A Health Service to be Proud of

Scotland’s NHS is an amazing success which you might find hard to believe given the negative press it has been getting from some quarters. Its performance is even more impressive when you take into account the increasing complexity of the health care we require.

1. People are living longer

old people dancingDue to better housing conditions, immunisation, programmes , advances in medical research and the care they receive from Scotland’s NHS and social services people in Scotland are living longer.

Live Long and Prosper in Orkney

People in Orkney can on average expect to live till they are 80.

For life expectancy figures across Scotland click here

There has been an increase of 57% in the number of Scots living to 100 and beyond. This is great news. Population Estimates for Scottish Centenarians

“This increase in centenarians has been largely driven by increases in survival rates of older people, as the result of improvements in hygiene, sanitation, medical  treatment, housing and living standards in general.”

and “ survival rates are expected to carry on increasing in the foreseeable future.

2. The Baby Box

Baby Box

Baby box (Photo Scot Gov)

Scotland’s baby box is free to every expectant mother who applies for it through their midwife.

The Scottish Government states:

“The primary focus of the baby box is improving child health and tackling infant mortality – they have already been introduced and implemented in a range of countries around the world with a proven track record of encouraging better and earlier engagement among women with maternal health services.

Watch:   Baby Box Review

Maree Todd Minister for Childcare and Early Years in the Scottish Government said:

“Following a very successful first year in 2017, with 77% take-up, more than 22,000 boxes delivered and high parent satisfaction with the contents, we want to continue to build on this in 2018.

3. Medicines are Free

Scots do not pay for their prescribed medicines. This is not the case in England.

NHS prescription costs in England

  • current prescription charge – £8.60 per item (£17.20 per pair of elastic hosiery)
  • three-month PPC – £29.10; this will save you money if you need more than three prescribed items in three months
  • 12-month PPC – £104.00; this will save you money if you need more than 12 prescribed items in a year

No one in Scotland needs to worry  about the cost of prescribed medicines.

4. Free Personal Care

Personal care is free in Scotland to people over 65 who require it.

“78,000 people in Scotland benefit from Free Personal and Nursing Care.  Just under 31,000 of these people live in Care Homes and around 47,000 receive care in their own home.” (Scot Gov)

Frank's Law

Shona Robison and Amanda Kopel (photo Scot Gov)

Frank’s law will come into effect from April 2019 making personal care free regardless of age in Scotland to those who require it.

April 2019 for Frank’s Law

A successful campaign led by the widow of footballer Frank Kopel has led to the expansion of free personal care which will benefit 9,000 Scots.

5. Free Eye Tests

You can get your eyes tested for free in Scotland since 2005. This not only checks if you might require spectacles but it will also find out any other issues which require to be investigated.

More than 2 million eye examinations take place in Scotland every year.

6. Testing and Screening

There are a variety of tests in Scotland where your health can be monitored.

Bowel Cancer Campaign image

Bowel cancer campaign in 2014 (Photo Scot Gov)

Scottish Bowel Screening: for people aged between 50 and 74  – every 2 years through the post you will receive a simple kit to do the test at home then sending it away for screening.

Bowel Cancer Screening Test Improved

“Screening remains one of the most effective ways of detecting bowel cancer in its earliest stages.” Claire Donaghy, Head of Scotland at Bowel Cancer UK.

Cervical Screening :

Improving Cervical Screening in Scotland

For women aged 25 – 64 the cervical screening test will also be used to check for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), another cause of cancer.

Cancer Research UK’s Gregor McNie said:

“It’s a huge step forward that the Scottish Government is now introducing a first line HPV test to improve cervical screening. Testing first for the human papilloma virus will help prevent more cervical cancers, as it can pick up the cancer-causing infection before any abnormalities could develop in the cells. The need for improvements to the cervical screening programme was set out in the Scottish Government’s cancer strategy published last year, so it’s good to see progress being made.”

Treatment as a result of screening prevents 8 out of 10 cervical cancers from developing.

7. Staffing:

There are a record number of people working in Scotland for our National Health Service.

