Scottish waiting list scandal shows Nicola Sturgeon failure as Health Minister
The Scottish waiting list scandal shows Nicola Sturgeon failure as Health Minister.Nicola Sturgeon must be judged a failure as Health Minister after the discovery of the shambles surrounding NHS waiting lists, Labour’s Scottish leader has said.
Johann Lamont told MSPs that Ms Sturgeon failed to “get out” of politics before her legacy in the health service was unearthed by Audit Scotland in a report this week.
She accused the former Health Minister of using “false statistics and public deceptions” to create the impression her increasingly stringent waiting times targets were being met.
The Liberal Democrats said the Scottish government had published 50 press releases boasting about NHS waiting times. Family doctors have claimed that, in reality, patient care was being sacrificed for politically-motivated targets.
But, in angry exchanges, Alex Salmond defended his deputy by arguing that Labour were more interested in attempting to “get Nicola Sturgeon” than improving standards in the NHS.
The row broke out at First Minister’s Question hours after Audit Scotland disclosed that health boards trebled the number of patients classified as unavailable for treatment as they strove to meet Ms Sturgeon’s waiting times targets.
The former Health Minister and NHS managers were criticised for failing to question how waiting lists were being cut or why the number of patients deemed unavailable was increasing so rapidly.
Ms Sturgeon stepped down in the role in September last year to take charge of the independence referendum. Mr Salmond compared her at the time to Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS.
But Ms Lamont told MSPs: “What we have found out from Audit Scotland is that patients come second to propaganda for this government.
“Someone should tell Nicola Sturgeon false statistics and public deceptions don’t cure patients and they don’t win referendums either.”
She concluded: “It has been said that in politics there are two types of health ministers, failures and those who get out in time. Isn’t the truth laid bare today that, despite the spin, Nicola Sturgeon didn’t get out in time?”
However, the report found they could not make a judgment in the vast majority of cases as medics had failed to record why the patient had been classified unavailable.
They noted that the proportion of patients deemed unavailable only began to fall after one health board, NHS Lothian, was caught manipulating waiting lists.
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, asked Mr Salmond if he regretted his Government issuing “50 press releases bragging about his waiting times initiative”.
“He was telling us how good the system was at the same time as thousands were being sent to the waiting times equivalent of Siberia. Has he got anything humble to say to those people?” Mr Rennie asked.
Alex Neil, Ms Sturgeon’s successor as Health Minister, later announced NHS boards will be asked to review their waiting time figures within a year.
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