Dr Whitford pictured with colleagues celebrating 70 years of the NHS at a gathering in Edinburgh in July 2018

Learning from Scotland’s NHS – my article as published in Politics First

Learning from Scotland’s NHS

Marking the 70th birthday of the NHS, in this month’s Conference Edition of Politics First you can read my article on ‘Learning from Scotland’s NHS’.

Although all four UK National Health Services face the same challenges of increasing demand, workforce shortages and tight finances, last year’s Nuffield Trust report, ‘Learning from Scotland’s NHS’, highlighted how health services North and South of the border have diverged significantly since Devolution and how the approach Scotland has taken has allowed for a more patient-centred approach with a key focus on quality and safety.

In the article, I compare Scotland’s integrated NHS with the Healthcare ‘Market’ approach in NHS England, which has fragmented the system and cost billions in administration alone. As a result, the system is difficult to navigate for healthcare professionals and patients alike, and the debt accrued by some Trusts has led to the closure of beds and departments, and also the rationing of common treatments.

In contrast, the SNP Scottish Government chooses to invest significantly more per head on health and social care because, in a comprehensive system, a pre-emptive approach is more cost effective.

The integrated nature of NHS Scotland has allowed Health Boards and Councils to work together to integrate health and social care, It has also enabled a Scotland-wide approach to Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. The internationally recognised Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP) was established in 2008; making patient safety a core philosophy of NHS Scotland whereas in England the ‘market’ approach has created an overwhelming financial imperative.

With NHS England is currently undergoing yet another extensive re-organisation, in conclusion, I suggest this is an opportunity to abandon the costly healthcare market and develop an integrated, public NHS; providing patient-centred care and focusing on quality and safety.

Read the article in full here

Dr Philippa Whitford is the MP for Central Ayrshire and SNP Spokesperson for Health at Westminster. Prior to being elected to Parliament in 2015, Dr Whitford was a Breast Cancer surgeon.