SACRIFICE is always tempting.
If there is no answer to a problem, then find someone to carry the can and make them suffer. The scapegoat is as old as humanity. When things go wrong, we need someone to blame, because we can’t blame ourselves, right?
In the ancient world, our ancestors would sometimes look for a guilty guy to blame. If they found no one suitable for a place of misery, they would take a goat and ceremonially transfer all their ills to the miserable creature. Then they would send him into the desert as an exile or have his throat cut. Hence, the scapegoat.
We still do. The 20th century was full of nations and ideologies that chose a group to blame. If you fancy a literary exploration of this dark need in humans to punish someone, anyone, then read Shirley Jackson’s extraordinary tale, The Lottery, about a town that chooses one of its own every year to be stoned to death. to death.
The story was so shocking when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948 that readers canceled their subscriptions en masse. A good clue that Jackson hit a subconscious nerve.
Our society is reeling from many ills today, too many to list in a single column, but it’s hard to argue that the collapse of the NHS isn’t the biggest stress we’re facing right now. In terms of what the state exists for, health is at the pinnacle along with safety and education. If a health system no longer works, then it is an indicator that a society does not work either.
In the four nations of the UK, the NHS is disintegrating. Here in Scotland, health secretary Humza Yousaf is the lightning rod for discontent. Understandably, and rightly so, there are calls for his head. As health minister, Yousaf clearly failed. He has presided over the downfall of the NHS.
However, while a quick political execution may make many feel good, or at least feel like something has been done and some much-deserved punishment meted out, the hard truth is that simply sacrificing Yousaf would achieve exactly zero when tries to save the NHS.
There is a great irony here. Yousaf definitely deserves the order of the boot. How can someone who ruled this chaos be allowed to stay in office? What kind of lesson is that for the rest of us? That failure is rewarded, that life is free of consequences if you are the boss’s favorite, or the Prime Minister?
So Yousaf really should go. But if he leaves, we can also prepare to fire his successor and his successor’s successor. It is not about the minister, not even about the party. It’s about the system. He could select the wisest and most intelligent human being on the face of the planet, but if he handed over control of the NHS to him in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland, he would fail.
Over the holidays there was a deluge of horror headlines about the NHS across Britain. But let’s focus on Scotland, because the problems facing the NHS don’t really differ much between nations. The most surprising headline came courtesy of Dr. Iain Kennedy, president of the British Medical Association in Scotland. “There is no way the NHS in Scotland can survive,” he said. “In fact, many of my members tell me that the NHS in Scotland is dead.”
On December 30, NHS Grampian issued an alert calling for “all available staff” on leave to go to work as hospitals struggled with “an extreme level of pressure”.
On the same day, NHS Borders issued an appeal to staff, with NHS Lothian warning it was “over capacity” and NHS Ayrshire & Arran saying it was “under extreme pressure” and patients were at risk of being “turned away” from the emergency departments unless your condition was urgent. NHS Lanarkshire recorded its worst waiting times ever. The doctors urged NHS Greater Glasgow to declare a major incident over “serious concerns” about patient safety.
People are dying; they are hurting themselves. People are being treated in the open, outside of hospitals, as the A&E units are full. Patients wait more than 40 hours on carts in the corridors because there are no beds. The ambulance waits are terrifying. Trying to physically see your GP is becoming an impossibility.
So this cannot continue, and simply dispatching Humza Yousaf will not solve the problem. However, it is clearly untenable for Yousaf to remain in office.
However, trying to approach this problem from a uniquely Scottish political perspective is also pointless. Yousaf and the SNP, for all their faults, are working within the limits and budgets set by the UK government. They are also dealing with the consequences of the Tory destruction of the NHS in the last 12 years. Anyone who can’t see the connection between Conservative austerity and the ruin of the NHS across the UK has either been asleep for years or is a liar.
So let’s get some facts straight: the NHS is in crisis because the Tories beat the nation senseless with a lunatic economy; however, the SNP cannot simply blame London. The SNP is in power and must assume its responsibility. That means Yousaf should go.
But neither acknowledging the Conservatives’ culpability nor sacking Yousaf will save the NHS. Both are simply the only logical and fair positions to take at the present time. To solve the crisis, we need to put politicians aside. It is time for a national conversation, or a national convention, or even a public inquiry led by a judge, on the NHS.
Some might say that setting up such a vehicle will take too long, or that politicians won’t commit to the findings, even though they would pay for it. However, anything is better than what we have.
We need a national debate about what went wrong; why it went wrong; and who’s to blame? We need NHS staff to tell us exactly what it takes to deliver the quality health service we want. We need honesty when it comes to cost.
Once that is out in the open, the political parties can set their position accordingly and we can vote for whoever we think offers the view we favor. Right now the NHS is dying in darkness and lies.