Over the past four years, the SNP Government, with Nicola Sturgeon as Health Minister, has transformed the NHS in Scotland.
The record of achievement over the SNP’s first term of office stands in stark contract to the failure of previous Labour-led administrations.
Following the setting up of the parliament in 1999, Labour and the LibDems held office for 8 years. Over this period, the budget of the Scottish Parliament increased year-on-year.
Despite this, and including a period with Andy Kerr as Health Minister, the NHS in Scotland struggled to meet the needs of patients:
- In 2001, Labour brought in a 62-day cancer treatment waiting time. During their remaining 6 years in power, they failed to meet this target even once, and abandoned many others. New Labour – focus on spin and publicity, fail utterly on actual delivery!
- Before the SNP took office, in March 2007, 32,000 people were waiting over 12 weeks for an outpatients’ appointment.
- To hide their failure to meet target Waiting Times, Labour operated “hidden waiting lists” that were used to massage the figures to look like targets had been met.
- Under Labour, it was becoming impossible for NHS patients to find a dentist. In something reminiscent of an Eastern European economy, patients were forced to queue in the street to register for a practice prepared to take new NHS patients.
- Labour’s approach to budget management in the NHS was to close services – they wanted to close the A&E units in Monklands and Ayr. Indeed, throughout the SNP’s term of office, Andy Kerr made it clear that he still wants to close Monklands A&E. Recently, Iain Gray was foced to visit the unit to give his personal pledge that Andy Kerr wouldn’t be allowed to close it.
- In a reversal of what they said when the Tories were in power, Labour began to privatise Scotland’s NHS. Private firms built and owned hospitals under PFI. At Hairmyres, for an investment of just £8.4 million, almost all of it in the form of loans, the companies involved could generate over £145 million in profit.
- Under Labour, hospital cleaning services were privatised and already low wages and conditions of service were cut even further. Scotland’s hospitals became plagued by poor hygeine and superbugs. It took Labour seven years to even set up a monitoring system for Healthcare Associated Infections. The monitoring showed that the situation was getting worse when Labour was put out of office.
- Despite all the challenges facing the NHS, Labour, with Andy Kerr as Finance Minister, chose not to use all the resources at its disposal. When it left office, it left £1 billion of Scotland’s money with the Treasury. Despite appearing to have no resource pressure, Labour increased prescription charges, even for the low paid and those with chronic conditions.
Against this background, Labour should not be surprised if people don’t take seriously their promises of NHS delivery in the years ahead. In just four years, the SNP has demonstrated that the NHS can be managed much more effectively to deliver for the people of Scotland. Over its first term of office, the SNP has:
- Abolished prescription charges with effect from April 1 this year. Similar policies have been pursued by the other devolved administrations in the UK. Both the Labour and Coalition governments in Westminster continued to apply the charges. As a result, patients in England are now paying up to £7.40 per item on prescription. That shows real Labour policy on the NHS.
- Within months of taking office the SNP commissioned a survey of hospital infections – the largest ever carried out in Scotland – and acted on the results. Using extra investment of £50 million to back up our action plan, the SNP Government cut the rate of the hospital acquired infections by 70%.
- We have ENDED the privatisation of hospital cleaning services. But, Labour’s PFI and privatisation legacy can’t all be undone in one term. Plenty more still to do.
- We reversed the decline of NHS Dentistry. Over 84 per cent of Scots children aged three to five are registered with an NHS dentist. Over 69 per cent of adults are registered with an NHS dentist. All in, over a million more Scots have an NHS Dentist now than when we took office.
- In the face of critiscism from Andy Kerr, we kept Monklands and Ayr A&E units open. Since we took office Monklands A&E has treated over 200,000 patients. If it had closed, these patients would have been forced to travel to other hospitals, increasing their time before treatment and putting pressure on other A&E units, including Hairmyres.
- The actions we have taken have allowed the NHS to step up its delivery across a range of services. The disgraceful 12 week wait for Outpatient clincs has been virtually abolished, with the number of patients waiting over 12 weeks slashed from 32,000 to 150.
- For those patients suspected of having cancer, the SNP made sure that we met the 62 day target. Unlike Labour’s record of failure, we met the target within a year of taking office and have met it every quarter since then. This has allowed us to bring more patients into the target category and then to reduce the target to 31 days and are now working towards a two week target.
- Delayed discharges have been reduced – from over 600 in January 2007, to less than 200 in January this year.
This is a record of achievement of which the SNP is rightly proud. But, we have no intention of resting there. If re-elected to government, the SNP will continue to deliver health treatment that is faster and better.
- We will protect the NHS Budget, ensuring shorter waiting times and treatment that continues to improve. That means extra investment of £1 billion over the next four years
- We plan new action for the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer including a £30m Detect Cancer Early fund
- We will keep the NHS public and free, rejecting the plans adopted elsewhere in the UK