NHS 'Smear Campaign' Criticised

The Scottish Government's NHS privatisation "smear campaign'' has been criticised by the Conservatives amid research which shows more than £400 million has been spent on private healthcare providers.

Spending on private healthcare by the NHS in Scotland ``rose sharply'' last year to more than £80 million, the Tories said.

The Scottish Government says the "wholesale privatisation'' of the NHS in England threatens Scottish funding and only a Yes vote in the independence referendum can protect Scotland's NHS.

A total of £83,478,000 was spent in 2012/13, according to figures obtained from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice).

The data is taken from NHS annual accounts and shows the previous year's similar spend was £68,767,000.

It shows "a general trend under the SNP of more spending on private healthcare despite pledges to the contrary'', according to the Tories.

Last year, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spent the most on private care - £15.5 million - followed by NHS Lothian on £14.8 million.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "These figures completely expose the SNP's smear campaign about the future of the NHS in Scotland.

"For all the SNP's tall talk on private healthcare, they have spent more than #400 million on the sector since coming to power.

"The fact is the health service in Scotland is completely devolved and SNP claims that a No vote threatens its existence is nothing but shameless scaremongering.

"We believe there is a place for the independent healthcare sector, where it can act as a valuable resource to relieve pressure on the NHS when staffing and capacity are stretched.

"Perhaps it's time Alex Salmond acknowledged this, instead of misrepresenting the use of private care as part of his disgraceful approach of trying to fool people into voting Yes in September.''

A spokesman for Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "The No campaign's sensitivity on the subject of the NHS speaks volumes.

"The fact is, the moves towards wholesale privatisation of the health service in England threaten the funding available for Scotland's NHS.

"Only a Yes vote in the referendum can fully protect Scotland's NHS from Tory-led Westminster cuts and that is just one reason why so many people are deciding to back an independent Scotland.

"The Health Secretary is looking forward to giving a statement to Parliament next week spelling out the consequences for Scotland's health service if there was a No vote.''

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