SNP accused of hypocrisy over private ambulances

THE SNP has been accused of “complete hypocrisy” over the way it runs the NHS in Scotland after it was revealed there has been a 320 per cent increase in the number of private sector ambulances used to ferry patients since they came to power.

Although private ambulances are not used for emergency care, spending on them by NHS Scotland is up 320 per cent since 2007. Picture: Getty

The rise comes despite repeated claims by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who was also health secretary from 2007 and 2012, that the private sector “has no place in the NHS”.

During the election campaign Sturgeon has said she will use a large block of SNP MPs in Westminster to remove the private sector from the NHS in England, even though the issue is devolved.

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Last month Sturgeon said: “Our NHS is our most important public resource – and the SNP will do everything we can to ensure that it is properly funded and protected as a public service.”

But figures released in a Freedom of Information request to Edinburgh South Conservative candidate Miles Briggs have shown that under her watch the annual budget on ambulances by health authorities rose from £242,911 in 2007 to £1,027,250 in 2013, with a total of £4,399,469 spent.

The highest amount spent on private sector ambulances in that period was £1,336,987 by NHS Lothian, 30 per cent of its total budget.

Briggs said: “These figures show the complete hypocrisy surrounding the SNP and their stewardship of our NHS in Scotland.

“Under the SNP we have seen spending on private ambulances in the NHS increase by over 320 per cent since the SNP came to power in 2007.

“In NHS Lothian that has seen £1,336,987 of taxpayers’ ­money spent on private ambulances.”

Briggs added: “Questions must be asked why the SNP are presiding over the privatisation of the ambulance service in Scotland and why to date almost £4.5 million of NHS funds has been spent on private ambulances in Scotland.

“At the referendum the SNP were desperately scaremongering about the potential privatisation of the NHS in the event of a No vote, whilst in office Nicola Sturgeon as health secretary and now as First Minister has actively presided over a huge increase in the use of private ambulances in our NHS.”

Last night health secretary Shona Robison said she would “not take any lessons on privatisation from the Tories”.

A spokesman for Robison said: “No private ambulances are used by the Scottish Ambulance Service for the emergency unscheduled and scheduled care they provide. Private ambulances are used to transport patients home or between healthcare sites, or by undertakers.

“In terms of the wider point on the use of private facilities in the NHS, we will take absolutely no lessons from the ­Tories, given their drive to privatise the health service south of the Border – and Audit Scotland’s most recent assessment showed that NHS spending in the independent sector has actually fallen in the last year, representing only 0.8 per cent of NHS Scotland’s frontline spending.”