Scottish health boards need a major shake up - Sue Webber

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians (Photo: comp)
Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians (Photo: comp)

She wasn’t overly worried when she felt a bit out of sorts earlier this year, but when she lost her appetite and began to experience pain and bloating, she contacted her GP and was advised to book a blood test with the practice nurse.

Despite being diabetic for many years, she was told the earliest appointment was three weeks away and when she rapidly deteriorated her son insisted she call 111. She was referred to the Royal Infirmary and when she said she had a metallic taste in her mouth, a doctor suspected ovarian cancer.

Then she was sent to the Western where blood was finally taken and she went home with the promise of an “emergency” scan. A week went by, but she heard nothing. I visited her and she was pale and immobile, so I tried to find out what was happening, and the next day a letter arrived with the so-called emergency scan appointment. In three weeks.

She continued to deteriorate so she called the Western who told her to go back to the GP, which she did that day and only then could she go to the Western, where she was kept waiting in considerable pain. A doctor had to come from the Royal because of a staff shortage.

After being admitted, she got the scan at 11.30 the next day and received the news she was dreading. It was inoperable ovarian cancer.

This was only a fortnight ago and she is still waiting for a prognosis, but having been shown how to self-inject she is home and with pain relief the colour is back in her cheeks.

It is only because of family support and persistence that my aunt is now receiving proper care and even if chances of a cure are slim, none of us should have to fight for decent, timely treatment. This week my dad gave up waiting and paid £3500 for private cataract surgery.

I have spent most of my working life in and around hospitals and if I was not convinced before, I am now in no doubt that Scotland’s NHS is broken and just throwing money at the same system will not bring about desperately needed improvements.

The Scottish Government and health administrators have their heads in the sand, suspicious of healthcare companies bringing innovative techniques, seeing them as budgetary threats first, not means to improve outcomes.

Robotic urological surgery is well established in England, but only became more widely available here in 2021, and it took me a year to have a proven spine surgery device introduced to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth.

Mechanical thrombectomy is a relatively new procedure to remove brain blood clots and is a lifesaver for stroke victims if done quickly. But it’s only available at the Royal Infirmary from 9-5pm and not on a Sunday, as if strokes only happen in office hours. And there is no national service, so tough luck if you live in Grangemouth or Galashiels

Until Scottish health boards are properly incentivised to treat more patients, as they are in England, nothing will change.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP