RCSEd Responds to NHS Recovery Plan Unveiled by First Minister

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26 Aug 2021

In response to the NHS Recovery Plan unveiled earlier today by the First Minister, Professor Michael Griffin OBE, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said:

While I am entirely supportive of the principles set out in the NHS Recovery Plan, I am doubtful about how much of a difference some of these measures will make in the short term.

Workforce is a major issue in the NHS, and while recruitment of more staff is addressed in these plans, this will take a long time and therefore will not help the health service’s short term recovery. 

Likewise, a commitment to increasing the number of medical students each year is a positive step, but this will make little to no difference for around a decade, given the length of time required for medical students to train.

As well as recruiting new staff, it is essential to focus on retaining the existing staff already working within the NHS, many of whom are currently experiencing extreme burnout as a result of the last 18 months.  I believe more could be done to improve staff wellbeing in the workplace and to ensure people feel valued and supported, which will be key to retaining staff. 

Recruiting internationally at this point of the pandemic, when many other countries are still experiencing extreme pressures as a result of COVID, may prove challenging and could essentially result in stripping vital healthcare workers from countries where their expertise are in high demand. 

A huge focus on diagnostic services is also vital to ensure cancer can be caught at an early stage.  Sadly we are continuing to see patients presenting with very advanced cancers as a knock-on effect of the pandemic.  This needs to be urgently addressed, so the plans for dedicated diagnostic hubs are welcome, but they will need to be amply staffed, and moving members of the workforce from one area to another in order to do so is not a sustainable solution.

We must innovate and mobilise staff within the NHS such as surgical care practitioners and nurse practitioners, who are capable of carrying out minor procedures and to staff diagnostic centres, in order to make a meaningful difference in tackling the backlog of patients.

We are facing one of the very worst crises in the history of the National Health Service, so there are no quick fixes, and while I believe the aspirations set out in this plan are positive, I believe they could go even further in order to help in the short term.


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