GAVIN Tait (Letters, December 30) is right, the SNP has a lot to answer for regarding the shortage of, and retention of, Scottish doctors but, like the situation with core related issues – obesity, and education – the biggest failure of the party that came to power promising a new type of politics is the situation was already bad and it has failed to improve it.
I left school in 1973 and had a summer job as a theatre orderly at Bangour Hospital and two of my classmates at Linlithgow Academy started at Edinburgh University Medical School, where our next-door neighbour was entering his third year. Almost all the surgeons and staff at Bangour were Scottish. One of the junior surgeons was John Wallwork, who trained at Edinburgh, became a world-leading heart transplant surgeon and ended his career with a CBE and chairmanship of Papworth Hospital.
I have visited Aberdeen Royal Infirmary several times this year and have been stuck by the comparative lack of Scottish doctors in the fantastic medical and nursing departments.
Two reason that come to mind are the additional demands on human resources and funds caused by the rise in obesity and its impact on health (and a major cause of the UK’s Covid death rate), and, not withstanding the SNP’s reduced Scottish intake in preference to externally funded rUK and foreign students, the fall in quality, drive and ambition of Scottish youngsters.
The decline in the quality of education is well reported, but how many of your readers are bemused, like me, by the lack of ambition of many of our young people to study the hard subjects and stick at it? A typical, and true, conversation recently was when I asked a bright 16-year-old who had just finished his fifth year and was waiting on his results for Higher English, Sports, and media studies what he was going to do, his answer was sixth year then probably a three-year course in sports management at Stirling. It makes a change from event management, but it’s hardly the stuff of a generation battering the doors of our medical schools with a fistful of As in hard subjects demanding a place.
The blame for this lack of ambition and reality goes far beyond the SNP, although it could give a lot more leadership.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven.
ARE THERE TOO MANY SPECIALISTS?
GAVIN Tait has, in these columns, often expressed his criticism of several aspects of the management of the NHS by the SNP.
On this occasion, he focuses on the lack of places allocated to medical students from Scotland in Scottish universities with the resultant loss of graduates remaining in Scotland.
This is compounded in general practice by numbers of doctors choosing to work on a part-time basis. Furthermore, it had been intended that all GP practices should include pharmacists and physiotherapists in order to spread the workload of healthcare within practices. Regrettably this remains work in progress,
It has been suggested on occasion that medical students are increasingly encouraged to look towards specialisation, rather than pursue a career in general practice. Should there be any truth in this, we may run the risk of specialists knowing more and more about less and less and end up knowing everything about nothing.
Not sure if, that too, could be laid at the door of the SNP.
Malcolm Allan, Bishopbriggs.
THERE IS NO SHORTAGE
YOUR article (“Doctors at ‘breaking point’ due to staffing shortages) provides no hard evidence of a doctor shortage in Scotland, but relies on a general statement from the BMA that UK doctors are under great stress due to the pandemic. A Nuffield Trust survey revealed that in 2019, Scotland had the highest number of GPs per head of population in the UK, 76 per 100,000 people vs a UK average of just 60.
Secondly, regarding remuneration, Scottish GPs receive 43 per cent more than the national average GP salary.
Thirdly, there’s little evidence of a large numbers of Scottish GPs retiring. Quite the opposite. Over the last decade, Scottish health service staffing has grown 14.3%, with nearly twice as many joining as leaving in 2020/21. And last year the number of consultants increased by 3.3%. Last January you reported that the total number of Scottish GPs had risen to 5,134.
The real danger to the Scottish health service is the UK Government, which persists in starving the NHS of resources during a global pandemic, to drive it over the cliff and then conclude that full-scale privatisation is the only answer. Here in Scotland, we beg to differ, which is why remaining in the UK is an existential threat to our health.
Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.
CHANCE FOR LABOUR AND THE TORIES
ADAM Tomkins once again supplies us with a thoughtful analysis of the political situation in Scotland (“Nationalist or Unionist …three ways to break stalemate in politics”, The Herald, December 29), concluding that our nation is in a state of “endless stasis”. His comments on the merits of the various political parties are spot on, particularly his failure to even regard the LibDems as worthy of a mention, but the most noteworthy of his conclusions is his view that the unionist parties in Scotland have no chance of replacing the SNP unless they unite as a single anti-independence force.
This is a dream which will never come true, but it highlights the simple fact that the “endless stasis” is not related to the competence of any of the parties but to the constitutional stasis which requires the Scottish nation to accept whatever government voters south of the Border decide to impose on it. The Scottish Labour or Tory parties would be totally credible candidates to win power in an independent Scotland if either or both abandoned their stubborn opposition to independence and gave their lost supporters a chance to return to the fold by giving our nation the opportunity to elect their party to govern Scotland.
Willie Maclean, Milngavie.
JOHNSON IS OUT OF STEP
DR Bruce Halliday (Letters, December 30) accuses Nicola Sturgeon of “throttling the life out of the Scottish economy”. I would contend that it is Covid which is throttling the life out of the economy, and which is far worse, the life and wellbeing of far too many people.
Yes, there are grounds for optimism, and the First Minister has acknowledged that, but caution must be the watchword, because this terrible illness is still wreaking havoc across the world, including in the United States where cases are rising sharply, and I am surprised that Dr Halliday should support the US cutting quarantine to five days. He accuses Ms Sturgeon of being “increasingly out of step”, but out of step with whom? Wales and Northern Ireland have also introduced their own restrictions; if anyone is out of step, it is Boris Johnson’s Government.
What I find encouraging is that the vast majority of people are following Ms Sturgeon’s advice, celebrating the festive period sensibly and rolling up their sleeves to be vaccinated; nobody wants to start 2022 a victim to the coronavirus, in any shape or form.
Ruth Marr, Stirling.
CAUTION ON SELF-ISOLATION
WHILE experts in disease control around the world continue to debate the advisability of reducing coronavirus self-isolation periods to less than 10 days it is interesting to note that Dr Bruce Halliday is convinced that five days is sufficient.
Achieving an optimum balance of all pertinent considerations, including economic factors, is not straightforward, especially with critical data changing day by day, but it can be misleading (if not irresponsible on matters of public health), and may not assist objective assessment, when personal opinion is expressed with only partial information.
A reduction in the US from 10 days to five days must be followed by strict mask use for an additional five days, and a reduction in England from 10 days to seven days only applies to those who receive negative lateral flow device (LFD) results for both Covid-19 tests taken on days six and seven of coronavirus-free isolation. This of course assumes that LFDs are available for tests to be taken on days six and seven, which is not guaranteed as has been witnessed, particularly in England, over recent days.
Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.
SO LET’S ABOLISH HOLYROOD
SO Scots cannot celebrate New Year like their neighbours. The Shortbread Senate and its craven and incompetent leadership has once again failed Scotland. Our collective New Year resolution for 2022 should be to abolish Holyrood.
John Dunlop, Ayr.
JUST WHAT IS A COVID DEATH?
IF I tested positive for Covid and while isolating fell down the stairs incurring injuries leading to my death within 28 days, would I be counted as a Covid death? In other words is nearly every death currently reported in Scotland likely to be put down to Covid?
Celia Judge, Ayr.