NHS finance: 'The funding cut is a massive kick in the teeth'

THE SNP is guilty of outright hypocrisy on its flagship policy of cutting waiting lists. They have done little other than harass and bully Scotland's health boards over them – after setting the most stringent ever targets, of having everyone treated within 18 weeks of referral by the end of next year.

Now, everyone agrees that patients should be seen as early as possible, and NHS Lothian was making serious inroads into meeting this target. But it has had the rug pulled from under its feet by the withdrawal of 3m of funding for this very purpose.

Less than a year ago health secretary Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: "Driving down waiting times is vital to ensure that patients get the treatment they need as quickly as possible. We know that waiting for diagnosis or treatment can be an anxious time for patients and their families which is why this government has put so much emphasis on cutting waiting times and making the system as transparent as possible." The cutting of NHS Lothian's funding to tackle waiting lists exposes these as weasel words.

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Local hospitals have made inroads to meeting the targets. Only a tiny percentage of the 50,000 inpatient and day case procedures a month are not carried out within the guideline time. It is a tribute to the efforts of doctors, nurses and all staff that the local performance stands up well to scrutiny when compared to other health boards.

By responding by now cutting funding, the Scottish Government is effectively punishing NHS Lothian for doing what it was asked to do. What will the government's reaction be if waiting times get longer as a result of the budget cut it has now imposed?

Local health vice-chairman Eddie Egan has described the cut in funds as "indefensible". But it is even worse than that. It is downright insulting and a massive kick in the teeth for all those that have worked so hard to meet the goals laid down by a government which will doubtless still expect them to be met – but with less money.

Planning ahead

IT may not yet offer definitive proof or a return to full prosperity but the news that planning applications in Edinburgh are at their highest level for two years is welcome.

Since the recession hit, the construction industry has been one of the hardest hit, with development having ground to a halt in many parts of the city.

It is good to see signs of some confidence beginning to return with the likelihood of fresh job opportunities for those who were laid off. There's still a long way to go, but as the Centre for Cities said this week, the Capital can help lead the UK out of economic trouble.