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Future of the NHS in Scotland

08/07/2008

The NHS across the UK faces a 'battle of ideas' between a future based on one of mutuality rooted in the public service ethos versus one driven by market forces, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said today.

NHSScotland will continue to stay true to its founding principles the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing told the British Medical Association's annual conference in Edinburgh, in this its 60th year.

As part of this, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will legislate to close a 'legal loophole' which some GPs fear could lead to commercialisation of doctors' services 'by the back door'.

She also said that next month the Scottish Government will launch its consultation on the possible contents of a new Patients' Rights Bill, seeking views on issues ranging from equity of access and dignity in healthcare, to the right to a legally binding individual waiting time guarantee appropriate to clinical need.

Ms Sturgeon said the past week, which saw the publication of Lord Darzi's report on the future of healthcare in England, had highlighted the different approaches being pursued by the two countries.

She said:

"I think there is a battle of ideas going on about the future direction of healthcare. A battle between the values of the market, of internal competition and contestability and the values of public service, of cooperation and collaboration.

"We have set out our stall with absolute clarity. NHSScotland is, and always will be, a service that is owned by the people of this country.

"We will continue to ensure that our policies reflect the ethos and the principles upon which the NHS was founded back in 1948.

"I am firmly opposed to the commercialisation of healthcare and to this end, the Scottish Government will legislate to make sure there is no privatisation of GP services by the back door."

Last month, The Scottish Government's Health Inequalities Task Force published Equally Well, its blueprint for achieving generational change in Scottish society by tackling the health inequalities that mean people in Scotland's most deprived communities face greater health challenges.

The report is backed by £15 million of additional funding, on top of the £1.66 billion already spent on tackling inequalities.

Better Health Better Care, the Scottish Government's new national strategy for health and wellbeing in Scotland, sets out the ways in which health and healthcare can contribute to a more successful country with opportunities for all to flourish through sustainable economic growth.

The Scottish Government is committed to achieving its 18 week waiting time target from referral to treatment by 2011.