There are few things worse than watching badly scripted parodies of real hospital life, but this week Scottish Labour managed to create one. Aside from the dodgy mood lighting, the broadcast took serious issues within healthcare and over-simplified the solutions.
In it, Labour’s health team (real stories, not real doctors, nurses or patients) exemplified some difficult and heart-breaking situations, accompanied by a dramatic healthcare setting (one of the patients looked pulseless according to the monitor) but without any acknowledgement that healthcare in Scotland has in many ways out-performed healthcare in Wales, where Labour have been in power for 5 consecutive parliaments.
Under Labour’s guidance healthcare spending in Wales has remained consistently below that in Scotland (at one point the lowest in the entire UK), whilst key performance indicators such as the 4-hour wait have persistently fallen short of the same standard in Scotland. Staffing shortages remain as much an acute issue in NHS Wales as they do north of the border, whilst public satisfaction ratings are seemingly higher in Scotland than across the UK as a whole.
The worst part of the broadcast was the lack of any sort of plan to improve healthcare in Scotland. Vague notions of bumping up healthcare spending are not the cure we need.
Less than 10% of what makes us healthy occurs in hospitals – there is a growing appreciation that the true levers over health are more complex and tied to things such as education, our communities, our work and our environment. A truly progressive healthcare system must learn to focus on improving and safeguarding good health, whilst institutions like hospitals exist to help those in ill health.
It will be this massive shift, which needs to happen at a societal level, that will make Scotland a healthier place. By promoting and protecting good health there will be more resources available to help those in ill health. Labour makes no reference to this in its dour assessment of the state of our NHS.
At the time of the 2014 referendum Labour, in partnership with the Tories and the Lib Dems had an opportunity to revolutionise health in Scotland. If the promises of The Vow had been delivered on, Scotland would have the powers required to enact true material change to the way we protect health in our society. Five years down the line we are still waiting. Labour needs to revisit its approach to health and social if it wants to gain the trust of those who provide it.