WINTER pressures on the health service have highlighted a lack of funding and solutions required to make the NHS sustainable in the long term, doctors have said.
Health boards across Scotland have been dealing with a surge in falls and fractures due to icy weather, and the doubling of flu rates in December compared to last year.
Increased demand has led to more people waiting longer to be seen at A&E over the festive period.
Meanwhile, ministers have praised staff for going “the extra mile” to ensure patient safety.
The British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland said the situation should not be dismissed as “the inevitable increase in pressure that winter brings”.
BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said: “We have seen staff in NHS Scotland working incredibly hard, in extremely difficult circumstances over recent days, to deliver the care that people need.
“I’d like to add my gratitude to the many expressions of thanks that teams working across the country have received.
“But, to be honest, it is not thanks that doctors and their colleagues want. Instead of gratitude, we need a long term, sustainable plan that closes the growing gap between resources – in particular, finances – and the demand for services.
“And we must not simply dismiss this as the inevitable increase in pressure that winter brings.”
Dr Bennie said multiple targets, an ageing population and a gap in funding were stretching the system and the workforce “beyond their means”.
He said: “In winter, that results in the type of rapid deterioration of services that we have seen over recent days.
“But over the course of the rest of the year it also means the ongoing eroding of standards, care and services.”
The organisation has called for more effective funding, less focus on targets and action on healthcare staff vacancies.
Dr Bennie added: “If we don’t take this kind of action, we risk not only another hugely challenging winter period next year, but an NHS simply unable to cope with huge demands being placed on it.”