Shona Robison Predicts Further NHS Cuts

Health Secretary Shona Robison has said a further move away from providing NHS care in hospitals is necessary, as she was pressed on possible cuts to services.

The under-fire Health Secretary told MSPs that to “stand against any change anywhere in acute services is simply not credible”.

She was making a statement to Holyrood prompted by public service watchdogs at Audit Scotland warning that health boards will need to make ‘’unprecedented savings’’ this year, and that some risk being unable to balance their budgets.

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar claimed she had been “dragged kicking and screaming to this chamber a week after the worst state of the NHS report since devolution”, as he accused the SNP of “letting down the staff and patients in our NHS”.

Mr Sarwar said the minister had “no recognition of the crisis in the NHS, no acceptance of her Government’s role in the failures, no plans to reverse the damaging cuts to front-line services”.

In September, MSPs backed a Labour motion urging Ms Robison to ‘’call-in’’ health board proposals for changes to hospital services.

Labour claims maternity services at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria and Inverclyde Hospital in Greenock, paediatric services at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley and trauma orthopaedics at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie are all at risk.

It has also raised concerns over the future of inpatient services at the Centre for Integrated Care in Glasgow, cleft palate services at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, and the closure of Glasgow’s Lightburn Hospital.

Mr Sarwar said: “It is disappointing the Health Secretary has chosen not to accept the will of Parliament, because she says nothing new, there is no comfort for those communities facing the loss of vital local services. What we have is a minister who is clearly out of her depth.”

Ms Robison hit back, accusing Mr Sarwar of having “nothing to say other than just personal abuse”.

She told MSPs: “I think that’s a thin fig leaf for having nothing to say about the NHS. We do have the right strategies in place, Audit Scotland says that we do, the opposition, Anas Sarwar, has no plans, no alternative vision for the NHS. We have the visions, we have the strategies, Audit Scotland says they are the right ones. In terms of the will of Parliament, I have come here today and I have laid out the decisions I will make on those service change proposals that are coming to me.”

Robison suggested that her plans for the NHS were the most credible among the Scottish political establishment.

“To stand against any change anywhere in acute services is simply not credible. Where change is advocated, we must ensure that the local boards work with all stakeholders to explore any issues and benefits, and I want to reiterate that any major change proposals must be subject to formal public consultation and ministerial approval.”

Robison further confirmed she will make a decision on cleft palate services by the end of the year, while changes in NHS Lanarkshire will be considered by the health board at the end of this month.


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