I share your concerns about the move by some NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England to establish wholly owned subsidiary companies to run a range of services. I therefore support the efforts of the Opposition in Westminster in calling on the UK Government to block the creation of wholly owned subsidiary companies and undertake a full review of the guidance on the relevant tax requirements of NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England.
As you may be aware, health is a devolved matter and issues relating to wholly owned subsidiary companies and foundation trusts do not apply to the NHS in Scotland.
Nevertheless, I am concerned that Scotland’s NHS is at breaking point. We have an NHS workforce that is overworked, under pressure, under-resourced and underpaid. There are too few nurses, GP practices are closing, consultant vacancies are unfilled, cancer patients are being failed, services are being cut and patient care is being put at risk
A report from Audit Scotland last year found that NHS Scotland faces a staffing crisis unless workforce planning is dramatically improved. In addition, the cost of bringing in agency staff has skyrocketed, with a 107% increase from 2011-12 and 2016-17. I know that patients in Scotland are forced to travel long distances to be treated privately rather than being seen by their local NHS.
That is why I support the NHS Workforce Commission established by my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament to find solutions to the chronic shortage of NHS and social care staff across the sector. The Commission aims to develop a clear and ambitious workforce plan to help build staff morale and deliver a Scottish NHS and social care system fit for the 21st century.
I want a healthier Scotland and an NHS free of privatisation. At last year’s general election, I stood on a manifesto which looked to invest in our NHS to give patients the modern, well-resourced services they need for the 21st century.
I also believe that the powers of the Scottish Parliament should be used to halt the cuts to local budgets which are impacting so heavily on our health and care services. Only then can we care for the NHS, so that it can do its job of caring for the country.
I assure you I will continue to work with colleagues – in both the UK and Scottish Parliaments – to reverse privatisation in our NHS.