I, and my Conservative colleagues, are committed to the founding principles of the NHS. We want universal healthcare, free at the point of service, provided on the basis of need, not ability to pay. These principles, and the hard work and skill of generations of NHS staff, have delivered quality healthcare to the British people for seventy years, and will do so for many more decades to come.
Both in Scotland and across the United Kingdom, the overwhelming majority of NHS services are, rightly, provided from within the public sector. However, I believe that is a role for private sector providers to play, within the confines of the NHS’s founding principles, if they can help provide better quality care, and greater value for money, for the public.
Here in Scotland, healthcare is a devolved issue, and so responsibility for determining the extent of private sector involvement in the NHS rests with the Scottish Government in Holyrood. In the year 2016-17, Scottish health boards spent £72 million on private and independent healthcare providers.
Moreover, on the SNP’s watch, NHS Scotland has developed a serious staffing shortage which, in addition to stretching hardworking NHS staff to breaking point, has forced Scottish health boards to spend large amounts of money on private agencies for cover staff. I believe the best thing the Scottish Government can do to reduce private sector involvement in the NHS is to deal with this staffing shortage, so that NHS Scotland no longer has to spend so much on private agencies.
My Scottish Conservative colleagues in Holyrood will continue to hold the SNP to account on this issue, and have developed a fifteen-point plan for reforms that will get NHS Scotland back on track, including smarter and clearer structures, better financial planning, and action to boost staff morale.
Also, following the UK Government’s wise decision to increase spending on the NHS, which will mean an extra £2 billion in annual funding for the Scottish Government by 2023/24, we are calling on Nicola Sturgeon to commit to putting all that extra money towards the NHS, so that NHS Scotland does not fall behind the rest of the UK.