THE HEALTH of Scots has been sadly neglected by the SNP. While Scottish health spending used to be much higher than that in England, the SNP has chosen to make health much less of a priority – and it shows. Scotland is the sick man of Europe with poorer health outcomes than any other European country.
The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) states that in Scotland “the NHS has been prioritised to a lesser extent than in England. As a result, Scottish health spending per person is now just 3 per cent higher than in England, versus 22 per cent at the start of the devolution.”
While the SNP has promised a “transformational” 2.1 per cent increase in health spending, the IFS point out that this is less than the 3.4 per cent agreed in England and is unlikely to cover increased demand on the health service post-covid.
The Scottish NHS is already in a weak condition because of SNP neglect. The Scottish NHS missed 6 out of 8 national waiting time standards in 2018/19.
The missed standards included Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service referrals seen within 18 weeks and patients starting cancer treatment within 62 days. Between 2017/18 and 2018/19 there was an increase of 2.2 per cent in people waiting for outpatient appointments and an increase of 6.1 per cent in people waiting for inpatient appointments. There is a shortage of hospital specialists, with over 500 unfilled vacancies.
Similarly, a quarter of GP practices have unfilled vacancies and GP practices have been closing down all over Scotland because of GP shortages.
Outcomes have been particularly poor. Cancer deaths have been steadily rising since the SNP took power in 2007. In that year 15,202 Scots died of cancer, but by 2018 the numbers of people dying had increased to 16,253. If you live in a deprived area you will have 25 years fewer years in good health than Scots in the least deprived areas. A Glaswegian man can expect only 54.6 years of good health compared to the 69.1 years of an Albanian man. Compare mortality statistics for Glaswgow to equally deprived Liverpool and Manchester. Deaths caused by lung cancer amongst Glaswegians are 27 per cent higher, by suicide 70 per cent higher, by alcohol-related causes 130 per cent higher, and by drug-related poisonings 250 per cent higher.
The SNP has absolutely failed to tackle the deprivation that causes poor health. SNP cuts to drug rehabilitation services have caused drug deaths to soar, making Scotland the drug death capital of Europe.
The Scottish NHS is very badly managed. An investigation by a cross-party committee of MSPs was extremely harsh in its criticism of the Scottish Government:
“The almost complete absence of data collection, or data sharing across the health service before the current COVID-19 crisis, or analysis of a medicine’s impact on patients, is staggering. Quite simply, patients deserve a better system than this….
“Those we consider should have responsibility for solving problems or developing innovative solutions were often the very people who recounted the issues for us, but without accompanying ideas or impetus for change….Little detail was offered as to how change might actually be brought about, let alone at a pace proportionate to the prize to be gained. Nobody seemed willing or able to take on responsibility for driving forward the change many identified as essential….
“Energetic, imaginative accountable, focused leadership is required in order to achieve the changes required. We strongly recommend the Scottish Government examine the lack of accountability for improvement.
“We are extremely disappointed that once again all roads lead to the dismal failure of the NHS in Scotland to implement comprehensive IT systems….We again urge the Scottish Government to consider the IT and data requirements of the NHS across the country in a strategic way and design systems with long term utility as a matter of urgency. We recognise this is a large undertaking but similarly, we cannot keep concluding in reports as we have for the last 4 years that savings, efficiencies and above all better patient care are possible with modern IT, capable of data gathering, analysing and sharing, without demanding urgent action in this area.”
That is a damning indictment of the SNP for failing in both leadership and management, all the more damning because the Health Committee of the Scottish Parliament that produced it contains a number of SNP MSPs.
The Scottish NHS is not safe in the hands of the SNP. After 14 years of SNP neglect it is unlikely to survive another 5 years of the same.