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by Louise Wilson
09 February 2024
Public must take ‘better care’ of themselves to save NHS says Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross launched his party's new health policy paper with Sandesh Gulhane | Alamy

Public must take ‘better care’ of themselves to save NHS says Douglas Ross

The Scottish Government should deliver a “personal responsibility” public health message in order to save the NHS, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

Launching a new health policy paper in Edinburgh, leader Douglas Ross said the health system was in “permanent crisis” and needed to focus “much more heavily on prevention”.

Pointing to figures suggesting just 2p of every £1 spend in the NHS is on public health, Ross said it would be more cost effective to reduce demand.

He said: “If the NHS is to recover, then part of the responsibility has to be placed on the public to better care for ourselves.

“Reducing the number of avoidable health conditions in our population would take a sizeable number of patients out of treatment waiting lists. It would significantly reduce demand.

 “So our first priority should be to redouble our efforts to tackle the big preventable killers in Scotland.”

Proposals in the policy document include a new Vaping Restrictions Bill to ban vaping in public places, creating a right to rehabilitation services for problem drink and drug users, and better communication to encourage people to make “healthier choices” to reduce obesity.

The paper also backs increasing the proportion of NHS funding spend in GP services to 12 per cent of its budget and an establishment of a new national standard to ensure patients are able to access their GP within a week.

Ross said it was “not good enough to blame Westminster” for failures in the NHS, saying the “big challenges” were the Scottish Government’s responsibility.

He said these problems “will not be resolved by funding alone” though also accused ministers of “short-termism in the extreme” by delaying capital investment, such as hospital upgrades.

Other suggestions in the paper include a ban on closing NHS facilities without a direct replacement, reducing the number of health boards, and opening up new services in rural areas.

Speaking to journalists afterwards, Ross backed the reinstatement of Caithness maternity and gynaecology services. He said: “Going down Berriedale Braes in the back of an ambulance while you’re in labour is something that no woman in 2024 should have to endure. That journey, a couple of hours to get down from Wick to Raigmore, it’s a traumatic journey, it’s a lengthy journey and it is not supporting people in the far north.”

And on the question of bringing the private sector into parts of the NHS, he said he wanted the NHS to “continue to be free at the point of need” but that would only happen if the new health secretary, Neil Gray, is “open and listens to new suggestions”.

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