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Crisis? What crisis? ask Galbraith and BMA.

The Government and the British Medical Association last night thrashed out an answer to the question: When is a crisis not a crisis?

The answer is when it is in the NHS in Scotland, where patients have to wait on trolleys for treatment, operations are cancelled and hospitals struggle to cope with tens of thousands of extra flu cases.

And where there is an acknowledged shortage of beds and nurses.

Health Minister Sam Galbraith and BMA chiefs came to the surprise conclusion after talks in Glasgow last night.

Mr Galbraith pledged: "The health service is not failing patients."

Avoiding the crisis word, he said: "I am here to take the flak. But I think we should be temperate in our language and not use extreme phrases. It frightens the patients."

Arthur Morris, chairman of the BMA, emphasised there was a shortage of beds.

But he too added: "Crisis is a word that is often used. There has been a crisis of doctors, a crisis of nurses, it is a severely over-used phrase."

The BMA called the meeting to clear the air, two weeks before the pay review body is due to advise on salary increases.

The head-to-head was sparked by a poll of hospitals on January 4 by BMA secretary Brian Potter. He found hospitals overworked and understaffed. Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was "like a war zone" with patients waiting on trolleys.

Then Dr Keith Little, the clinical director of accident and emergency, quit over the bed shortage.

Last night, in a letter to Mr Galbraith, Derek Bell, Edinburgh Royal clinical director, said not all of his staff agreed with such views.

Mr Galbraith said he and the BMA "agreed that we are keen to put the past behind us".
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Author:McLEAN, JIM
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 15, 1999
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