sand.

“Continuing to ignore the vital role that general practice plays in the National Health Service is a grave mistake.

“My message to Welsh government is clear: restore the proportion of the NHS budget which has been cut from general practice or else it will collapse.

“If one part of the NHS crumbles, the rest will follow.”

A Welsh government spokesperson said:“We recognise the pressure GPs face. Our investment in GP services has been increasing year on year.”

SNP Health Secretary Neil Gray, who told ITV’s Representing Border programme in February that further use of private providers in the NHS was something he was “happy to consider,” responded: “The principles of a health service free at the point of need are sacrosanct.”

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