SNP defeated on local NHS cuts

Written by Tom Freeman on 29 September 2016 in News

SNP suffers second defeat in parliament since losing its overall majority in May

Shona Robison - Scottish Parliament

The SNP has been defeated in a debate in Holyrood on NHS cuts to local services.

The Scottish Labour motion called for health board plans to downgrade or close local services to be classed as 'major service changes', meaning they would need the approval of ministers.

Although the vote does not commit the Scottish Government to action, it is the second defeat the SNP has suffered since it lost its overall majority in May’s Holyrood election.

The other was a vote on an outright ban on fracking held in June.


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Labour's motion for the debate on NHS cuts used the examples of proposed changes to services at the Vale of Leven Hospital, the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Inverclyde Hospital, Monklands Hospital, Lightburn Hospital, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow and the controversial Centre for Integrative Care, which uses homeopathy.

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar pleaded for MSPs from across the chamber to “put political partisanship to one side” and back his call.

“Today we have an opportunity to put aside our party allegiances and work together to protect our local NHS services," he said.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said no final decisions had been made by health boards, and accused Labour of “inappropriately” trying to undermine local decisions.

"This government remains committed to robust, evidence-based policy making. I am prepared to take difficult decisions where the evidence supports it.

"What we will not countenance is change being dictated to local communities as has happened in the past under a Labour administration,” she said.

The national clinical strategy published last year called for a need for more local community health centres and hospitals. 

However the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives backed the Labour motion, defeating the Cabinet Secretary’s amendment by 64 votes to 62.

The SNP then abstained from the final vote, meaning Sarwar’s motion was carried by 64 to zero.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The government has ensured that all proposals from NHS boards for any major change to services go through a proper engagement and consultation process, supported by the Scottish Health Council.

"That process is a hugely important part of the decision making process, and it is important it is allowed to complete its work.

"Following the conclusion of that process, and taking account of the views of parliament, we will report back to parliament on the designation of service change proposals."

The national clinical strategy published in February called for a need for more local community health centres and hospitals. 

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