Rennie and Bennie (c) Heathcare Times and Scottish Sun
As Willie Rennie is reported to be joining his own campaign to have the Health Secretary sacked and as the three Unionist party’s reform their unholy trinity with the Tories who have single-handedly reduced NHS England to humanitarian crisis (no speech marks required), BBC Scotland and the ever-loyal Herald have launched another NHS attack using the unverified and partisan impressions of a trades unionist.
Here are the headlines:
‘BBC Scotland: ‘Scottish doctors’ leader warns health service ‘deteriorating (sic)’’
BBC Scotland: ‘Patients suffering’
Herald: ‘Dr Peter Bennie: doctors in Scotland ‘under pressure like never before’
Note the use of speech marks so that they can claim to be not guilty of accusations of propaganda? ‘We never said they were actually deterioriating (bad grammar!). Readers understand speech marks. We’ll some balance in the report…..near the end when, hopefully, readers have stopped reading.’ Here’s a bit of the BBC report:
‘Scotland’s leading doctor has warned patients are “suffering” because of funding cuts and staff shortages. Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of BMA Scotland claimed staff and funding are not keeping up with demand.He said the gap is putting unprecedented strain on doctors and that all parts of the profession are “under pressure like never before”….Doctors struggle with the implications of this on a daily basis, with services deteriorating, patients suffering as a result and more pressure being put on already overworked staff.’
The Herald repeated the anecdotal ‘evidence’ (I can use ‘’ too):
‘Doctors in Scotland are “under pressure like never before” amid shortfalls in funding and rising vacancies, a leading medic has warned. Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of doctors’ trade union BMA Scotland, said services are deteriorating and patients are “suffering” because NHS resources cannot cope with growing demand.’
Note the ‘leading doctor’ bit? To be fair, the Herald do mention that he is a trades union leader.
The ‘leading doctor’ and the ‘chairman of BMA Scotland’ bits suggest authority and the need for particular respect. 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 trades 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 trades unionist in a union with posh sounding personal and organisational titles and a very Unionist sounding, name.
Now, what about his claims? Needless to say, he offers no empirical evidence to back them up, not even a badly done survey done by his ‘research’ team. Notably, the BMA nationally and the respected Nuffield Trust researchers don’t seem to share his concerns. Here’s what BMA HQ in London and the Nuffield Trust think:
Scottish Government funds new initiative to reduce planned waiting times in the wake of BMA praise for its new GP contract and illustrating what the Nuffield Trust called ‘a unique system of improving the quality of health care.’
Secondly, there is considerable evidence that NHS Scotland is performing pretty well despite the pressures. See these, again:
Despite massive increases in demand, NHS Scotland maintains performance levels extremely close to the most rigorous of targets and patient satisfaction is at an all-time high. Audit Scotland say: ‘There were no significant weaknesses in the overall quality of care being provided.’
‘NHS Compensation Claims in England four times higher than in Scotland!’ or Scotsman journalist fails professional test for lumping statistics and lack of context in report on NHS Scotland compensation
You’d think the BMA in Scotland would be listening to the horror stories from their English colleagues, recognising the demonstrable superiority of the NHS Scotland, blessing their good luck to be here and not there, and maybe even seeing the sense in independence?