Could Labour use private facilities to clear waiting lists in Scotland if Anas Sarwar wins power at Holyrood?

Anas Sarwar was confronted by a party member over privatisation plans.

Anas Sarwar has confirmed he is “not ruling out” using private healthcare facilities to help clear NHS waiting lists if he becomes the next first minister - but said his “preference” was to boost NHS capacity.

The Scottish Labour leader denied Labour will privatise the NHS if it forms the next UK government after an irate party member confronted him about “disgraceful” plans he claimed were being tabled by his colleagues south of the Border.

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Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Mr Sarwar was speaking in Edinburgh as he set out plans for Labour to revive the NHS in Scotland by pledging funding to create 160,000 additional appointments each year to help clear waiting lists.In his keynote speech, he stressed next month’s election “can and must be a turning point for our NHS”.He hit out at the SNP government’s management of the NHS, warning that the health service was “on its knees” as he pointed to a “national emergency” of one in six Scots sitting on waiting lists for appointments, tests and treatment.Mr Sarwar added: “The impact of years of failure is that Scotland now has a two-tier health system.“Everyone knows someone who has been forced to scrape together cash to go private.”The SNP has claimed that if Labour forms the next UK government, NHS services will be privatised. In response, Mr Sarwar branded those claims “scaremongering” and “lies”.He said: “So let me make this crystal clear to the SNP - a Labour government, in the UK or Scotland, will never privatise the NHS.“As has always been the case throughout our history, only Labour will protect our NHS and keep it in public hands.”Asked if he formed the next Scottish government, whether he would use private healthcare facilities to help bring down waiting lists, Mr Sarwar said he was “not ruling out using capacity” but stressed that “our preference is to invest and create capacity in the NHS and drive down our waiting lists”.He added: “There is very limited capacity, actually, in the private sector, that can help us overcome those issues we have in the public sector to help us drive down our NHS waiting lists.“There’s a growing demand for the private sector given the long waits in the NHS.”But Mr Sarwar faced an awkward exchange with a 70-year-old long-standing member of the Labour party, who has been facing a long wait for eyecare - facing a £9,000 bill if he goes private.The Labour member said he was forced to pay £8,500 to undergo a prostate procedure privately, warning he “had no choice”.The member pointed to what he claimed was Keir Starmer’s “major plan of reforming the NHS” by “letting private healthcare into our NHS system”.He warned Labour has been “unapologetic” about the strategy.The man added: “I think it’s disgraceful.”UK Labour shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has defended his party’s plans to use private facilities to reduce waiting lists, but has insisted that the NHS would be privatised “over my dead body”.

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