Save the NHS: Why SNP and Tories are to blame for stunning growth of private healthcare in Scotland

Private GP surgeries have tripled, while the number of patients paying for their own treatment in private hospitals has risen by 84 per cent

Seventy-six years after Labour founded the NHS, we are in a situation where we have hospitals without beds. Our health service faces a national crisis in what is known as “corridor care”, where patients are treated on trolleys in corridors because there simply are not enough beds in wards or even A&E.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) published new analysis which found that on an average Monday night, 45 per cent of the patients treated in our emergency departments didn’t have access to a private cubicle. Let’s be clear on what corridor care means. It means patients being treated on trolleys in corridors, in waiting rooms, even in cars.

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The Royal College of Nursing highlighted the words of a Scottish nurse. She told us: “There are no screens to go round the patient. So, if they are being bed bathed or need a bed pan, you have to take a patient out of their bed space and move them into a corridor, then move the extra patient into the bed space to use the bed pan. It’s time consuming, there is not enough space in the rooms. It’s undignified for the patient.”

Labour health minister Aneurin Bevan is seen meeting a patient in 1948, the year the NHS was created (Picture: Edward G Malindine/Getty Images)Labour health minister Aneurin Bevan is seen meeting a patient in 1948, the year the NHS was created (Picture: Edward G Malindine/Getty Images)
Labour health minister Aneurin Bevan is seen meeting a patient in 1948, the year the NHS was created (Picture: Edward G Malindine/Getty Images)
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A life-and-death issue

Patients and their families know what lies behind the statistics: no privacy, no dignity, just pain and distress as patients wait for treatment. The experts know what corridor care means. It leads to poorer outcomes and, together with long waits, costs lives. The RCEM warns that for every 72 patients who wait over eight hours in A&E, there will be one excess death.

Based on numbers attending A&E so far this year, that means more than 1,000 Scots have died who could have been saved, had they been treated on time. We’re only halfway through the year.

This unbearable situation isn’t fair to patients or staff. They have been failed and let down by the SNP government. As a result of SNP decisions, NHS spending in Scotland has failed to keep up with investment elsewhere. When the nationalists came to power, Scotland spent 17 per cent more per head on health than in England. Now it’s only three per cent.

Vote for the NHS

A UK Labour government will start the process of delivering greater investment in the NHS, and we’ll pay for this by closing non-dom tax loopholes and cracking down on tax avoidance. This will deliver millions every year that could be spent on health-related funding for Scotland – enough for 160,000 more appointments every year by having additional clinics and theatre procedures in evenings and weekends.

This increased capacity could cut waiting lists, drive down waiting times, reduce the need for patients to go private. Under the SNP, Scotland is sleepwalking into a two-tier health system, with an increasing number of those who can pay choosing to do so.

According to the BMA, the number of private GP surgeries has tripled. The number of patients in Scotland self-funding their own treatment in private hospitals rose by 84 per cent between 2019 and 2023.

Both the Tory and SNP governments have failed our NHS, created by Labour in 1948. In 1997, we rescued it. Now on July 5, the NHS’s 76th birthday, we stand ready to rescue it again. On July 4, vote for the NHS, vote for change.

Jackie Baillie MSP is Scottish Labour’s deputy leader

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