Ambulance on Road

Doom and Winter Gloom

Nicola Biggerstaff – 2nd September 2022

As we eagerly await the Scottish Government’s upcoming winter contingency plans, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf this week warned that our NHS is facing a ‘really challenging winter’. In his continuing quest to state the obvious, he went on to comment that all the factors we’ve become sick of hearing about, namely the cost of living crisis brought on by soaring inflation and energy costs, coupled with a potential post-Covid return of the winter flu season, as well as ongoing Covid infections, will ‘add to the usual pressures’ facing the health service. Without naming any tangible Scottish Government plans or policies to tackle this, or even bringing forward the previously mentioned contingency plans, Yousaf once again turned to the ever-reliable Scottish Government dog whistle of blaming the UK Government for the lack of funding that led us here. But don’t worry, they tell us: we do have enough money already to run all of this to an even higher standard in an independent Scotland. A service with skyrocketing waiting lists and A&E wait times, with staff ready to join thousands of other workers in strike action, will still be able to function. Our failing devolved services are entirely the Tories’ fault, sure thing.

Now it obviously goes without saying that there is some fault that lies with them. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t acknowledge this. The fairness of the Barnett formula is a myth, and more could have been done up until this point to prevent, or at least lessen, the pressures now faced by our healthcare facilities through more strategic budgeting from our Westminster overlords. However, our government’s refusal to take responsibility for our failing services, and their failure to hold local boards to account in providing these services, is getting old. There needs to be increased scrutiny on all sides, without the inevitable increase of mid-level bureaucracy that would bring under current management models. And it needs to come quickly, because the way our services are being ran at the moment, they will buckle when the true extent of the cost of living is realised in October and into the winter months.

Fuel bills to run essential, lifesaving equipment will skyrocket. Ambulance services, already affected by previous petrol shortages and price hikes, will only feel the pinch even more. As we all prepare to hunker down and put our health on the line in our cold abodes, as my colleague Kaitlin discussed last week, we seem to have forgotten that the one place where we should feel looked after, where we should feel safe from illness and harm, the place we will end up should our plans to put up go awry; will be at no less risk of being priced out of fuel and, in the worst case scenario, in no better position to help you. This is just the start of our problems if the government don’t step in now.

The sharp increase in demand for healthcare services in the upcoming months will be jarring: not only from the elderly and vulnerable suffering the physical effects of the cold because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes, but our shockingly poor mental health services will buckle in the long-term, if they don’t immediately. Stress-related illness, anxiety and depression, alcohol and drug addiction, all heavily reported issues currently seeing unprecedented rises among our population, and all set to get worse under the mental pressure this winter will bring. That’s before we get into increasing rates of other chronic illnesses, our aging population, and complications from increasing rates of obesity we were already seeing pre-pandemic, also worsening from the physical effects of cold and illness. Add on the predicted return of the winter flu seasons after two years of restrictions have eased off, and we have a recipe for the collapse of our healthcare system.

I understand that quick fixes to complex problems are next to impossible. But this government have had 15 years, and all we’ve seen is worsening healthcare standards, worsening conditions for our healthcare workers, and worsening outcomes for patients. And what do we have now, heading into what will probably be the toughest times we will all have to live through? A health secretary only reiterating the blaringly obvious.

Why do we rely so heavily on our healthcare system to pick up the pieces when the rest of our social infrastructure fails? The pressures facing them can be linked to failures in social care, in education, in housing, and yet the solution, according to the Scottish Government, is to close their eyes and throw their money into the window of the nearest mid-level management office, praying that some of it might reach the ward if they throw it hard enough. We are all invested in this, and we all deserve better.

A lot of discussion in our circles at the moment reveals a lack of enthusiasm for Scottish independence campaigning in light of the impending crises, and I could not agree more. Now is not the time to be divided over hypotheticals, over utopian dreams and ambitions. I didn’t think I’d have to write this sentence in my lifetime; but we now need to focus on keeping one another alive. What is politics if there’s no one left to debate it? What is policy if there’s no one left to benefit from it? That being said, we should not forget about it completely, far from it. We need it as a motivation, to remember that a better future for all of us is possible. Once we get ourselves through this, together, then the work can begin again.

Here at Common Weal, our Working Group for Healthcare is working hard to come up with the solutions needed to repair our broken healthcare system here in Scotland, while keeping it free at the point of use and not for sale to the highest bidder. Our experts from across the field are developing the solutions we need to run our services to the highest quality using all the future powers of independence. We are always on the lookout for others in the sector who would be interested in joining our discussions. To find out more, or to get involved, please get in touch at nicola@common.scot.

1 thought on “Doom and Winter Gloom”

  1. We badly need independence because we can’t afford yet more mediocrity, timidity and centrist managerism from the SNP in Holyrood.

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