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The woman in charge of the NHS in Scotland is to be put on the spot about the state of the service by our readers.
Health Secretary Shona Robison will answer questions close to the heart of our readers following reports of mounting pressures on the health service.
Last week, figures revealed NHS Scotland failed to meet its target to treat 90 per cent of patients within 18 weeks in the last quarter of 2016.
The statistics renewed calls for an open and realistic debate on the future of the service following reports of staff shortages, pressure on budgets and rising demand from an ageing population.
In recent months, the British Medical Association in Scotland (BMA), the Royal College of Nursing and union Unite have voiced fears about recruitment and retainment of NHS staff while highlighting “immense pressure” on the existing workforce.
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Peter Bennie, chairman of the BMA Scotland, said: “Right across the country, in rural and urban areas, hospital and GP vacancies is a significant problem. We just can’t fill the posts that are there. The fact is the workforce in the NHS is working above and beyond what is expected of them just to keep things going.”
Meanwhile, Scotland’s 14 health boards are facing major financial constraints, with 2017/18 likely to mean unprecedented levels of savings.
Of the boards that responded to Freedom of Information requests, many are predicting efficiency savings which account for between three and seven per cent of their budget to keep pace with demand and rising costs.
NHS Tayside topped the table with plans to save £50m in 2017/18, closely followed by NHS Highland with a target of £47m.
NHS Lothian proposes to save £24.5m from this year’s budget while trying to plug the £51.5m gap which remains in its plan, and NHS Forth Valley is looking to save £24m.
The Scottish Government says it will plough record levels of funding into NHS in the coming year.
The draft budget for 2017/18 commits £13 billion to health as the government continues with its plans for greater integration with social care, increased community-based treatment and stronger health promotion to prevent illness in the first place.
The government is also aiming to regionalise some hospital services, free up more hospital beds by reducing “inappropriate” hospital stays, and recruit more GPs and nurses in the next five years.
It also maintains that NHS staffing is at a record high.
Now, we want to get the answers to the questions you have about Scotland’s health service.
If you could ask the health minister one question, what would it be?
Email [email protected] with your question for Ms Robison by noon on Sunday, March 12.