A report Widening Participation in Nursing and Midwifery Education and Careers has made recommendations in the light of changes to Scotland’s population demographics and the needs of a 21st century health system.

The aim  “is to achieve a highly skilled, ambitious and sustainable nursing and midwifery workforce that is responsive to the challenges of providing high-quality, safe and person-centred care for Scotland’s communities.”

Key points:

  • A national recruitment campaign, including a reflection of the diversity of Scotland’s population and workforce, and tackling stereotypical perceptions of nurses and midwives.
  • Make recommendations for attracting more men to the professions, with realistic targets to achieve this.
  • Development of a common articulation framework for nursing and midwifery careers, which enables flexible entry and exit points and consistently recognises prior learning.
  • Further exploration of the apprenticeship model as a way of accessing pre-registration education.
  • Adoption of a positive approach to commissioning pathways to nursing and midwifery education, to incentivise widening participation

It was also felt that the public’s perception of nursing was outdated and rooted in the past. This would need to be challenged and addressed to fit with nursing in 21stC Scotland.

8. Integrated Health and Social Care

careThe integration of health and social care services in our communities is aimed at delivering care locally with the intention of making it more  preventative and increasing participation in the whole process.

“The social service workforce is the largest publicly funded workforce in Scotland, making up 7.7% of all Scottish employment…..200,650 people currently in paid employment.National Health and Social Care Plan

It is an incredibly complex system delivered by local authorities and involves a range of employers, the third sector and unpaid carers. Nearly 2/3 of the workforce is employed by the third  and independent sectors.

All adult social care workers are entitled to receive the Scottish Living Wage. This commitment has included adult day care staff and personal assistants since April 2017. And during 2018/19 sleepovers will be included.

Scottish Care Workers to Receive Living Wage for Sleepovers

Councillors to Consider Sleepover Payments for Care Workers in Orkney

Scotland should be immensely proud of its National Health and Social Care services and even more so of  those who deliver it: paid and unpaid.

Festive Pressures

Over the festive week with icy pavements and a flu virus our NHS hospitals coped with 26,569 people attending Accident & Emergency Departments.  That was 4,000 more people than last year. You can find out more at NHS Performs

The figures for the month of November 2017 show that 93.3% of people were ‘seen’ within 4 hours of walking through the doors of the hospital.

Dr Philippa Whitfordon Twitter said:

“Note a Newsreader talks of A&E target as patients ‘waiting 4 hours to be SEEN’! Nope, it is to be Registered, Triaged, SEEN by Dr, investigated (X-rays, bloods etc) diagnosed & either treated (stookey etc) & discharged or admitted to ward. That all has to be achieved in 4hrs!”

For the week of the Festive period it had dropped to 83.3% hardly surprising considering that GP surgeries were closed and so many people were slipping on ice or becoming very unwell with flu.

Commenting Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said:

“These figures illustrate the demands being placed on health staff right across Scotland as a result of spikes in various illnesses such as flu.



The number of people diagnosed with flu has doubled from 2016 with 46 out of every 100,000 during the last week of December 2017. Weekly Flu statistics

Only 41% of  ‘at risk’ people under 65 have so far had the free flu vaccine.

Urging people entitled to get the free flu jab to do so the Chief medical Officer for Scotland Dr Catherine Calderwood said:

“Every year in Scotland, around two thirds of people who get severe flu and need intensive care treatment have a health condition such as chronic lung or heart disease.

“Given that we’ve already seen a large increase in cases of flu this winter,  I’d encourage those who are eligible – including those with underlying health conditions, pregnant women and healthcare workers – to make getting the vaccination a priority and book an appointment with their GP practice or health board as soon as possible.”

Of course technically none of these services are free in that we pay for them with our taxes but when we most need them they are free. No one in Scotland need worry about rising health care bills or an inability to afford prescribed medication. The Draft Scottish Budget has earmarked a record amount of investment in front line services in our NHS should it be passed in the Scottish Parliament.

