Scotland

Government to review NHS Scotland targets system

Robison
Image caption Shona Robison laid out the Scottish government's plans for health in the coming term

The Scottish government is to launch a consultation with NHS staff on reviewing the approach to targets in the health service.

Health Secretary Shona Robison led a Holyrood debate on "delivering a healthier Scotland".

She said she would consult with NHS staff and stakeholders, along with social care and clinical partners, to review the approach to targets.

The Conservatives, who have called for a review of targets, welcomed the move.

Ms Robison said the NHS's record was one "that everyone working in health and social care can be proud of".

She said she wanted to review the number, structure and roles of health boards, and wants GP practices to become more of a community service, involving teams of health professionals and others working together under the guidance of a GP.

She also called for trade deals like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to include "explicit protection" for public services.

Downing Street has already said it will accept a move to exclude the NHS from TTIP, having faced a revolt over it prior to the Queen's Speech.

Ms Robison lauded the NHS as "the country's most cherished public service", and noted that it "must remain free at the point of need and be publicly owned, funded and operated".

Image caption Some parties have raised concerns about aspects of the TTIP deal

She also backed the SNP's election pledge to increase NHS budgets by £500m more than the rate of inflation by the end of the term, and to develop a 10-year plan for mental health care.

Her motion also included criticism of the UK government's reforms to the welfare system, which Ms Robison said were "exacerbating inequalities and putting more pressure on the NHS".

And there was also a warning that it would be "totally unacceptable if the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or any other trade agreement were to go ahead without explicit protection for the NHS and public services on the face of the agreement", calling on the UK government to demand this be part of the deal.

Mental health care

Opposition MSPs had the chance to respond to Ms Robison's motion and lay out their own party plans for health in the coming term.

The Scottish Conservatives, who support "gradually reintroducing prescription charges" to raise extra funds for the NHS, had put forward an amendment calling for a review of target-setting in the health service.

MSP Donald Cameron said he was "very grateful" for Ms Robison's announcement, saying some top-down targets imposed on the NHS should be reviewed, and also welcomed the new commitment to mental health care.

He called on the Scottish government to come up with a plan to deal with the "GP crisis", and said patients should be put in charge of their own treatment and care, using the slogan "no decision about me, without me".

Mr Cameron also underlined the UK government's previous pledge to include protection for the NHS in the TTIP deal.

Image caption Donald Cameron said he was "very grateful" to Ms Robison for announcing a review of targets

Labour, meanwhile, used the debate to push for a cut in cancer treatment waiting times.

The party's health spokesman Anas Sarwar put forward an amendment saying the 62-day waiting time standard has not been achieved in three years, calling on the government to "prioritise achieving" this goal.

Mr Sarwar warned against the review of targets simply "moving the goalposts" so that the government could "avoid its failures".

He said health inequality statistics "make grim reading for all of us", calling them "shameful", adding: "It is Scotland's shame that 270 Scots died last year waiting for care packages."

He also said that if a GP suspects a patient has cancer, "they should be entitled to see a specialist and get results within a fortnight".

Both Labour and the Conservatives saw their amendments voted down, before Ms Robison's motion was passed by MSPs, 89 votes to 35.

'Serious threat'

Alison Johnstone, of the Greens took the chance to call for "an end to funding cuts of wider public services under the Scottish government's control" in a bid to reduce pressure on the NHS.

Ms Johnstone also said parliament should note that TTIP and similar deals "pose a serious threat to the NHS and other public services", and urge the UK government to oppose them.

Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Lib Dems said it should be noted that "funding for the NHS in Scotland has slipped", asking for it to "stay ahead of inflation and keep pace with that in the rest of the UK".

After his party campaigned strongly on better mental health care during the election, Mr Cole-Hamilton also called for a "step change" in the sector, including a doubling of funding for services for children and adolescents.

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