Ambulance on Road

This Week in Health

Nicola Biggerstaff

As the NHS crisis deepens, and cases of Covid-19 remain endemic, it is important to remember that healthcare remains a crucial issue in the current political climate, and that we cannot afford to lose sight of this. With that in mind, we thought we’d bring you a round-up of some recent key health news.


Accident and Emergency waiting times have seen a slight improvement across the country since the winter peak. Patients waiting over 12 hours has dropped by over 30%, however it has been claimed that up to a third of patients are still waiting over four hours to be seen, once again undermining the government’s target of 95% being seen within this time.

According to Public Health Scotland, this indicates a decline in standards since the 70.3% seen within four hours at the end of January this year, itself the best time seen since May 2022.

Discrepancies across health boards have also been observed, with NHS Forth Valley and NHS Lothian struggling the most to meet the target, at 44.9% and 49.7% respectively. NHS Western Isles continues to meet and exceed the target, at 97.4%.

This has led to calls from opposition parties for the new Health Secretary Michael Matheson to abandon the NHS recovery plan introduced by his predecessor now First Minister Humza Yousaf, in favour of immediate action which responds directly to the needs of frontline NHS workers.


The new Arcturus variant has now made its way to Scotland, with five confirmed cases. However, with no standardised tracking of outbreaks in at least a year, rates of infection and death could potentially be much higher.

Originating in India as an Omicron subvariant, 135 cases have now been reported across the UK. Common symptoms of coronavirus remain the main symptoms to look out for, but it has now been suggested that eye irritation could be a symptom of the new variant.

According to data published by Public Health Scotland, in the week ending 16 April 2023 there were  1,122 people hospitalised in Scotland with Covid, a 6.7% decrease on the previous week.


The increasing death rate in Scotland has caused debate over the long-term impacts of the pandemic.

While the death rate from Covid infections itself has halved, with death rates from cancer, respiratory disease and dementia also down, data from the National Records of Scotland have attributed the increase to ‘other’ causes, which includes deaths from suicide, accidents and sepsis, among others.

The predicted so-called ‘cancer time-bomb’: in which reduced screening, testing, and treatment services during the pandemic would eventually cause bottlenecks in the system, leading to late diagnosis and an increasing death rate from most cancers, thankfully doesn’t appear to have come true.

However, a lack of analysis and data on deaths attributed to ‘other’ causes has led to speculation that the fallout in the health service from Covid could still be prevalent in previously overlooked areas. It is well known that the pandemic caused a sharp increase in mental ill health, but what else could possibly be causing this?

According to the NRS, deaths from diabetes and falls both increased by 12%, while deaths from chronic liver disease and diseases of the kidney and ureter increased by 9% and 19% respectively. The Herald speculates that at least some of this could be attributed to an increase in alcohol harm, which would be supported by the number of alcohol deaths reported last year being at their highest in a decade.

This comes as campaigners this week warned that the increasing number of deaths could offset all progress made in Scotland to reduce alcohol harm. According to The Herald, a report this week published jointly by 30 organisations representing clinical professionals and charities have urged the government to increase Minimum Unit Pricing to 65 pence per litre, impose restrictions on the advertising of alcohol in Scotland, and introduce an Alcohol Harm Levy on retailers who profit from the sale of alcohol.

Finally, some good news

The charity set up in the name of Dodie Weir, who died last November following a six year battle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) have revealed their five-year strategy to find a cure for the disease. Established in 2017, the My Name’5 Dodie Foundation (sic) have previously successfully lobbied the government alongside other charities to get them to commit £50 million to MND research.

Their latest Catalysis a Cure strategy lays out investment plans in treatments and early diagnosis until 2028, including biomarkers to monitor the efficacy of treatment. This follows significant developments and advancements in early diagnosis and treatment of MND, including a new genetic therapy developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, which showed significant improvement in the progression of symptoms after 12 months.

The Scottish Government must, with urgency, commit to making the NHS a priority. Here at Common Weal, our health policy is shaping up to be a comprehensive overhaul of clinical management and process which will save our NHS from the managed downward spiral we are currently witnessing. Read all about it in our latest publication, Sorted: a handbook for a better Scotland, before the release of our most extensive health policy yet later this year.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top