Rural GP: Scotland needs a better-quality NHS debate

Dr Stephen McCabe, working GP

By a Reporter

Rural GP Dr Stephen McCabe covers just about every form of health care in his adopted home of Skye. He knows the real truth about the NHS in the Highlands, as it works hard to meet the needs of small and sometimes scattered communities.

Dr Stephen McCabe wants a better quality debate about the NHS in rural Scotland
Dr Stephen McCabe wants a better quality debate about the NHS in rural Scotland

NHS services are a favourite subject for politicians as they bat the debate back and forwards. Whoever is in Government, it’s all better than it was under the last lot; for whoever is in Opposition it’s all failing fast and in that ever-present state of alleged “crisis”.

The truth, as always, is neither one nor the other. NHS services are expensive, people-intensive and universally available. Those three facts make delivery of health care on the the most complex and challenging jobs in public life.

In this insightful interview with Newsnet’s Derek Bateman, Dr McCabe sets out what life is really like for a rural GP, the front line of NHS services in the rural area of Skye.

As a young doctor from Lanarkshire, McCabe headed north with an idealistic view of his new job. Now in his 40s, he believes we face serious questions about how we recruit doctors, and what we actually want from the NHS, a service that he believes he has become far too politicised.

So is the NHS in crisis? McCabe responds: “Crisis is the wrong word. What’s happening in Syria is a crisis. Politicians have ‘weaponised’ the NHS and are using it to throw brickbats at each other. That doesn’t help the NHS, it doesn’t help those of us who work in the NHS who can see that there are real difficulties in delivering care. It gets lost in the fuzz.

“What is actually needed is a national conversation that involves all of us, all 5.4m and that conversation is not taking place.”

His observations are vital to the debate over the NHS in Scotland, across the whole country. They concern what we are willing to spend on health care, and how we want it spent. McCabe and other doctors believe the debate is following the wrong agenda. Listen to what he has to say.

You can listen to Dr Stephen McCabe talking to Derek Bateman by clicking the player above.