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Time for debate on the political implications of health care funding

Alex Neil and Nicola Sturgeon would be well advised to reflect upon Gavin Tait's excellent letter regarding politically motivated waiting time targets and their impact on the future of the NHS in Scotland (NHSiS) (Letters, December 24).

They should initiate a public debate on the future funding of health care in Scotland and the political requirement for this to come from taxation alone.

This must inevitably become an ever-increasing problem with an ageing population and rising costs. Surveys have shown a surprising number of UK patients and doctors already accept this. However, there seems to be a collective denial on the part of politicians and many members of the public that the NHS cannot continue indefinitely as presently organised and funded and, by burying their heads in the sand, ensure the present arrangements are not challenged.

There is no easy solution and the "reforms" being introduced south of the Border have many critics. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to look at Europe for answers, as several European nations, where universal health care has been the norm for decades, are struggling to get more bang for their buck. Worryingly, Eurocare studies of cancer survival rates show the UK's figures do not compare favourably with many European countries which spend less per head of population on treatment.

How the NHSiS performs must be difficult to assess, but there have been a number of reports of problems with various aspects of patient care, including cancer waiting time targets and cancer treatment.

There has been a disturbing lack of reassurance from those working at all levels in the health service. We know politicians tend to tell us what will help them achieve their political goals and cannot be trusted to give a candid assessment of how they see the future.

If only they appreciated they would gain more respect if they presented us with the unalloyed truth. The public will not be fooled by unattainable promises. In this age of transparency and accountability, it would be helpful if health service managers would give an account of their problems and how they see the way ahead.

As it is five years since I retired from surgical practice, I depend upon what I read, and conversations with former colleagues, for information and, like many, would be interested to hear from those currently working in the NHS.

I have a sneaking suspicion some consultants may feel unable to express their views in public, although apparently not because of any formal gagging procedure.

In 2007 the Department of Health in England commissioned three reports on the regulation of the NHS from respected US organisations. These (released in 2010 after a Freedom of Information request), declared the NHS had developed a widespread culture of fear and compliance.

While few of us would recognise such a culture in the NHSiS, one must hope the public can be fully and honestly informed by politicians and NHS staff alike on all aspects of patient care.

Where there are failings due to inadequate resources, this should be brought to the attention of the public so that the dilemma of how to fund health care in Scotland in the years to come can be publicly debated.

When, however, they are associated with political coercion to achieve unrealistic targets set for political ends, they should be exposed as just that.

John Sinclair,

7 Bridgegait,

Milngavie.

The Golden Jubilee National Hospital was originally purchased by the Scottish Executive in 2002 for use as a national waiting times facility to support patients across Scotland in a number of key specialties (Letters, December 26).

As a national NHS board in its own right, it has been successfully meeting or exceeding targets over the past 10 years.

The Golden Jubilee National Hospital is now home to regional and national heart and lung services and is the only site in Scotland to undertake heart transplantation.

It is also a major centre for orthopaedics and currently carries out 20% of all Scottish hip and knee replacements.

The Golden Jubilee still remains the flagship hospital for reducing waiting times for key elective specialties such as ophthalmology, general surgery, endoscopies, plastic surgery and a range of diagnostic imaging procedures.

More recently the hospital has started surgeries to help bariatric patients (gastric bands) and spinal injury patients.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the hospital becoming a national resource for NHS Scotland. From carrying out just under 3000 procedures in 2002, there are now more than 30,000 a year, including a number of pioneering ones.

Sandie Scott,

Head of Corporate Affairs,

NHS National Waiting Times Centre,

Golden Jubilee National Hospital,

Clydebank.

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

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