Lamont Calls For NHS Expert Review

Labour leader Johann Lamont has called on Holyrood's parties to support a major expert review of the health service.

Ms Lamont wants the Scottish Parliament to task an expert group, supported by the political parties, to lead a public consultation into the NHS and recommend changes.

The group will look at a wide range of matters including staffing, resources, targets and capacity, Ms Lamont said.

All political parties would be bound by its findings and recommendations, she said.

Her call for an expert group comes after the NHS became one of the key issues in the independence referendum debate.

The SNP argued that the NHS was under threat if Scotland voted No due to privatisation south of the border while the unionist parties highlighted missed waiting-time targets and staff shortages in hospitals.

During a speech in Edinburgh tomorrow, Ms Lamont is expected to say: "All of the parties agreed during the referendum campaign that the NHS needs to be protected from privatisation but the real threat comes from rising costs and demographic change.

"For too long, party politics has got in the way of taking long-term decisions over our NHS.

"Time after time, vested interests have been put above patients. We know Scottish patients have suffered as a consequence of staff shortages, missed targets and lack of capacity.

"The only way we can move beyond this impasse is to take this issue out of the hands of politicians and put it in the care of the experts, who can work with the public to fix our NHS.''

Ms Lamont will add: "In order that this becomes more than a talking shop, all political parties should sign up to this process and be bound by the results.

"We cannot go back to business as usual. It is clear from the referendum that people see the NHS as our most precious resource and want politicians to work together to protect our health service.

"My offer to Nicola Sturgeon and the other leaders is a way to fix our NHS by putting party politics aside and working together in the best interests of the people of Scotland.

"I fear that if we do not take this opportunity our NHS will continue to decline and patients will pay the price.''

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "Given the enormous challenges facing the NHS - including an ageing population and obesity, with all the pressures they bring - we've said for some time that all political parties should work together on the NHS and fight the partisan political fight on other issues.

"This has been broadly agreed in the past, but the referendum showed how fragile any trust can prove to be with the unseemly and false arguments on NHS privatisation.

"That drove a coach and horses through any progress that had been made previously.

"But politicians are finally accountable for the NHS and have to finance it.

"What Labour are proposing carries with it the risk of unaffordable recommendations materialising, however well intentioned.

"However, we agree with the spirit of working together on the NHS, and I'm glad Labour have come to the same conclusion as we did some time ago.''

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