The Scottish Government’s record on health has been severely criticised by opposition parties after an independent report revealed that NHS Scotland was heading for a funding crisis.
The report by Audit Scotland found that some Health Boards may “struggle to break even” and that NHS Scotland only met 1 of its 8 key waiting time targets last year.
The SNP has consistently defended its record on health, stating that the NHS in Scotland now receives record levels of funding, but the report has shown that the funding is not keeping up with the increased demand, rising costs and the needs of Scotland’s ageing population. Ultimately it found that there is “need for NHS boards to make unprecedented levels of savings in 2016-17, and a risk that some will not achieve financial balance”.
The report also challenges the Government’s wider health strategy. The general auditor for Audit Scotland, Caroline Gardner, said:
“The Scottish Government has had a policy to shift the balance of care for over a decade but, despite multiple strategies for reform, NHS funding has not changed course.
“Before that shift can occur, there needs to be a clear and detailed plan for change, setting out what the future of the NHS looks like, what it will cost to deliver and the workforce numbers and skills needed to make it a reality.”
Opposition parties have seized on the report, with Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar MSP saying the SNP were “letting down the staff and patients in our NHS” and had “no recognition of the crisis in the NHS”.
The Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson criticised the failure to manage staff levels and increasingly resorting to the use of agency staff and private consultants to fill the shortfall. Donald Cameron MSP, the Tory health spokesman, said that the SNP have ‘wasted’ their 10 years in office and failed to make the changes required for the NHS.
The Health Secretary Shona Robison said she accepted the report’s recommendations and the Scottish Government have already promised to increase NHS’s budget by £500 million more than inflation. She also promised to set out a “transformational change delivery plan that will bring together the different strands of reform that I have set out” by the end of the year.
The SNP has regularly stated its commitment to protecting the NHS in Scotland, but this report has led some to criticise the effectiveness of the Scottish Government’s actions.
Highlights the need for more effective action will be needed if that goal is to be achieved.