I WORKED in the NHS for 30 years; I am a passionate supporter of it and unfortunately due to factors beyond my control I currently have to rely on it for what is to me urgently required but not readily available treatment.

There is no doubt that the gradual decline of the NHS I witnessed during my working life has accelerated and the system is “fire-fighting” to the detriment of both staff and patients. This situation applies both to the availability of treatment within the hospital sector and at a GP level.

I would have thought that in a relatively wealthy country with an established democratic system of governance the least that the electorate could expect would be that they would be kept fed and healthy. Not so here.

It cannot be beyond the wit of someone with specific knowledge and a pen and paper to calculate how many medical personnel we need to train annually to staff the NHS. We don’t do that as it’s cheaper to rely on some distant country training nurses and doctors in the hope they will want to come to the UK rather than treat patients in the Philippines or India. Conversely, it can’t be impossible to provide our own graduates currently employed in the NHS with a working environment and salaries that make them want to stay here and not emigrate. The NHS is understaffed and under-funded as a matter of choice and the culprit is Westminster. The NHS is the largest employer in the UK and more than half of the annual budget goes on staff wages so in terms of the general economy the more staff the merrier.

So why is the NHS underfunded when medical treatment in the private sector is relatively easy to access? It is as usual a matter of priorities. Last year as the NHS deteriorated the number of UK billionaires increased by 28 to 177 and Westminster paid three times as much in interest payments on the National Debt than was spent on all the NHS sectors in Scotland. It's mind over matter, they don’t mind and we don’t matter.
David J Crawford, Glasgow

• HUMZA Yousaf took to Twitter to say that he will “spend every waking moment working with unions to avoid a strike this winter”. Unfortunately for us, Mr Yousaf is asleep at the wheel of our NHS.

He claims that there is no money to fund a pay rise and wants the UK Government to use its "moral obligation" and help fund pay deals for NHS staff while his boss, the First Minister, is promising £5 million in climate reparations at COP27.

Perhaps instead of trying to convince unions that they shouldn’t strike, he should have a word with Nicola Sturgeon and make clear her priorities are skewed.
Jane Lax, Aberlour

No hope from Tories or Labour

IT is obvious to anyone who follows UK news that the poorer-performing NHS in England or Wales is not politicised to anything like the extent it is in Scotland. The BBC reported the latest A&E waiting times in England as the worst-ever at 69.3% but for comparison purposes this falls to 54.8% of patients seen within four hours in type 1 A&E 24-hour emergency departments, which is the closest equivalent to similar A&E departments in Scotland that currently stand at 63.1%. In Wales the numbers on NHS waiting lists are almost 50% higher than in Scotland.

The average nurse’s salary in Scotland is currently £36,641 compared to £33,384 in England yet the Scottish Government is offering a much better pay award at 7% on average, with more than 11% for the lowest bands, compared to the average 4.75 % in England in Wales.

It takes some nerve for the Tories to attempt to blame the SNP for the UK-wide strikes particularly when Scotland has a fixed budget and Labour Welsh ministers have also pointed out the limitations of the devolution settlement to deal with rampant UK inflation made worse by Tory policies.

Those who believe in the NHS will not be encouraged by Sir Keir Starmer’s views on foreign workers and no return to freedom of movement or in shadow health minister Wes Streeting, who last week called Jeremy Corbyn “senile”, and wants to move from the 20th century funding model of the NHS while saying a Labour government can’t spend more money on it.
Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Pathetic response from Swinney

AT First Minister's Questions, John Swinney followed that well-trodden path prepared by Nicola Sturgeon when defending their position by stating that it’s worse in England ("Ross calls for Yousaf’s head but health secretary doesn’t seem too bothered", The Herald, November 11). Not only is this standard response becoming tediously boring, it is as pathetic as the Old Firm fans shouting about who was worse in Europe and ignoring the fact that both teams were appallingly bad.

There is a strange part of the Scottish psyche that gets more pleasure out of England getting beat at team sports than their own team winning. Sadly it has transcended to Holyrood.
Duncan Sooman, Milngavie

• THE opposition in Scotland are experts at shooting themselves in the foot as evidenced again in the latest First Minister’s Questions. Douglas Ross called for Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to be fired on the grounds of NHS waiting times in Scotland. However, we need to recognise Scotland has the best-performing NHS in the UK and pays the best rate of pay for NHS employees in the UK. So will Mr Ross be consistent with his call on waiting times, and call for the other health secretaries in the UK to be fired?
Catriona C Clark, Falkirk

Gunboat diplomacy days are over

STRUAN Stevenson thinks the West should overthrow the regime in Iran (“The West must now focus on regime change in Iran”, The Herald, November 9). They have, of course, done this before. In 1953, the UK and US toppled the government of Mohammad Mossadegh; they were acting at the behest of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP), who objected to the nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry.

The British and Americans restored the tyrannical Shah to power. He lived in opulence and lavished enormous sums on vanity projects, while his people struggled to afford the basics of life. Eventually, disparate Iranian groups came together and drove the Shah from power in 1979. It’s tragic that the power vacuum was filled by the clerics.

There are other and more recent examples of the West blundering in to depose a government that it didn’t like the look of, as if we had an imperial right to decide another nation’s governance. There have been extreme cases when it might be justified: Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and Uganda under Idi Amin spring to mind. But those brutal regimes were overthrown by neighbouring states who understood what they were doing. Mr Stevenson might not like it, but western gunboat diplomacy has had its day.
Doug Maughan, Dunblane

CalMac up to the challenge

I ENJOYED reading Ian McConnell’s Friday column ("Storm over Scotland’s vital ferry services must not end in break-up or privatisation", The Herald, November 11). It was a clear-sighted view of the strategic issues facing the service, and an antidote against some of the more inaccurate claims consistently being made.

The issue is a significant reduction in fares which led to accelerating demand and a strain on capacity, as investment in new vessels has been delayed. The biggest operational challenge we face is not reliability, it is a shortfall in capacity. Every major vessel is fully deployed to the full extent of the working day, and there is no capacity for additional sailings to cover for peak demand periods or technical failures. No commercial ferry company would deploy all of their assets all of the time, as this simply leads to burn-out.

The increase in demand, 20-35% over five years depending on the route, is a tremendous success story for island economic sustainability, but one which is now increasingly difficult to manage. We have hauliers, islanders, tourists, and commercials all trying to access a limited car deck capacity. In the past, islanders had the flexibility to travel when they wanted, but increasingly they must plan ahead, which is difficult when you are going about your day-to-day business. Several years ago, when a sailing was disrupted, we could move passengers onto the next sailing. However, we are finding now that the next sailings are fully booked making it far more difficult to manage disruptions.

While the next year or two will remain challenging we now have six large vessels and 10 small vessels on order or being planned which will make a real difference for our communities.

We are modern, open and professional, with a diverse and deep maritime experience. We are happy to talk to anyone about the real facts of the service, and how it can be improved.
Robbie Drummond, Chief Executive, CalMac


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