BETWEEN Christmas and New Year while I was at home with flu, I saw Jackson Carlaw on the TV running through a long list of the SNP Government “failures” with NHS Scotland. The list, while quite extensive, appeared to have no central point or relevance and just seemed to be general charge that the NHS in Scotland was not perfect under the SNP.

Well of course this general charge is valid. The NHS in Scotland today is not perfect, but it is the relative strength of the Scottish NHS compared with the NHS elsewhere in the UK that is important, and here the picture is clear. If we just look at the success of the Scottish NHS in meeting the maximum four-hour waiting time target for emergency or type 1 cases this gives us a rate of 85% meeting the target. Not good enough, that is true, and we need to do better. However, how has the English NHS done here? 68.6%. An important difference, not just marginally better, but significantly better.

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Now statistics, if relevant, are helpful, but they do not tell the full story. On Friday January 3 I discovered the reality of that when I was sent by my GP into Crosshouse Hospital as an 81-year-old emergency case with pneumonia in both lungs.

I was, of course, not at all well when I got to the hospital that afternoon and it was extremely busy. I was placed in a temporary bed in the main corridor from where I could see into the “waiting room” when the corridor doors were opened, as they frequently were. While I was taken for X-rays and given medication I was very conscious of the hive of activity all around me, with staff getting new beds from storage, setting them up in corridors, wheeling patients around these corridors for tests and treatments.

It was remarkable to me how the staff kept up this relentless pace of activity and how they worked consistently as a team:, doctors, nurses, technical staff, porters, ambulance staff and cleaners. All could be found trying to get patients manoeuvred along these crowed corridors, and trying to get treatment and care to them and to clear and prepare new positions from where they could treat patients.

I fell asleep in that temporary bed in the corridor at around 10pm and by that time there seemed to be no let up on the pressure and the waiting room was still full. I was awoken at 1am by staff who took me through a much calmer and less busy hospital to a proper bed in a ward.

I asked the staff about the pressure they had been under that night, and I was very impressed by their response. Yes, they all acknowledged that the numbers had been high and the pressure very great, but it was also clear to me the pride they felt, as a group, in having just overcome this challenge and having done so effectively and successfully. In talking to these staff, and feeling first hand, the pride they had in their achievement. I felt very much the need to share that pride and triumph in achievement which they felt.

I recognised this feeling, I had experienced it when I worked at the coal-face and when the pit had succeeded in achieving high productivity levels when nobody expected that they could.

This I had seen with shipyard workers, engineers and other in the past then their group, their team had achieved more and better than everyone assumes they can do.

I see this as a Scottish thing, it may not be that, but that is my experience, but the team concerned at Crosshouse that night clearly came from many cultural backgrounds.

All the staff involved were all NHS employees and this must have made this team bonding and working together much better. If there were still private contractors dealing with cleaning and domestic staff, this type of team-building would not have been possible. So the decision by the SNP government to do away with private contracting for cleaning services has not only vastly improved hospital hygiene but has helped to build a stronger NHS team.

Dedicated people working together and assisting each other is a process where the sum is far greater than the accumulated parts can ever be.

It was a recognition of this team bonding process and ambition to succeed which is for me the very essence of my idea of being Scottish. I wonder what Mr Carlaw’s conception of being a Scot is? His approach to our country and to its ideas and culture are almost entirely negative.

One long departed Scottish Tory, who certainly knew a thing or two about Scottish culture, once posed the question to us: “breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, this is my own, my native land?”

Well, we can tell Sir Walter that such a man does indeed breathe in Scotland today and that he wants to lead Sir Walter’s old party. Somehow I doubt if Sir Walter would approve.

Andy Anderson