NHS is too politicised, says Miles Briggs

Written by Ailean Beaton on 9 September 2019 in News

The Conservatives' spokesperson on health urged for an independent review on the future of the NHS 

Image credit: Scottish Conservatives 

The NHS in Scotland has become too politicised, Scottish Conservatives Health spokesperson Mile Briggs has warned, with the Lothians MSP calling for a cross party inquiry aimed at creating a long-term plan for the health service.

Speaking to Holyrood for its ‘Health of the Nation’ edition, Briggs said that politicians should look to “put our guns down” and look at an independent review to address funding, efficiency and staffing problems.

But Briggs expressed scepticism over plans for a Citizens’ Assembly, aimed at building consensus on challenges facing Scotland, warning the process was part of the Scottish Government’s “agenda for independence”.

Briggs said: “For most people that work in the NHS, they just feel it's so politicised in Scotland.

“This summer has really demonstrated the poor health of the nation. Drug deaths being the highest in Europe and the world. The mental health figures are pretty appalling. And the waiting times aren’t being addressed.

“So at what point do you actually helicopter up above this all and look down and say ‘how are we going to fix this?’”

Briggs said that public health emergencies such as the drug death crisis should be used as an “opportunity to look towards an approach where we all put our guns down politically and acknowledge that we've all got good ideas”.

He said the Scottish Government should launch something similar to a Royal Commission, a form of independent inquiry that the UK Government used to investigate the NHS in the 1970s.

This, he said, would allow for people outside of party politics to influence the future plans for the NHS.

Briggs said: “I would like to see a kind of version of a Royal Commission in the next parliament.”

He went on: “We need to be able to make sure others have a chance to voice their opinions, from unions right through to people who are working on the front line.

“Ideally, I would like to see it be something that is government commissioned, but that’s completely neutral and talks about the difficult decisions.”

Briggs distanced himself from endorsing a Citizens’ Assembly as a potential solution, saying that the upcoming assembly on Scotland’s constitutional future was “not particularly inclusive” because it was part of the Scottish Government’s “agenda for independence”.

He also spoke of his desire for healthcare to be the central focus of the Scottish parliament after the 2021 elections, saying: “We need to all at some point understand that the NHS needs a long-term strategic plan in Scotland to be sustainable.

“And I hope in the next Scottish Parliament, after 2021, we can do that work. We can do that cross-party, because we need to.”

He added: “Alex Salmond's time as first minister was about independence. This whole parliament's been about Brexit. I hope next parliament's all about the NHS.”

The full interview with Briggs is included in today’s issue of Holyrood

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