Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP today revealed that the number of patients being sent to the rest of the UK for treatment has risen by almost 50% since 2013/14, calling on the SNP Government to provide assurances that this isn’t due to their mismanagement of the health service in Scotland.
Figures obtained from health boards by the Scottish Liberal Democrats reveal that the number of referrals outside Scotland that the NHS National Services Division has approved for national funding has risen from 427 in 2013/14 to 625 in 2016/17. Over the past four years the total cost of these services has been £51.7 million, rising from £11.9m in 2013/14 to £15.2m in 2016/17.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“Those experiencing ill health, and particularly long-term complex illnesses, don’t want to be undertaking long journeys or spending more time than is necessary away from home, friends and family. That is why the news that there has been an almost 50% rise in the number of patients being sent outside Scotland for treatment in the past four years warrants an explanation.
"It's important that patients in Scotland have access to the best possible care. If there is expertise elsewhere in the UK that they can benefit from then it is right that they can do so. However, we need to know whether the significant rise in patients being sent outside Scotland is a consequence of SNP ministers’ failures. For example, the failure to plan the NHS workforce properly has led to huge numbers of long-term vacancies. More than 250 consultant posts have been empty for six months or more.
“It is inevitable that patients will have travel unnecessarily, within Scotland and further afield, if we don’t have the right balance of specialist staffing in each part of the country.
“As well as repairing the NHS workforce, concerns about the excessive centralisation of health services demand a better model of health provision that is fit for remote and rural areas too.”