By Bill Heaney
BBC Scotland revealed that one in five people had paid for private medical care in the past 12 months, Jackie Baillie MSP for Dumbarton told the Holyrood parliament this week.
She said: “Let us be clear that those are people who are on lengthy waiting lists and who are so desperate for treatment that they are scraping together their savings to go private.
“The Private Healthcare Information Network tells us that the number of private operations has increased by 72 per cent and, in 2021 alone, 40 per cent of all hip and knee replacements were done privately.
“Each and every one of the health secretary’s targets for ending even the longest waits—of more than two years—have been missed.”
Ms Baillie, pictured left, said that Just a few months ago, NHS board chief executives were discussing a two-tier system of healthcare in Scotland, in which some people would pay for their care.
And she asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to accept, in reality, under this SNP Government, the two-tier system in the healthcare sector is already here.
The First Minister was having none of that however — “No, I do not accept that, but I do consider it unacceptable that any patient has to pay privately for treatment that they should—and want to—get on the national health service. That is why we continue to focus, in the ways that I have been speaking about, on bringing down waiting times, and we will continue with that focus. I know that it will be a priority for whoever succeeds me as First Minister, as it has been a priority for me every day in this job.”
She added: “The targets have not been missed. The targets on reducing long waits are being met, and we need to and will go further. I know that this will get howls of objection from the Labour benches, but Jackie Baillie is trying to suggest that the challenges in our national health service are uniquely down to the fact that Scotland has an SNP Government, so let me counter that.
“Jackie Baillie quoted the Private Healthcare Information Network figures, so she will not mind my also quoting the Private Healthcare Information Network figures for self-funded private care. In the second quarter of 2022, which are the most recent figures, in Wales, where Labour is in office. Jackie Baillie wants to do the comparisons when it suits her.
“In Wales, where Labour is in office, the number of people getting self-funded private care was, according to the Private Healthcare Information Network, 27 per cent higher than it was in Scotland. Not only that, for those opting to pay for private healthcare, the rate of increase in Wales was 21 percentage points higher than it was in Scotland.
“I am responsible—this Government is responsible—for health in Scotland, but for those who want to suggest that the challenges in our national health service are uniquely down to an SNP Government, if they are Tories, they need to look at performance in England, and if they are Labour, they really need to look at performance in Wales.”
Private health care is being promoted as policy by no lesser an individual than Sir Keir Stammer.
In recent statements he has promoted the idea of a two tier system. One for those who can pay, and another for those who can’t.
Sounding like a Tory policy it is a Tory policy. No doubt about that. But like Blair, Sir Keir is a privateer.
And so whilst many will appreciate Jackie Baillie A’s concerns about people going private, it would be helpful if she would take on the concerns about her leaders proposals for two tier health care.