WOW – at last a new, simple and practical policy proposal from one of the candidates for first minister. I refer to the recent comments from Kate Forbes that we actually need to train more doctors. I would go even further and suggest training more dentists and nurses is also worthy of consideration.

It is almost 30 years since I was a project manager in the Scottish NHS (SNHS) and about 10 years since I was a director of Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board. Some things have changed over the years but some basic facts remain.

The number of patients on hospital waiting lists has risen yet again to almost 625,000. That is equivalent to one in nine of the Scottish population. The numbers were going up before Covid and are continuing to go up now post-Covid.

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There are a number of excuses being put forward for the current crisis in the SNHS, and indeed the NHS in the rest of the UK. I have no doubt that Brexit and Covid have made a contribution to the crisis but they are not the fundamental reasons.

An ageing population (myself included) is adding to the situation which, for that reason, will only get worse. I was recently quoted a 21-week wait for a five-minute outpatient ultrasound scan. A referral from your GP to see a consultant neurologist will currently take 36 weeks on Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board’s waiting lists.

I spent some time recently at my local A&E on a Sunday night, waiting more than five hours. Some folk had been waiting a lot longer than that, some in considerable pain. When I finally saw a doctor, she told me her shift should have ended two hours ago. The system is currently dependent on the goodwill of the staff and functions in spite of our politicians, not because of them.

The simple straightforward fact is that for decades, the SNHS has not trained, recruited or managed to retain enough doctors, nurses and support staff to run the service in an effective manner. Reductions in bed numbers have added to the situation. If you permanently run a service on a cliff edge, you should not be surprised if something like Covid pushes you over that edge.

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Last autumn, Mr Yousaf pledged to spend £8 million to hire 750 healthcare staff from abroad to support the SNHS “through the challenging months ahead”. However, it seems only 260 have been taken on and some of them were hired under a previous scheme from 2021. You have to wonder if the long-term solution to the NHS crisis is to “poach” staff from other, possibly developing, nations around the world. Is this really the best we can do?

The 7500 medical school places on offer each year in the UK are hugely oversubscribed. Only 16% of applicants to medicine and dentistry were offered a place in the latest round of applications. There is no lack of demand. Universities are turning away thousands of well-qualified applicants.

It takes years to train healthcare professionals, so even if a decision to increase and fund more training places in Scotland were made today, the potential benefit is some years in the future. The sad fact is that, despite the current crisis, bold, long-term political decisions have not been taken by short-term politicians. As a result, the SNHS will stagger on for the foreseeable future and hundreds including our family and friends will die unnecessarily. Sticking plasters are no substitute for serious surgery.

The Scottish Parliament has had responsibility for the running of the SNHS for more than 20 years, mostly under the SNP. No doubt there will be claims from all politicians that “Westminster did not give us the money”. However, only a few months ago, the stand-in finance secretary finally decided to use the powers Holyrood has had for years, to raise income tax directly for SNHS costs.

Why the Scottish Government refuses to even consider annual ground rent as an alternative tax system to raise the money really needed to properly finance the SNHS remains a mystery to me. We cannot just wait and hope for independence.

Brian Lawson