Those are some of the opening words of a report from the highly respected Nuffield Trust in a research report published by them in July of this year. For some reason I missed the full report at the time but it’s well worth a look. The BBC Scotland website gave it a reasonable airing but now that I’ve seen the whole thing, they were faint in their praise and then let Labour’s Anas Sarwar have the last words in their report with this appalling set of unrepresentative and nakedly political comments:
‘It includes suggestions that the SNP is avoiding taking the decisive action our NHS needs because of its obsession with independence – and it is not doing nearly enough to shift the balance of care from hospitals to the community. Given the SNP has cut £1.5bn from local budgets since 2011, that is just not going to happen. The last thing Scotland’s NHS needs is another divisive referendum, and Nicola Sturgeon must now get back to the day job of delivering for our nurses, doctors, care staff and patients.’
I don’t know what Reporting Scotland did with it. Here are the opening four key points from page 3 of the report:
Scotland has a unique system of improving the quality of health care. It
focuses on engaging the altruistic professional motivations of frontline staff
to do better, and building their skills to improve. Success is defined based
on specific measurements of safety and effectiveness that make sense
Scotland’s smaller size as a country supports a more personalised, less
formal approach than in England. The Scottish NHS has also benefited
from a continuous focus on quality improvement over many years. It uses
a consistent, coherent method where better ways of working are tested on
a small scale, quickly changed, and then rolled out. Unlike in the rest of the
UK, this is overseen by a single organisation that both monitors the quality
of care and also helps staff to improve it.
Scotland faces particular issues of unequal health outcomes, and very
remote areas. There are pioneering initiatives to address these, like the
Links worker programme and Early Years Collaborative to support
people in very deprived areas, and use of video links for outpatient care on
remote islands. These should be considered in other parts of the UK facing
There is much for the other countries of the UK to learn from this. While
comparing performance is very difficult, Scotland has had particular
success in some priority areas like reducing the numbers of stillbirths.
Scotland’s system provides possible alternatives for an English system
with a tendency towards too many short-term, top-down initiatives that
often fail to reach the front line. It also provides one possible model for
a Northern Irish NHS yet to have a pervasive commitment to quality
improvement, and a Welsh system described as needing better ways to
hold health boards to account while supporting them in improving care.
Scotland has a longer history of drives towards making different parts of
the health and social care system work together. It has used legislation
to get these efforts underway while recognising that ultimately local
relationships are the deciding factor. There is much for England and Wales
to learn from this.
The above statements positively glow with praise for NHS Scotland. It’s an A plus plus! Sarwar comes across, frankly as a dim-witted F grade dunce.
Research Report, July 2017, Learning from Scotland’s NHS at: https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/files/2017-07/learning-from-scotland-s-nhs-final.pdf