The Herald and BBC Scotland are at it again. A presumably competent doctor but definitely a trades union guy with an ‘axe to grind’ is allowed to distort the reality of NHS Scotland and to malign the SNP Government’s management of it

This is a bit of re-tread but I’ve been forced to expand and re-use part of my previous attack on Dr Bennie, Chair of BMA Scotland again.

The Herald, headlined today (16.1.17) with:

NHS stretched to breaking point, says British Medical Association chief

This claim comes at a time when those who watch BBC News at 6 or read the English press will know, from actual statistics, just what a ‘breaking point’ looks like, in the reality of NHS England. At least time his title is more accurate though not clear as to its main Bob Crowe-like function. The Herald had headlined on the 27th December 2016 with:

‘SNP priorities on health all wrong, warns leading Scots doctor’

Gordon Brewer gave him time on Sunday 15th January 2017 to repeat or have repeated by as Tory MSP, evidence-free, around ten times his claim that the NHS Scotland staffing was ‘stretched to breaking point.’ You’ll know, of course that that phrase might well be applied accurately to NHS England but there is absolutely no evidence of such a crisis in Scotland. It was repeated on Reporting Scotland that night and the Herald led with it this morning. All we have here is a warning from a trade union leader that his members need 4% more funding or such a crisis is coming. He also suggested that many GPs would just emigrate (and make it worse presumably) if they didn’t get more attractive conditions! Nice. He has of course been warning for more than a year now that such a crisis would hit over this Xmas/New Year period. It hasn’t.  We even had Reporting Scotland admit it grudgingly but with many ‘buts’ on the 12th January 2017, like this:

‘We’ve heard a lot in the last few days about the NHS crisis (emphasised) in England. I think it would be fair to say the picture in Scotland looks better…’

If we look at the figures for A&E, the figures show we’re better off, as the First Minister said, we’re 10% better off…’

‘In terms of social care, we are doing some good work on the ground….’

I’ll get to the main point soon but I need to deal with the ‘British Medical Association Chief’ and the earlier ‘leading scots doctor’ bit first because the first title still suggests the same need for unquestioning respect as did the second . Peter Bennie is chairman, elected union leader, of the British Medical Association’s Scottish branch. I’ve had a wee search but I can find no sign of him being a leading doctor. There’s no sign of awards for exceptional practice nor research publications presenting cutting-edge findings to move practice on nor is there even sign of him having managed anything much. It looks like he might be a leading trades unionist though, again, he’s no Bob Crowe, late of the RMT and the BMA Scotland is pretty wee. If he’s leading anything it’s in an essentially political role and not medical role so he’s not a ‘leading doctor’ and ‘convener’ would be more accurate than ‘chief’.

I’m not knocking being a trade union leader by any means. I was a lifelong member of the teachers’ EIS union. I remember many of its ‘leaders’ at different levels. Often good trade unionists, I don’t remember any of them have been leading educationists. They were usually people who had become more interested in the political role of the unions and gradually rose within those organisations on the basis of popularity.

So Doctor Bennie is primarily getting attention in the Scottish mainstream (Unionist) media because he is a trade unionist in a union with posh sounding personal and organisational titles and a very Unionist sounding, name.

Right, on the main point – what are the actual priorities that he says the SNP were and still are presumably getting ‘all wrong?’ Well, he was a bit short on detail in December and is no better in January. He just seems to want more money spent on NHS Scotland. He had little, for example, to say about the big SNP priority of integrating social and health care which is receiving praise:

( wales?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_term=socialshare)

and looks like working in terms of, for example, reducing bed blocking by the elderly in the way English hospitals are being paralysed by. So, like all trades unionists, he asks his members if they want more money and resources and they say yes, please. Is that how he thinks you run anything at all?

Back in June, I posted a list, fully sourced, of fifteen ways in which NHS Scotland was objectively doing well, by UK and global comparison, regardless of his judgement that more cash was needed or we’d be heading for a crisis. I’ll repeat the link for them at the bottom of this. First, though, here’s a novel idea. Here are some things that NHS Scotland, thanks to the SNP-led Scottish Government, is NOT doing….badly….unlike Tory-‘managed’ NHS England:

  1. We’ve had nothing you could call a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in NHS Scotland. Red Cross chief executive, Mike Adamson, said: ‘The British Red Cross is on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country [England].’ Indeed there is no evidence of anything like a system wide crisis in Scotland. Reporting Scotland have scrabbled around for something/anything as in their sad Twitter plea for pregnant mothers who have been inconvenienced which found five who had to travel an extra 7 miles for a bed. See:
  2. We’ve had NO junior doctors’ strikes causing thousands of cancelled and delayed operations because the SNP unlike the UK Tories haven’t tried to bully them into new contracts. Thank goodness for BBC News at 6 telling us this because Reporting Scotland won’t touch the story with a disinfected endoscopic probe.
  3. NHS Scotland has NOT been cancelling large numbers of urgent operations like NHS England ( If they had, do you think Reporting Scotland would have neglected to tell us?
  4. Scottish hospitals have NOT been told to put thousands of operations ‘on hold’ over Xmas and New Year to ‘free up beds.’ ( Again, if they had, do you think Reporting Scotland would have neglected to tell us?
  5. There is NO social care and bed-blocking crisis in Scotland because the Scottish Government has been integrating the two for years now (
  6. Bed blocking by the elderly is down 12% in Scotland ( and up 80% in England for the same reason (
  7. There’s NO evidence of a crisis in Scottish Maternity wards despite a shamefully distorted Reporting Scotland story (

So, as so often before, the Unionist media shamelessly ‘weaponise’ NHS Scotland with apparently no care for the possible effects on anxious prospective patients. Who knows how many they’ve scared into delaying requests for treatment.

Finally, here’s the link for the list of 15 I published in June:


7 thoughts on “The Herald and BBC Scotland are at it again. A presumably competent doctor but definitely a trades union guy with an ‘axe to grind’ is allowed to distort the reality of NHS Scotland and to malign the SNP Government’s management of it

  1. Clydebuilt January 16, 2017 / 1:44 pm

    John…… Wouldn’t it be better to refer to your previous article as an analysis or an expose instead of an attack……


    • Clydebuilt January 16, 2017 / 1:55 pm

      Excellent article BTW.

      Liked by 2 people

    • johnrobertson834 January 16, 2017 / 2:24 pm

      Eh maybe? Have to say it felt like an attack on someone who deserves it.


  2. broadbield January 16, 2017 / 6:57 pm

    I see Wings and Indyref2 both ran with NHS Scotland and Unionist media/political apparatchiks yesterday. Do I detect a conspiracy?


  3. Clydebuilt January 16, 2017 / 11:21 pm

    Hospital beds per 1000 England and Wales 2.95 ……. Scotland 4.8…… Ref letter Monday’s National Dr. Evan Lloyd. Also Sunday post article.……. Although they manage to rustle up a negative claiming Scotland has got rid of hospital. beds faster than anywhere else…….. Carlaw says what matters is health outcomes…… But….a chronic shortage of beds as in England lies behind current crisis…… When was the new Glasgow hospital designed ….before 2007 ? …… How does beds in it compare with the hospitals it replaced


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