HeadLine: Health service well on road to recovery
The Mirror, 23/03/2001, p6
by SHAUN MILNE
THE NHS in Scotland is finally on the mend, health minister Susan
Deacon declared yesterday.
She claimed new measures implemented by the Scottish Executive aimed at
getting waiting lists down and tackling more operations were finally
And Deacon insisted ministers had learned from last year, when the NHS
faced one of its busiest-ever winters, mainly due to a major outbreak
She said: “While flu may not have had the same impact this year, thanks
in part to the most successful immunisation programme ever, the
combined effects of bad weather and other seasonal illnesses have kept
all our hospitals extremely busy.
“However, effective planning, additional resources, and the use of
contingency plans – such as opening extra wards – have combined to
enable the service to cope with this increased demand.”
Deacon said that, despite the pressure on NHS staff, they had always
gone out of their way to put patient needs before their own.
She claimed additional funding of £85million in the service had helped
provide more beds and nurses.
The flu immunisation programme had exceeded its target, with more than
63 per cent of those aged 65 and over being vaccinated this year –
approximately 500,000 people in Scotland.
But health officials refuted the suggestion that this winter’s problems
had been less than the previous year.
According to figures released by the Executive, there was a 2 per cent
increase in overall NHS activity this year compared to last winter.
Trevor Jones, chief executive of the NHS in Scotland, said: “This year
probably had the best- ever planning between the NHS and all the
partner agencies, particularly social work departments, and I must say
that it really worked very well indeed.
“Whilst we did not have a major flu outbreak within the NHS, the
activity was almost the same as last year but the system was able to
cope much better than in the past.”
However, he warned against complacency and said planning for this
winter was already underway.
Jones said the recent spell of severe weather, which resulted in
blocked roads across the country and homes without power, had seen some
health service staff working triple shifts in hospital.
He said: “We wouldn’t encourage working so many extra shifts but the
NHS staff responded to the additional need.”
Preperation for this winter is underway, and health boards will be
required to have their final plans for the additional demand in place
Deacon is writing to staff in the NHS to thank them for their efforts.
She said: “The fact is that none of these good results from this winter
could have been achieved without the major efforts of NHS staff.
“I really want to put on record my appreciation, on behalf of the
Scottish Executive, for all they have done in maintaining services.
“Extra resources will once again be available to the NHS staff. We will
be putting in more than £400m more in 2001-02 than in 2000-01.
“Much has been done to give the NHS the flexibility it needs. But there
is much more still to be done to make the service even better.”
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