By Lucy Ashton 

Dame Jackie Baillie has accused the SNP of allowing the “creeping privatisation” of our NHS as damning new figures reveal a growing reliance on private sector treatment while the number of knee and hip replacements on the NHS across the Clyde region, which includes Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven has plummeted.

The statistics from Public Health Scotland show that the independent sector now carries out more hip and knee operations than any Health Board in Scotland, as thousands of people are forced to go private.

The number of NHS hip and knee surgeries have failed to recover to pre-pandemic levels, leaving people with the difficult choice between being stuck on record NHS waiting lists or paying to go private.

From a decade-high of 477 hip replacements being carried out across the Clyde region in 2018, this number almost halved according to the 2022 stats with just 263 procedures taking place.

The picture was even worse for knee replacements as, in 2022 within the Clyde region, just 187 were carried out, a 60 percent drop from 2019 and an even larger fall than the 501 knee replacements which took place in 2015.

First Minister Humza Yousaf and Labour’s deputy leader Dame Jackie Baillie.

Newly-released figures also show that, shockingly, 1745 rounds of chemotherapy across Scotland were paid for privately by patients in 2022/23.

This comes a year after the then Health Secretary, now First Minister Humza Yousaf, promised no one would be waiting more than 18 months for an NHS procedure by September 2023.

The most recent figures however show that there are still 17,200 people on NHS waiting lists who have already waited over 18 months for hospital procedures.

The Dumbarton constituency MSP said: “This is yet another broken promise from a Health Secretary that has failed upwards – and the depressing result is that people are turning to private care. I have had constituents who have felt that they have had no option but to pay for their own treatment, some of whom have taken out loans to foot the bill.

“In the last financial year alone a total of 43,000 patients were treated privately in Scotland which is a staggering 8% increase in just one year.

“We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis with people struggling to pay the bills. There is no way they should also have to worry about the costs of getting sick.

“More and more Scots are being forced to pay the price for SNP incompetence and failure.

“This SNP-made NHS crisis is leaving people to suffer and putting the very principles of our NHS under threat.

“To end this creeping privatisation the Health Secretary must get a grip on record waiting lists and make sure people can get the treatment they need.”

  • 4,739 hip and knee replacements paid for privately

  • 7,805 cataract surgeries paid for privately

  • 1,980 colonoscopies

  • 2,055 endoscopies

  • 995 hernia repairs


  • £15,000 for a hip or knee replacement

  • £3,000 for cataract surgery

  • £3,000 for a colonoscopy

  • £4,000 for a hernia repair

Average costs for private healthcare treatments:

The First Minister committed to eradicate long waits in the NHS in July 2022 when he was Health Secretary:

Most recent waiting times data showed that as of the end of June 2023, 17,201 patients on the waiting list of inpatient/daycase procedures had already waited over 18 months:

In 2022 there were 11,175 hip and knee operations carried out in Scotland. 4,635 of these took place in independent sector, 94.5% of which funded either by direct payments from patients or patients own medical insurance – equivalent to 4,380 privately funded operations or 40% of all hip and knee operations in Scotland in 2022.

According to PHIN there were 42,890 private episodes at sites in Scotland – i.e. periods of time that patients spent in private hospitals or under the care of a private consultant in 2022/2023. This is an 8% compared to 2021/22. The most frequent private procedures carried out in Scotland in 2022/23:

Source: Hospital Volume and Length of Stay 2022-2023:

 Scottish Arthroplasty Project

  • The independent sector is now reporting as the largest provider of primary hip and knee arthroplasty procedures in Scotland compared to the level of activity at individual NHS Boards.
  • There were 2,824 non-NHS hip and 1,493 knee arthroplasty procedures in the independent sector in 2022.


PHIN Private market update: September 2023:

Top picture: RAH in Paisley.

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