The positive picture painted by NHS leaders in Scotland is hard to “reconcile” with the experiences of nursing staff under pressure at the frontline, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
On Friday, the chief executive of NHS Scotland, Paul Gray, published a largely upbeat annual report on NHS performance during 2013-14.
Mr Gray, who is also the Scottish Government’s director-general of health and social care, thanked the 150,000 strong NHS workforce for their “compassion, professionalism and dedication”.
“While undoubtedly challenges remain, I have confidence in the people working throughout NHS Scotland”
He then went on to focus on recent activity to make healthcare settings safer for patients. For example, he noted that cases of C. difficile and MRSA had fallen in 2014 to among their lowest levels on record.
He also highlighted the implementation of the second phase of the world-leading Scottish Patient Safety Programme, which has resulted in a 15.9% fall in hospital mortality since its introduction in 2008.
Mr Gray said: “The NHS in Scotland has come a long way this year. Our hospitals are safer, we are diagnosing more people with cancer earlier, long waits in A&E have been reduced and innovative new healthcare treatments and technology are being rolled out across the health service.
“I am particularly proud of the work that has been done by the NHS and our partners in local authorities and the third sector to take forward the integration of health and social care,” he said.
“How can the very positive picture painted in this report be reconciled with staff experiences of daily and increasing pressures”
The report outlined the challenges facing NHS Scotland, including an ageing population with long term conditions, which required more focus on the integrating health and social care, and improving the health of the population
Mr Gray said: “While undoubtedly challenges remain, I have confidence in the people working throughout NHS Scotland.
“As my report shows, there is much to be proud of in our NHS and it is this wealth of talent we will build on as we seek to make NHS Scotland one of the best healthcare systems in the world,” he said.
But Royal College of Nursing Scotland’s director Theresa Fyffe said: “This report focuses on the many good things happening in our NHS, yet nurses and other NHS staff know that the NHS is struggling to cope and faces enormous pressures, day in, day out.
“How can the very positive picture painted in this report be reconciled not only with staff experiences of daily and increasing pressures, but also with Audit Scotland’s report from just two months’ ago, which said that our NHS ‘faces significant pressures managing finances, meeting targets and making changes to services?,” she said.
“We and many others in Scotland are calling for an urgent debate on how we can put our NHS on a sustainable footing for the future and this will need to consider all the issues facing our health service, both good and bad,” she added.