GALLOWAY’S opposition politicians have attacked the Scottish government this week over shock figures that show a projected loss of 200 NHS staff in the region by next March.
The SNP’s future staffing forecast shows nurses and midwives in the region will bear the brunt of cuts and the news has angered opposition parties, who are accusing the SNP of going back on its promise to protect frontline staff.
MSP Alex Fergusson said: “If these figures are anywhere near accurate, they blow a gaping hole in the SNP government’s assurances on frontline nursing staff. As is so often the case, the SNP seems to prefer issuing comforting soundbites to dealing with hard facts and figures. Every hospital patient I know is quick to praise the efforts of frontline nursing staff, while acknowledging they are becoming more and more stretched every year. This has nothing to do with UK economic decisions, and everything to do with SNP policy, but if these job losses become a reality across the country, one has to ask how much more nurses can take in terms of individual workload. There has to be a breaking point, and it must be fast approaching.”
MP Russell Brown believes the cuts reflect the UK’s political situation, saying nurses were the “bedrock of healthcare” and should be retained.
He added: “It simply doesn’t make sense to have nurses on the dole rather than in hospitals saving lives. The cuts to ambulance staff are just as outrageous, with Dumfries and Galloway losing one-third of these emergency workers in just a year. This lays bare the cruel reality of the Tory government’s rush to cut, and I fear for what sort of health service will be left at the end.”
And a leading medical expert claimed that it would be naive to consider the cuts as anything other than damaging. Dr Brian Keighley of the BMA said: “The NHS faces an unprecedented real-terms reduction in its budgets for the first time since devolution and, because the Scottish government delayed the first round of cuts last year, this year will prove to be the most challenging as the service faces a double whammy of cuts. It would be naive to expect this will not have an impact on patient care and access to healthcare services.”
An NHS Dumfries and Galloway spokesman indicated the cuts would be by “natural wastage”.
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said that she appreciates there will be concern over the job losses but that the NHS is constantly changing and the “shape of NHS staff will reflect this”.