Our National Health and Care System is coping with a changing demographic both in our population and in their own workforce. We have an obesity problem, worrying health inequalities continue in deprived areas and mental health issues require more support. But step back and look at what we have in Scotland and all of us are justified in feeling extremely proud of our National Health Service and those who deliver it.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame



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6 replies »

  1. ” One of our neighbours recently went to the A&E of our local hospital, and was seen within 4 minutes. And a good thing too, as it was serious. I know it’s Orkney and there are less folk here than in a lot of places, but…still…who can say that’s not very good indeed?”
    I wrote that in the ‘comments’ to one of Alec Ross’ pieces, but it’s worth repeating!
    “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone” – Joni Mitchell.
    Think on.

  2. Another excellent piece Fiona and Bernie quoting Joni Mitchell hits the nail on the head. I also believe that we all could do a bit better at recognising the difference between the common cold/snuffles etc from full blown ‘FLU’. I well remember my Geography teacher who also happened to be my ‘Registration’ teacher and woe-betide any pupil who arrived in school coughing and sneezing all over the place they were sent home. In those days teachers knew if there would be a parent at home so no danger.

  3. Hello Charles – I restrained myself from saying that folk could have a bit of sense, too, and not rush to the doctor when it’s only a cold. Folk used to know how to deal with a cold, or even ‘flu. I restrained myself, because I thought, on the other hand, if someone might actually be seriously ill, it’s better to be safe than sorry. What matters is having a bit of sense and recognizing what’s wrong with you. This could set me off on one of my rants – I’ll try to be restrained …………
    A lot of people appear to think that someone else has to sort out everything for them. They hand themselves over, and it all has to be ‘made better’ immediately – medication handed out, whether needed or not. No wonder the Health Service is under such pressure. Ask doctors how often patients demand antibiotics for a cold, when they do no good whatsoever, but do cost the Health Service, and may end up with the patient being immune to anti-biotics, when they do need them.
    There is a huge difference between a cold, with which you can function, if you have to, and ‘flu, which is when you can’t function at all, can’t get out of bed, feel like you’re going to die, and wish you could hurry up and do so! You have to stay indoors, keep warm and have hot drinks – if you have someone to look after you.
    And that brings me to the other thing you mention – there was someone at home – whether male, or female, other half of a couple, or extended family/neighbours, but…someone. But this is the modern world, and that all too often isn’t the case, now.
    Though, for that matter, there was often also someone around who knew how to deal with all sorts of minor ailments, such as insect bites, which some people actually go to the doctor with these days! Doctors today must have extra-ordinary patience.

    I nearly went off on something similar about obesity. There are some folk, with some medical conditions, who genuinely can’t help how they’re built. Also, being a bit hefty, well, that’s just one of the many shapes we humans come in! Being ‘big’ is one thing, obesity is another matter, and it puts a big strain on the Health Service. Eat less, do more. OK, I could be accused of being a know-it-all big mouth, maybe I am, but I know that there simply were not as many HUGE people around, until the last few decades – why? Life-style, that’s why, and people driving everywhere, and snacking constantly.
    There was an item on the television about how parents are being advised to give their children more healthy snacks. I was puttering away – why have snacks at all? What happened to not eating between meals? Have your breakfast, have your lunch/dinner and have your tea/dinner. It would go a long way toward helping with obesity and dental health, too, and would take a lot of strain off the NHS. I remember a packet of crisps, being a treat! Honest – I do! My dad would bring me back a packet of Cheese and Onion crisps, when he went to the pub in the evening, and I really enjoyed one when I got one.
    You set me off on one there. It comes down to having some sense. I’m not claiming to be Mrs. Sensible – I often do what I shouldn’t, and don’t do what I should, but, it doesn’t affect anyone except me ( and Mike, who looks after me, when I’ve been down “the road of excess”!).
    I can’t say how much I am in favour of the NHS, free education, etc. etc., but a ‘nanny’ state, has produced what nannies often do produce – people who appear to have lost the ability to think, and act, for themselves.
    The problem isn’t so much with the NHS, as with the thoughtless way that people use it, or, abuse it.
    End of rant.

    • Oh, you don’t know how much you cheered me up on a cold dark Monday evening. After reading your rant as you call it, when I was replying I almost went off on much the same topics. I know from my own GP a family fried that he point blankly refuses antibiotics for the common cold

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