He can’t help himself. The mop haired bumbling mumbler finally came out of the fridge in which he was hiding to make his delayed announcement on the new measures that the UK is going to adopt in order to delay the spread of the coronavirus, and he couldn’t avoid taking a snipe wee snipe at the SNP. “In Scotland they have a particular issue with the resilience of their public services,” said the man whose party has presided over the decimation of the NHS in England.
It was a childish remark from a childish man, motived by his anger that Nicola Sturgeon had dared to steal his thunder by announcing the Scottish response to the next phase of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak while he was still hiding in his fridge.
Naturally the massed ranks of the British press in attendence immediately pressed him on what that particular issue of resilience could be, given that the British Prime Minister was apparently hell bent on causing alarm amongst the Scottish public. Oh wait. Of course they didn’t. They just reported his remark, as though it were true. Yah boo sucks. SNP baaaad. Scotland, you’re just not good enough.
So what might that particular issue of resilience be? Could it be the number of hospital beds per head of population perhaps? That would be 4.2 per thousand in Scotland and 2.3 per thousand in England. Which means that the Scottish NHS is able to find beds for almost twice as many patients per head of population than the English NHS before running into issues of bed shortages.
Could it perhaps be the length of time that a patient has to wait in A&E before being seen? 89.3% of patients attending A&E in a Scottish hospital are seen within four hours. In England it’s only 83.6%. In Wales it’s only 75%, whereas in Northern Ireland it’s a mere 59.6%. The best performing A&E department in the entire UK is Ninewells hospital in Dundee. Ninewells hospital and NHS Tayside’s emergency departments consistently exceed the 95% four-hour waiting target. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/politics/scottish-politics/1077329/ninewells-ae-is-best-performing-in-uk/
Maybe it’s the number of hospital consultants then? Nope, because in Scotland there are 101 whole or full time equivalent hospital consultants per 100,000 population, whereas the English NHS can only manage a mere 86, while it’s just 81 in Wales.
It must be the number of GPs per head of population then. Yeah, that must be it. Oh wait. There are 92 GPs per 100,000 people in Scotland but just 73 in England and 70 in Labour run Wales.
Maybe it’s the number of NHS staff? Oops no. There are 2594 whole or full time equivalent NHS staff per 100,000 people in Scotland, but just 1952 in England and 2493 in Wales.
Scotland’s health service is not only better staffed than its English counterpart. It’s also better funded. NHS Scotland receives approximately 7% more per head of population than the NHS in England. That’s because the Scottish Government has chosen to cut other areas of spending in order to protect spending on the NHS. It’s the Conservatives who control the overall budget. Scotland has bent over backwards in order to ensure that cuts made in the NHS in England are not passed on in Scotland.
A health service has to be looked at as a complete system where each of its different parts works together in the same way that the organs of the body do. If you have poor circulation, you’re going to have knock on effects in your health elsewhere. It’s the same with the health service that treats your circulatory condition.
A better performance in one area of the health service has a knock on effect in reducing pressures elsewhere in the system. When a health system is functioning well it means fewer people need to resort to accident and emergency services. This is because their health issues will have been dealt with before they get to a degree which requires emergency intervention, or because they’re able to get an appointment with a GP and won’t have to leave things until their health gets so bad that they need to rush to A&E. Scotland has the lowest level of A&E attendance of any part of the UK. 24,929 per 100,000 population attend A&E annually in Scotland, compared to 27,693 in England, 25,893 in Wales and 34,820 in Northern Ireland. This means not only that the Scottish NHS functions better and intervenes sooner, it also means that the A&E system in Scotland has greater spare capacity because it’s less likely to be used by patients who could have been seen elsewhere or at an earlier stage.
I certainly don’t know about Boris Johnson, but it would appear to any dispassionate observer that if you were to compare two different health services and opine upon their resilience in dealing with a major health crisis that you would think that it’s the health service which has more beds, more doctors, more staff, and which performs consistently better in meeting important targets which is the one which is going to have greater resilience.
Johnson’s petulant dig at Nicola Sturgeon comes just as a leading expert in public health has slammed the British government’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic for its lack of preparedness and its secrecy. Professor John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, said that Boris Johnson and his government have been treating this crisis as though they were 19th century colonialists. He claimed that the British government has no strategy for dealing with the most vulnerable in the population, and has failed to engage with the public. Yet while Boris Johnson has been hiding in his fridge, Nicola Sturgeon has been leading from the front, and coming under attack from right wing commentators for daring to speak without waiting for Boris Johnson to speak first. How dare a little Scottish woman usurp a big British man. Know your place, Scotland.
The fact is that Scotland’s NHS is better placed and better resourced than an English NHS which is reeling under the Conservatives’ ideologically motivated austerity cuts and creeping privatisation. That’s why it’s the Scottish NHS which will be more resilient in coping with the coronavirus outbreak than its English counterpart.
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