BMA: Cuts to Scotland’s health budget will be a “seismic shock”

The British Medical Association in Scotland has told finance secretary, John Swinney to stop being naive and admit that cuts will have to be made to the NHS north of the border.

The British Medical Association in Scotland has told finance secretary, John Swinney to stop being naive and admit that cuts will have to be made to the NHS north of the border. In its final report, published last week, Scotland’s Independent Budget Review made clear its view that the NHS should be subject to cuts as much as other public services, concluding there should be “no overriding presumption of protection for any of the major services”.

Whilst calling for a cross party discussion on how Scotland should address the tough spending choices ahead, Swinney rejected the call for the NHS to face cuts just as any other services will, commenting:

“…we will apply any Barnett consequentials arising out of the protection given to the health service by the UK Government to the health service in Scotland.”

Responding, the British Medical Association warned that whilst cuts to the NHS Scotland budget would be a “seismic shock”, the SNP had to properly plan and prepare for the cuts that are to come.

The BMA has admitted:

“If the scale of real-terms reduction in public spending in Scotland is anything like that envisaged by the review, it would be naïve to believe that the healthcare budget, one-third of the Scottish Government expenditure, could remain immune from its impact.”

Adding:

“It is vital that decisive action is taken now to start prioritising the core functions of the NHS to ensure they are protected as far as possible from the effects of the budget cuts and that quality of care and patient safety are maintained.”

The BMA’s stark calls for a more realistic debate over the future financing of the NHS in Scotland are echoed by concerns expressed by the body representing Scottish local government, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), that ring-fencing the NHS would mean local government would be faced with having to make the brunt of the cuts to come, hitting some of the most vulnerable the hardest.

The debate across Scotland mirrors that being continued in Westminster, following shadow health secretary and Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham’s call for the coalition government to drop its plans to ring-fence England’s NHS budget in order to provide greater protection to areas such as social care, under the control of local authorities.

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