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Top doctor says he would be ‘very anxious’ if his own family needed emergency care due to wait times

A&E wait times reached a record high in Scotland last month.
A&E wait times reached a record high in Scotland last month.

A top doctor has admitted he would be “very anxious” if his own family needed emergency care given the pressure the NHS is currently under.

Waiting times in A&E departments are up across the country, with the number of people waiting for more than 12 hours hitting a record high last month.

Dr Graeme Eunson, chairman of BMA Scottish Consultants’ Committee, said the problem comes down to staffing, and that if the government wants to rectify the situation it needs to up its investment sooner than currently planned.

He said the plan to invest £2.5billion in the service by 2026/27 leaves a “very long” five-year gap.

“That’s a five year plan, but where we are today is that we’re losing staff left right and centre,” he explained on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland.

“People are retiring, people are quitting, and we have to focus on staff retention. The investment is welcome and it will come through in due course but what we have to focus on is staff wellbeing today.”

‘Very anxious’

When asked about how he would feel if his own family needed urgent medical attention, Dr Eunson said he would be “very anxious”.

“I would be very anxious, I’m being very honest about that, if I thought that my family was needing emergency care or waiting on a list for a knee replacement or a hip replacement, because they’re going to be waiting a long time,” he said.

He added: “Everything is backed up from the front door to the back door and that then means that if the ambulances are sitting outside accident and emergency they’re not in the community to deal with people who are having a heart attack or a car crash or whatever the next emergency is.

“It just creates pressure across the whole system and it’s not what I hoped we would have been dealing with at this stage.”

‘Not what I want to see’

Describing just how much pressure the NHS is currently under, he compared current demand to pre-pandemic times and said: “This is meant to be the lull before we have time to catch a breath before summer kicks in and accidents start piling up again.

“This is just as busy now every day as it was in winter pre-pandemic.”

Dr Eunson defended his use of the word “horrific” when talking about the current situation: “I don’t think it’s a hyperbole to use words such as these, I think it’s the reality unfortunately.”

Looking forward, he expressed his worries about the future if things continue as they are: “It’s going to be a tough five to 10 years, I still fundamentally believe that the NHS is the best way to deliver healthcare, but the sad truth of it is just now what we’re seeing is this two track system.

“If you rely on the NHS you’re going to be waiting a long time, if you can afford private healthcare you’re going to be getting your treatment earlier. That’s not what I want to see.”

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