Parties warned against raising ‘unrealistic expectations’ for NHS

Leading doctors said they had a 'real concern' about some of the promises political parties are making.

Parties warned against raising ‘unrealistic expectations’ for NHS Getty Images
Party promises: Doctors said they had a 'real concern'.

Politicians may be “raising unrealistic public expectations” about the amount of work the NHS in Scotland can do after the coronavirus pandemic, leading doctors have warned.

While the future of the health service is a key battleground in the run up to next month’s Holyrood election, doctors said they had a “real concern” about some of the promises parties are making.

Dr Lewis Morrison, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland spoke out along with Dr Miles Mack, the chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, also known as the Scottish Academy.

Noting that many health workers were “suffering the physical and mental impact” of working throughout the pandemic, they also called for an increased in staffing.

Their comments come as the Scottish Conservatives promised a one-off £600m boost to to help the NHS tackle the “treatment log-jam” that has built up during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, if the SNP is re-elected its leader Nicola Sturgeon has promised work to raise NHS in-patient, day-case and out-patient activity to 10% above pre-pandemic levels within one year.

But in a joint statement Dr Morrison and Dr Mack said: “There is real concern that political parties are raising unrealistic public expectations of the potential activity of NHS in Scotland in the run up to the Holyrood election, without establishing how to create the capacity to deliver on these promises, especially in the timescales being talked about.”

The medical experts said they both fully supported “the need to urgently address the healthcare needs of patients whose assessment, investigation or treatment may have been paused or delayed as a result of the pandemic”, insisting the health service would be “continuing to do our very best to do this”.

But they added: “This needs to be supported by an increase in capacity and workforce.

“And we cannot ignore the health and wellbeing of NHS staff who are already under severe pressure due to Covid-19 and suffering the physical and mental impact that this has had.

“In the final weeks of campaigning and when the new Scottish Government is formed, communication with the public must be realistic, and the delivery of services must be balanced with our current capacity and developed in association with NHS Scotland, the BMA, the Scottish Academy and Royal Colleges and other organisations in a position to advise on what is achievable.”