Alex Salmond rejects NHS cuts ‘denial’ claims

The outgoing First Minister came under pressure over the issue at Holyrood after a spending watchdog today set out the financial pressures facing the health service. Picture: TSPL

The outgoing First Minister came under pressure over the issue at Holyrood after a spending watchdog today set out the financial pressures facing the health service. Picture: TSPL

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ALEX SALMOND today rejected claims that he is in “denial” over swingeing cuts facing the NHS.

The outgoing First Minister came under pressure over the issue at Holyrood after a spending watchdog today set out the financial pressures facing the health service.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie stood in for Labour at First Ministers Questions today after the departure of Johann Lamont as leader last week and said the Audit Scotland report made “grim reading.”

A damning report into financial pressures on the Scottish NHS today warns that a drive to cut waiting times may have to be “reconsidered”.

“Progress has been slow, significant change is needed, little planning in evidence, services at risk, targets missed, budgets squeezed.

“Does the First Minister have a plan - any plan at all to deal with the growing crisis in the NHS?”

The study from Audit Scotland said that spiralling healthcare costs driven by an ageing population and the increasing cost of drugs could affect NHS Scotland’s “strong focus” on shortening waiting times.

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Despite meeting their financial targets in 2013-14, some Scottish health boards are doing so “in unsustainable ways”, the report warned.

But Mr Salmond said the watchdog had identified progress in a “number of areas” including for people with cancer and heart disease.

He added that despite the success of the NHS in terms of managing its finances Scotland, it “faces challenges for the future.”

But he said the report warns that “reductions in spending at a UK level will affect the funding available in Scotland.”

He added: “The very heart of the financial challenge facing our National Health Service - retrenchment and austerity at UK level and the financial pressure that imposes on our national health Service in Scotland.”

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