Thursday 3 March 2016

A healthy attitude

When reading articles in the unionist media, it is invariably a good idea to skip to the final paragraphs first. That is where the important information tends to be buried. Information which frequently refutes, or at least casts doubt, on the spin of the article.

Here we have a case in point. The entire piece is contrived to convey the impression of 'secret' plans to slash local NHS services. Only in the final paragraph are we informed that "there are no proposals for closure of any of these services". Read that final section first, and the rest of the story takes on a very surreal quality.

What this is really about is more efficient use of increasingly strained resources within the NHS. It is certainly true that people react negatively to the threat of losing local services. Those are the buttons that this article is aiming to press, with little evident justification. But, in large part, opposition to what is euphemistically termed 'rationalisation' of services is driven by irresponsible politicisation of the issue as parties seek advantage in being seen to 'stand up for local communities'. (And I do mean all the political parties. The SNP is not innocent in this regard.) To whatever extent there is caution (or 'secrecy') surrounding discussion of reorganisation within NHS Scotland (and, again, all parties are guilty of this), it is to a considerable extent understandable given the way highly emotive language tends to get bandied around whenever the subject comes up.

People are not stupid. Something that politicians need to be constantly reminded of. People understand that there are practical problems in providing the kind of health care service that most of us value. Explaining the problems and proposed solutions would surely be preferable to turning every change into a political dispute in which the facts are buried under an avalanche of rhetoric.

Let's get real! Having to travel a few miles in order to undergo a procedure is not, for most people, the horrific prospect so theatrically portrayed by politicians and their pals in the press. It is a long time since Kelty to Edinburgh was a two-day journey only to be undertaken by those with significant resources and very pressing reasons. Outrage at the prospect of travelling from Perth to Dundee to get treatment for a particular condition would hardly exist if it wasn't being driven by self-serving politicians and sensationalist media.

Can we all just calm down and take a rational approach to ensuring that NHS Scotland can continue to be a genuinely public health service.

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