Philippa Whitford MP warns of Scottish repercussions for NHS England crisis

SNP Westminster health chief upholds approach taken by Scottish NHS and calls for it to be made a campaigning issue in event of indyref2

DR PHILIPPA WHITFORD MP, the SNP’s Westminster health spokesperson, has said that there could be damaging repercussions in the Scottish NHS as a result of the decline of the English health service following one of the worst winters for the NHS England in recent years.

The British Red Cross warned of a humanitarian crisis in NHS England hospitals after two patients died after long stays on hospital trolleys earlier in January. Hospitals, staff, beds and ambulance services are stretched beyond capacity most winters in the UK, with most of the worst incidents in NHS England, which has been transformed in recent years and decades by the expansion of private sector involvement.

Whitford said that the degradation of NHS England, which she believes is planned, could lead to threats against the Scottish service, which is controlled in Scotland but funded from the UK block grant.

Speaking to CommonSpace, she said: “Obviously, if they let the whole thing fall apart they won’t be sending a bucket of money up here to fund the whole thing free at the point of need.

“At the moment we are actually having to spend more because £5 to £10bn is going purely on funding the market – the mechanisms of the market, the profit that is going out to the private companies.

“Obviously, if they let the whole thing fall apart they won’t be sending a bucket of money up here to fund the whole thing free at the point of need.” Dr Philippa Whitford MP

“Why would a government be doing the more expensive version, other than the long-term plan is and always has been, to push more people towards insurance to introduce more charges.”

NHS privatisation, begun under New Labour, particularly in the form of private finance initiatives, expanded substantially in the 2012 Social Care Act, with the expansion of NHS foundation trust hospitals that help to develop and internal market within the huge public service.

Opposition parties including Scottish Labour have accused the SNP of failing to protect Scottish NHS services, including special wards and services at a number of Scottish hospitals. However, the Scottish Government maintains it is spending record amounts on health, including the integration of health and social care, despite cuts to the Scottish budget.

Whitford, a long-time campaigner against NHS privatisation and practising surgeon, who spoke extensively throughout Scotland in opposition to UK government reforms during the independence referendum of 2014, said that the damage done by privatisation was predictable.

She said: “What we can see from the current crisis is that all of what we were saying – this will pull the NHS apart – this is exactly what’s happening. It’s very fragmented, it’s competitive financially, it’s therefore full of perverse incentives and really hard to integrate.

“What we can see from the current crisis is that all of what we were saying – this will pull the NHS apart – this is exactly what’s happening.”

“In Scotland, starting in 2004 we went the other way, we went back towards full integration, rather than trusts, competition.

“That is why ours is more robust. We have the same challenge of an older population, a frailer population, a lack of doctors, tight finances. But we are not running around with one arm tied behind our back,” she added.

Whitford said that the NHS would be a campaigning priority in a forthcoming independence referendum, but that this situation would not transpire automatically.

“At the start of the independence campaign last time the NHS wasn’t being talked about very much. it was myself who raised that as an issue.”

Speaking after the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) conference in Glasgow’s Raddison Blue hotel (Saturday 14 January), Whitford said that further such events would be necessary, focusing in on individual areas of policy and campaigning priorities, including the NHS.

Picture courtesy of Documenting Yes

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