NHS principles ‘not up for debate’ – Humza Yousaf
Scotland’s health secretary has said that the founding principles of the NHS are “not up for debate nor discussion”.
Humza Yousaf was responding to a BBC report that NHS leaders had discussed charging wealthier patients for treatment at a meeting in September.
He said it was an “informal meeting” involving a “small number” of NHS directors.
The views put forward by these directors and recorded in the draft minutes of the meeting “does not represent the view of NHS chief executives,” he added.
Yousaf said: “While reform undoubtedly is necessary in the face of a global pandemic, that reform will never ever be in contradiction of the founding principles of our NHS.”
But Labour’s Alex Rowley warned that healthcare in Scotland was already running a two-tier system, with those who can afford to go private doing so.
“For those who can do none of these [options], they suffer in pain on long waiting lists. I reiterate, we are already falling into a two-tier health system,” he said.
Yousaf acknowledged the pressures facing the NHS, adding the pandemic, Brexit and inflation were causing “significant challenges”.
But he said the government was investing to reduce waiting times and also in social care, which would reduce hospital admissions and delayed discharge.
The Scottish Tories, meanwhile, are urging the government to ask Audit Scotland to investigate the meeting of NHS bosses.
Party chair Craig Hoy said: “The leaked minutes clearly suggest NHS leaders were given the green light to think the unthinkable – including patient charging. We must urgently find out why that was.
“Presumably this came from the top and senior ministers gave them the political cover to examine every eventuality to reform our NHS. We need to know if they are now speaking with forked tongues.”
Yousaf has refused to involve Audit Scotland, insisting this was not the best use of the watchdog’s time.