Power of your experiences will help us push for change

It’s been a wee while since I blogged to update you on the work we are doing at BMA Scotland on your behalf. That certainly doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to update you on – on the contrary in fact. It’s more that my doctor colleagues who are chairs of BMA committees have been leading on some key developments which hopefully you have been sighted on.

I don’t intend to go over old ground where those updates are concerned – but I will point you to some key further reading, later in the blog.

Instead, I mainly want to ask for your help in telling the public and politicians about exactly what it’s like working in the NHS at the moment.

Our health system in Scotland is stretched as never before. The pressures we are experiencing are akin to the worst of winter – yet they are now a daily phenomenon. All the statistics and data tell us this is the case and we know that means the quality and indeed safety of care is suffering. Staffing shortages across the NHS and social care in Scotland and spiralling demand indicates that services across the country are in danger of and – in many places – close to collapse.

At BMA Scotland, we are working hard to call for the kind of changes and in particular support for the workforce that is now more vital than ever.

But we need your help to demonstrate exactly what is behind the statistics, and what is happening for staff and patients across services. We need to hear your stories from the frontline. You can do that by filling out the following form to illustrate the challenges you are facing in your area.

We are keen to hear about issues with staff shortages, and where services are close to or even beyond breaking point – across both primary and secondary care. You can provide as little, or as much detail as you are able or prepared to. We know how busy you are, so any contribution would be massively appreciated. We plan to use the information provided on an anonymous basis to illustrate the problems occurring in the NHS across the whole of Scotland and urge our politicians to take action.

It is these first-hand lived experiences that are incredibly powerful when I go into meetings, or do media bids to fight for key improvements on your behalf. Sometimes, our views can be dismissed as just what a union would be expected to say – but your powerful testimony adds huge weight to that and I can assure you is pretty much impossible to ignore. As much or as little as you are prepared to say really will help.

In terms of what’s been happening across the BMA, I don’t think I could or should try and say it better than my colleagues have. So, for junior doctors, you will hopefully be well aware that the committee have not had a positive response to their calls for meaningful negotiations with the Scottish Government on pay, or indeed full pay restoration, so our junior doctor colleagues have decided to ballot for strike action in the new year. Dr Chris Smith blogged in full on this – and clearly we all stand as one profession of doctors in solidarity with their fight.

For consultants, we have finally had some progress on pension issues in Scotland with the moves to introduce a recycling (reimbursement) of employer contributions scheme at board level. Dr Alan Robertson, Chair of Consultants continues to do a power of work on this – although I know he shares everyone’s frustration at the slow speed of change and indeed the remaining need for a UK wide solution.

I hear on a daily about the huge workload challenges and workforce shortages for GPs – and indeed experience them myself. I was at the Scottish LMCs’ conference where just how tough it is was made perfectly apparent, including to the Cabinet Secretary. Dr Andrew Buist’s powerful speech really nailed what the issues are – and you can read it in full here.

While all this has been going on, we have successfully negotiated new contracts for Staff and Associate Specialist (SAS) doctors in Scotland, which have been overwhelmingly backed by the profession. The teamwork on this between staff and the committee’s leadership really has been fantastic – and I want to pass on my personal thanks and congratulations to Dr Bernie Scott, who led the process incredibly well. You can read more from Bernie here.

And on behalf of medical students, the committee led by Lewis O’Connor continues to look at key issues including the huge volume of work students face. We also know finances are so tight at the moment – so look out for a survey on that in the New Year.

From my point of view, there is an incredible amount of work going on at BMA Scotland, all addressing in different ways the five immediate priorities I have set out during my first few months in the job – namely pay, pensions, workforce, workload and working conditions. These all remain very much at the top of our to-do list, and I’ll say more on all of that over the Christmas period.

PS: for SAS and Consultants in secondary care – an independently conducted survey is being carried out on behalf of ourselves, MSG and the Scottish Academy: survey of retirement intentions – this closes very soon so please, please take 10 minutes to fill it in if you haven’t already. The more responses we receive the more useful information we have to help try and improve things.

Dr Iain Kennedy is Chair of BMA Scottish Council

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