National Health Service Capital Projects

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

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Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the potential impact that any mass delay of NHS capital projects would have on patient and staff safety. (S6O-03143)

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Patient safety is a key strategic objective for the Scottish Government, and we are committed to ensuring that all health and care is safe, effective and person centred. We will continue to support national health service staff and their wellbeing to ensure that they can continue to deliver the best possible care. Despite the real-terms cut to the Scottish Government’s capital budget, health boards have had their capital maintenance budget protected at 2023-24 levels, which will allow them to continue to invest £150 million in maintaining the existing estate and to work on reducing backlog maintenance.

Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

The safety of our staff is of paramount importance. Without staff safety, we cannot deliver patient safety—they go hand in hand. What discussions has the cabinet secretary had with the trade unions about the impacts on the workforce of the delay to capital projects? Has the Government assessed the impacts of the up-and-coming implementation of safe staffing on service provision?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

On the latter point, I discussed that with staff-side trade unions last week in our regular Scottish Terms and Conditions Committee discussions. I have not yet had the time to be able to have direct discussions on the former part of Carol Mochan’s question, but I expect to have those discussions in my on-going engagements with trade union representatives across the NHS and social care.

We do not want to be in this position, of course. We want to invest in NHS capital projects. They are a necessity if the NHS and social care services are to continue to make progress. Unfortunately, the position is the result of the financial reality that we face. We have had £1.6 billion removed from our capital budget by decisions from the United Kingdom Government and an increase in costs due to spiralling UK inflation.

Photo of Michelle Thomson Michelle Thomson Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary has correctly highlighted the cut to capital expenditure by the UK Government. There is a sense now that people are understanding the real impact of that cut on people’s lives. Can the cabinet secretary give any further insight into the discussions with the UK Government on emphasising the critical impact of the cut in the Scottish Government’s capital expenditure budget?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

I can. Michelle Thomson is absolutely right. The years of austerity, alongside the particular decisions that have come through, whereby we have seen £1.6 billion come out of our capital budget, are having a real-time impact on people and our services.

The Deputy First Minister wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, on 23 February to outline the Scottish Government’s priority ahead of the UK Government’s spring budget. In that letter, the Deputy First Minister highlighted that, in addition to the block grant having fallen by 1.2 per cent in real terms since 2022-23, UK capital funding is set to fall by almost 10 per cent, or £1.6 billion, between 2023-24 and 2027-28. The Deputy First Minister has communicated a very strong message to the chancellor that there is a clear need for increased investment by the UK Government in public services and, by extension, the economy ahead of the next fiscal event.