Scottish Government urged to be more radical on health by former health secretary

Written by Tom Freeman on 3 April 2017 in News

A ‘long-term and radical action plan is needed’ for NHS Scotland, including a specific health tax, says Alex Neil

Alex Neil - Scottish Government

The Scottish Government’s plans for health and social care need to be much more radical to deal with the challenges of an ageing population and health inequalities, according to former health secretary Alex Neil.

In a discussion paper published on the Options for Scotland website Neil was critical of the Scottish Government’s delivery plan for health and social care, which was published in December.

It needed to be "much more specific, detailed and much broader in scope", he said.


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He said “difficult choices can’t be avoided” on the rising costs of drugs and the use of locum staff.

At a launch event Neil said: "The longer-term NHS issues cannot be swept under the carpet.”

His proposals include an NHS-specific tax which would require additional powers transferred to Holyrood, a restructuring of health boards to cut down on administrative costs and a “substantial” increase in doctor and nurse numbers.

“A ring-fenced, hypothecated tax may provide the best means of obtaining the level of public accountability and acceptability needed to raise the funding needed to realise our aspirations for health and social care,” he said.

Neither the SNP nor the Scottish Government endorse the policy suggestions.

The Scottish Conservatives said Neil had “gone rogue”

Shadow health secretary Donald Cameron said: “SNP HQ will be furious that he is trying to sideline the health secretary on this one.

“People will wonder why on earth an SNP backbencher is taking it upon himself to do this.”

Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar described it as a “humiliating intervention” for the Government.

“While people across Scotland could be forgiven for asking why Alex Neil didn’t implement any of these ideas when he was health secretary, this is a welcome intervention about the future of our health service,” he said.

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