Watchdog’s NHS report damning indictment of government, says Leonard

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A report which found the NHS is not financially sustainable is a “damning indictment” of the Scottish Government’s “mismanagement” of the health service, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said.

Audit Scotland found health boards were “struggling to break even”, adding that progress to reform the system was too slow.

The public spending watchdog said “decisive action” was now needed from ministers to secure the future of the “vital and valued service”.

Raising the report at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Mr Leonard said boards had faced £1.1 billion of cuts since Nicola Sturgeon took office, with the latest Audit Scotland findings demonstrating “an abject failure” by ministers.

Ms Sturgeon described the document as “rightly blunt”, but she said it did not take into account the Government’s new financial plans.

“Health boards have had to make cuts totalling £1.1 billion since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister,” Mr Leonard said.

“This week’s Audit Scotland report exposes the mismanagement of the NHS under the SNP, with too many staff under too much pressure, too many patients waiting far too long and too many health boards having to make swingeing cuts.

Nicola Sturgeon
Mr Leonard pointed out that £1.1 billion of health cuts had been carried out since Ms Sturgeon took office (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Sturgeon said health spending had increased year-on-year, with a new financial plan recently announced by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

“We have plans in place both for the investment the health service needs and for the reform the health service needs,” the First Minister said.

“The medium-term financial plan is not taken account of in the Audit Scotland report.

“Of course that plan sets out a proposal to see the health budget increase by £3.3 billion over the period until 2023, that would be annual growth of 2.9% in real terms.

“As the Audit Scotland report says the Fraser of Allander Institute predicts the health resource budget is likely to have to increase by around 2% per year to stand still.

“So we are providing resources over and above that, and I think that significantly changes the comment about financial sustainability.”

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