Does SNP 'creeping privatisation' claim add up?

Written by Tom Freeman on 4 March 2016

Today the Scottish Conservatives hold their spring conference in Edinburgh, and there's something familiar about the war of words. 

The SNP have repeated the claim that 'creeping privatisation' in the NHS south of the border threatens the budget consequentials for health in Scotland.

“While the Scottish Government is committed to keeping the Scottish NHS in public hands, our budget is still tied to decisions made at Westminster.

“The Tory approach of privatisation, austerity and patient charging mean that any reduction in NHS spending in future would have a knock on impact on the Scottish health budget," said the SNP's Bob Doris.

Today Ruth Davidson will point out health spending in England has actually grown faster than north of the border and challenge the SNP to match it. 

"It's a fact, not well known, that between 2010 and 2015, the SNP failed to keep up with spending increase on the NHS," she will say.

In fact the reason spending increases under more private provision rather than decreases is because private healthcare is actually very expensive to the public purse.

For example in 2013 the USA spent 17.1 per cent of GDP on health, while the UK spent 9.1. Denmark, by comparison, spent 10.6, France 11.7, Germany 11.3. It seems surprising, given those figures, that more countries haven't looked to the NHS model when reforming their healthcare systems. (Figures from the world bank).

So the SNP are beating an odd drum here. Firstly, creeping privatisation won't diminish the health budget in England, it'll put more strain on it. Secondly, they are not tied to the Barnett consequentials. If they wanted to spend more they can, and indeed will in the latest budget.

That's not to say the NHS model is cheap though. There are challenges ahead.

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