THE head of a doctor’s union has warned there is “no way that the NHS in Scotland can survive” in its current form as he renewed his calls for a national conversation on the future of the service.

Dr Iain Kennedy, chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, issued the warning on Wednesday, and said his NHS colleagues had told him over the past fortnight the “whole health and social care system in Scotland is broken”.

“There is no way that the NHS in Scotland can survive.

“In fact, many of my members are telling me that the NHS in Scotland has died already,” he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

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“It’s already broken in some parts of the country. So the time is now, we need the national conversation now, it cannot be delayed any further.”

He told BBC Scotland he will meet Health Secretary Humza Yousaf in the New Year.

Dr Kennedy said the Scottish Government was “well off” the 800 GPs it wanted to recruit by 2027, and that the number of vacancies for hospital doctors was also high.

He said there had been an “abject failure of workforce planning” and health staff were “exhausted, burnt-out and broken”.

“Over the past two weeks I have received testimonies from nearly 200 doctors, and what they’re telling me is that the whole health and social care system in Scotland is broken,” he said.

“They are telling me that NHS Scotland is failing their patients and failing the workforce, and they’re suffering from moral injury from constantly having to apologise to their patients.”

He said the number of vacancies in the health service was the worst he had seen in his 30-year career as a doctor.

Junior doctors in Scotland are preparing for industrial action as part of their demand for higher pay, and Dr Kennedy said their pay had “eroded by 23.5% since 2008”.

“They’ve had enough, they’ve told us that they’ve had enough, and they’ve been trying to get action from the Scottish Government but their requests are falling on deaf ears,” he said.

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Dr Kennedy said while junior doctors in England were taking part in a strike ballot in January, north of the Border it would be in the spring.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the BMA warned the NHS in Scotland was "haemorrhaging" staff as it made demands for a "laser-like focus" on keeping existing staff. 

Dr Kennedy said: "The NHS is haemorrhaging crucial staff – staff who we urgently need now more than ever before – and the government must step up to stop it.

"They can talk as much as they want about recruitment of staff, of investment in the system or of plans for improvement, but every single one will fall flat on its face unless there is a laser-like focus on keeping the staff we have.

"That is why the retention of healthcare professionals – keeping them in the service – needs to be the number one priority in terms of the quick fixes to help us just make it through this winter with the NHS in Scotland somehow intact."

He added: "No one working in the health service would give me any credibility if I gave an upbeat description of the way our NHS will, or can, get better and how the working conditions of those caring for the people of Scotland will miraculously improve.

“All the statistics tell us that it’s a desperate state of affairs. Things are as bad, or worse, than they have ever been.

"Winter is a meaningless term now – this entire year has been winter. But looking beyond the statistics, looking at the people behind the statistics, the picture being painted is even more grim and concerning."