NHS funding boost for Scotland an ‘insult’, says Health Secretary

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has described Scotland’s share of increased NHS spending as an “insult” to the service and its patients.

She told MSPs the Scottish Government had been “short-changed” by the Chancellor to the tune of £54.5 million.

Philip Hammond’s Budget took forward plans to increase funding for the NHS south of the border, meaning extra money for the Scottish Government under the Barnett formula.

The Conservatives said the annual rise of 3.4% was worth £2 billion in real terms to Scotland by 2023/24.

The Budget sets out extra NHS funding of £550 million in 2019/20, £54.5 million less than Scottish Ministers anticipated.

Ms Freeman told MSPs: “That the UK Government has short-changed our health service by £54.5 million compared to the claimed level of consequentials in the summer is an insult to our NHS and the people who depend on it.

“In addition, the UK Government has not set out the consequential funding that will be delivered beyond next year, leaving open the possibility of the NHS funding commitment being further eroded.

“Not least as the Chancellor has more than hinted at the potential of a totally revised Budget from the UK Government as a result of them crashing us out of the Europe with a no deal Brexit.

“Not withstanding this disappointing but regrettably not surprising step by the UK Government, the Scottish Government remains committed to channel every penny of health consequentials to Scotland’s health service.

“And I can assure members today that despite the actions of the UK government we remain committed to our programme for government promises and our recently announced waiting times plan.”

Ms Freeman’s comments came as she made a statement to Holyrood on the financial overview of the health service.

She told MSPs the government accepted the recommendations of a recent Audit Scotland report which found health boards were “struggling to break even”, and called for “decisive action”.

Conservative MSP Brian Whittle said SNP ministers “have been failing the NHS over their 11-year tenure”.

He said: “Cabinet Secretary you say there is record investment in our Scotland NHS, what you conveniently fail to mention is that it a direct result of Barnett consequentials.”

Referring to overall the overall funding increase for Scotland as a result of the Budget, Mr Whittle said: “Yesterday the Scottish Government were handed nearly £1 billion extra which they can have complete autonomy to spend as they see fit.”