Ken O’Neill, Lothians’ newest independent candidate, has called for new thinking about how we tackle health issues in Scotland. Mr O’Neill believes in a well managed and funded NHS Scotland but appreciates that the incoming government faces challenging budget constraints. To help ensure that Scotland can finance the health service, he has come up with some possible solutions.
Mr O’Neill said:
Although I can see that the NHS is not perfect and there are areas for improvement, I strongly believe we need to defend its founding principle. We cannot allow the slow and creeping privatisation of a health system that ensures access for everyone. Health is not a privilege but a basic human right, one that is too precious to put in the hands of commercial conglomerates. The next Scottish Government should let the NHS manage and improve itself. Ministers should highlight which areas they would like to see improved, for instance how quickly a patient sees a cancer specialist. However, NHS Scotland can achieve improvements more easily from within than by having targets imposed from above. Perhaps making GPs the leading decision-makers instead of bureaucrats is the best option rather than a complete restructuring. They do the job, they know what works and doesn’t, so let’s trust the medical staff to do their job and say what improvements are needed.
One area that I do think the NHS needs to consider is a thorough audit to see where the money is spent, how much administration is involved and where the holes are. As I’ve already said, they probably know all this already, so let’s pool the information. Only then can you say where to make any necessary cuts and where to change existing practices. GPs are not administrators, they are supposed to deal with our health problems. We should ensure that they are not overburdened with paperwork but do have the resources and staff to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of the practice.
Lastly, we need to have a cultural shift away from seeking help once we get ill to changing our ‘healthstyle’ so we are less likely to need to visit a GP. Scotland has a bad reputation on health issues. Scots drink more, smoke more and have poorer diets than people across the rest of the UK. We consume considerably less fruit and vegetables than in England, whether male or female. Scots have among the shortest life spans in Europe, despite new figures showing life expectancy is improving.
Compared to the European Union’s 27 Member States, Scots men live a year less on average, while woman will die 2.3 years earlier. No amount of drugs, treatments or healthcare advice will change that until we take more responsibility for ourselves and our health. That means exercising more, eating better, drinking less and making better choices. Even if you get off the bus a stop early you are helping to improve your health. This isn’t a case of going for a low-fat or sugar-free option, it is about making sensible health choices – having fruit over a chocolate bar, not putting sugar in your tea or coffee. This process needs to start at school and go on throughout our lives. We’re living longer, so let’s start living better.