The Scottish Labour party has been accused of hypocrisy and of attempting to spread fear over the future of local health services after its health spokesperson Jenny Marra claimed wards and hospitals across Scotland faced closure.
Ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate on the NHS, the SNP has today said that attempts by Labour to claim hospital services were under threat were nothing more than “hypocrisy”.
The nationalists pointed out that when last in power, Labour planned a number of service closures that were subsequently halted by the SNP government.
In a statement issued today, Labour MSP Jenny Marra expressed "deep concern" at "reported plans for the potential closures of wards and hospitals in various communities across Scotland".
Services identified by Scottish Labour as being under threat include the Royal Alexandra Hospital children’s ward, the emergency care services at the Vale of Leven Hospital, Lightburn Hospital in Glasgow and the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.
Ms Marra said:
"The NHS is our most-valued public service and people deserve straight answers about what will happen to the local NHS services they rely on now, not after May.
"Only a third of NHS staff believe that there are enough of them to do their jobs properly under the SNP government and we see each week the huge strain our hospitals are under.
"The SNP have an opportunity today to be straight with the people of Scotland - will local health services that communities rely on be protected or do they face the axe?"
The SNP hit back, pointing out that since the party took office in 2007, Labour plans to close A&E services at Monklands Hospital and Ayr Hospital have been halted; emergency services at the Vale of Leven Hospital and St John’s Hospital have been protected; and health board proposals to close Lightburn Hospital in Glasgow have been rejected.
Responding to Scottish Labour claims, SNP MSP Bob Doris said:
“Labour’s latest attempts to spread fear over the future of local health services are nothing more than hypocrisy – in reality it was the SNP that saved services earmarked for closure by the previous Labour government.
“Since 2011, the SNP has protected the budget for NHS frontline services in real terms – and the health budget will reach a record £13 billion this year.
“Meanwhile, the number of staff working in the NHS has reached an all-time high, with a nine per cent increase in the workforce under the SNP – an increase of more than 11,000 in total and an increase of 2,500 nursing and midwifery staff.
“We know that our health service faces many pressures – it is treating more patients, with more complex illnesses, than ever before. That’s why we are determined to make our NHS healthier still.”
Yesterday new figures revealed more staff than ever before are working in Scotland’s NHS. As of 31 December 2015, 138,310 whole-time equivalent (WTE) staff were employed by NHS Scotland – a record high and an increase under the current government of over 11,248 WTE or 8.9 per cent. This includes over 2,500 more WTE nursing and midwifery staff.