THIS week, Reform Scotland published a damning report into the state of our NHS in Scotland.

It showed a sharp rise in waiting lists and times for hip operations across the country over the last five years, with over 10,000 patients now on a waiting list for a hip operation. There were just 3,000 patients waiting for a hip operation in 2019.

In Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Inverclyde's health board, the waiting times for a hip operation have doubled, with patients waiting on average over a year.

The growing waiting lists and longer wait times for hip operations is not unique, but rather reflects the picture for most operations and procedures across NHS Scotland.

BMA Scotland have repeatedly warned of the worsening pressures facing the NHS, especially in terms of staff shortages.

With issues of recruitment, retention and overwork still unaddressed, the Scottish Government’s failure to bring forward an NHS workforce planning strategy is unacceptable.

I have repeatedly called on Scottish ministers to bring forward an NHS workforce planning strategy and I will continue to do so.

Across the country, patients and communities are seeing increasing strain placed on their local NHS services.

In Inverclyde, patients and the local community face the prospect of a permanent reduction in their GP out-of-hours service due to staff shortages.

Despite being told that the reduction in this service was temporary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde bosses are seeking to make this change permanent despite warnings from Healthcare Improvement Scotland that this will have a ‘significant impact’ on local healthcare provision.

Thanks to the efforts of the local community who have campaigned against these plans, there will now be a full public consultation.

I am clear that Inverclyde needs a dedicated GP out-of-hours service and that patients should not face the prospect of a reduced service or having to travel to Paisley or Glasgow to see an out-of-hours GP.

I will continue to support the local community in opposing these plans and I would urge patients to make their voices heard in the consultation process.

We also recently learned through the Tele that seven of Inverclyde’s thirteen GP practices have had to suspend new patient registrations due to staff shortages and increasing workloads.

Inverclyde’s out-of-hours and regular GP services should not be under this level of strain or at risk of service reduction due to staffing shortages.

These issues again stem from the Scottish Government’s failure to bring forward an NHS workforce planning strategy.

Just last week, Inverclyde Royal Hospital also admitted that there was growing pressures on beds, with the increase in patients being admitted during winter months having started earlier than normal this year.

The Scottish Government must engage with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Inverclyde Royal Hospital to develop and deliver an action plan to alleviate winter pressures.

And we must now have urgent action from Ministers to address the wider crisis in our NHS, starting with a workforce planning strategy.