ALEX Salmond today launched a staunch defence of the NHS - but admitted it has “failings and faults” after a damning watchdog’s report prompted fresh concerns over the unfolding scandal of waiting time fiddles.
Thousands of patients were removed from NHS waiting lists across Scotland because they were deemed “socially unavailable” when they could not make appointments, and these numbers soared as Government targets became increasingly difficult to meet.
Labour leader Johann Lamont today insisted that the SNP Government knew the figures were being fiddled as she grilled Mr Salmond at First Ministers Questions at Holyrood.
But the SNP leader insisted that the NHS is the “greatest public service in our country.”
“The National Health Service isn’t without failings, isn’t without fault, but it’s an outstanding health service for which every one of us should be proud,” he said.
Mr Salmond said that hidden waiting lists affected to 33% of patients under the last Labour/Liberal Democrat administration. Even after the recent revelations it only stood at 23% under the SNP.
The SNP had inherited a regime which saw “people dumped on the availability status code and left there ad infinitum.”
But Ms Lamont said that Nicola Sturgeon, the previous health minister, was told in 2011 that only 3% of patients were waiting more than 9 weeks for treatment - the actual figure was 23%.
“At the same time she was given figures which said the number of people too busy to go and get the treatment they needed had tripled,” Ms Lamont added.
“She knew what was happening - did she not have the wit to notice that waiting lists were being falsified, or did it simply fit her purpose?”
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie pointed to previous claims that the SNP had abolished the “smoke and mirrors” in NHS waiting times, by Mr Salmond, adding the SNP leader should have something “humble to say” about this.