NHS Scotland (Ownership)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Richard Lyle Richard Lyle Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to ensure that NHS Scotland stays in public ownership. (S5O-03413)

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to the founding principles of a publicly owned, funded and operated national health service that is free at the point of need. We will oppose any attempt, in post-Brexit or other trade talks, to impinge on that in any way. Our NHS in Scotland will not be on the table in any trade deal.

Photo of Richard Lyle Richard Lyle Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary f or her assurance. I am sure that the people of Scotland will be very happy to hear that.

How is the continued integration of health and social care in Scotland assisting the Government in protecting and managing the precious resources of the NHS? What discussions is the Scottish Government having with local health boards to ensure that our NHS is safeguarded against any future proposal by the Tory United Kingdom Government?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

As Mr Lyle will know from the budget that was agreed in this chamber, the aim of our additional investment in health and social care

, which exceeds £700 million, is to shift the balance of care that people need to their local communities except where it is clinically necessary for them to be in acute settings. The health and social care medium-term financial framework sets out that approach.

I assure Mr Lyle that we will not do what the Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation in England is doing. As has been revealed in the

Nursing Times

, it is now producing a price list for procedures that should be provided free at the point where they are needed. For example, cataract surgery is priced at £1,700 and hip replacement surgery at more than £7,000. Those prices cover only one pre-op consultation, one attendance as a day case and one follow-up attendance. That is what is happening to the health service in England—they are getting it ready to trade off. That will not happen to the NHS in Scotland.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I ask all members to ensure that, if supplementary questions are allowed, they are asked quickly.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

In 2017, NHS Scotland signed a contract worth £400 million with a private company for locum staff. Last year, a further contract worth £30 million was signed with six private companies. Does that not illustrate the increasing use of the private sector that is happening under the Scottish National Party?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

No, it absolutely is not. [


.] I will explain to Mr Briggs—and his amused colleagues—why that is the case.

I think that the first contract to which Mr Briggs referred is one with IHI, which is a not-for-profit organisation. The other contracts that he mentioned may, indeed, represent interim use of the private sector to reduce long waiting times for patients, as I set out in the waiting times plan. However, I say to Mr Briggs that that is not selling off sections of our health service to Virgin Health or allowing any of our boards to produce price lists for hip replacement, cataract or knee replacement surgery, which is precisely what his colleagues in England are doing. The day and hour that Mr Briggs defends that practice in this chamber is the time when he and I might have a proper conversation.

Photo of David Stewart David Stewart Labour

Has the cabinet secretary investigated the worrying implications of investor-state dispute settlement being invoked as part of a trade deal? That would give foreign companies the right to sue the Scottish Government for devolved health decisions.

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

Mr Stewart makes an important point that came up previously when deals were being looked at. It is about the vulnerability of the UK being seen as a single state when trade deals are negotiated, and whether that places our NHS in a vulnerable position. We looked at the issue and took up-to-date advice at that time. We are looking at it again to ensure that we are as prepared as possible. I am absolutely certain that, with colleagues in Labour and elsewhere in the Parliament, if not the Conservatives, and with the people of Scotland, we will defend our health service.