John Swinney, Scotland's Finance Secretary, continues to insist upon excluding the Scottish health budget from forthcoming cutbacks. Cosla president, Pat Watters, says that protecting Scotland's £11bn health budget would result in local government bearing the brunt of the cuts and threaten the services that councils provide for vulnerable members of society.
Ah - the vulnerable; a word which politicians hope is emotive enough to create sympathy from the 'non-vulnerable' population. It's a word which has been so overused in recent years that it's true meaning has been greatly diminished. Anyone who visits a hospital these days is vulnerable and not just because they're exposed to hospital-acquired infections.
Pat Watters wants the NHS to take its fair share of the reduction in Scotland's budget. The NHS was created to provide healthcare free at the point of delivery for working people who could not afford private treatment for illness or disease. Nowadays many can afford private treatment and can even afford to go abroad for it, yet when things go wrong it's the NHS which is left to sort out the mess - free of charge. How much money does the NHS spend righting the wrongs of foreign and UK-based poorly skilled 'private' surgeons?
The NHS should not be protected from cuts. A root and branch review of our healthcare system is long overdue and one would be required if any changes in the service are to be identified. If NHS expenditure is ring-fenced the organisation will escape scrutiny.
There's a myth that Britain's NHS healthcare is the best in the world. It is not. It's average. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, to name but a few, provide better healthcare. The myth is perpetuated by those who have vested interests and accepted by those who have never experienced the healthcare system in any of the above countries.
When a retired Scots consultant is prepared to be speak out about the current state of Scotland's NHS, the government should sit up and listen. I met John Blair some twenty two years ago. He was the person who told me my father was terminally ill. We talked on several occasions and I found him to be direct and honest. Another senior doctor in England is prepared to speak out and explain why European Union rulings are causing untold damage to the health service - in particular the European Working Time Regulations.
Is anyone listening to these people?