Salmond defends NHS waiting lists


Alex Salmond defended the NHS waiting list system under attack from the leaders of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, during first minister's questions on 21 February 2013.

Scotland's public sector watchdog published a report which said it was unable to say whether NHS waiting list manipulation had taken place, due to "poor" information.

Audit Scotland investigated after problems came to light in NHS Lothian and in Tayside.

In a small number of cases, it said patients were inappropriately marked as unavailable for treatment, but could not say whether these were deliberate.

The watchdog said the management and scrutiny of the system "had not been good enough".

Mr Salmond said that the current waiting list system was better than the one they had inherited from the previous Labour-Lib Dem coalition government at Holyrood.

He had been asked by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont why Scottish patients had been misled over waiting lists.

Ms Lamont said the Audit Scotland report showed almost one in four people had to wait more than nine weeks for an inpatient appointment, compared to the 3% the Scottish Government had said.

Ms Lamont asked the first minister if the truth was that former Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon far from abolishing waiting lists, had "reinvented them and reinforced them".

Mr Salmond hit back saying the current system was better now than when patients were "dumped on the availability status code ad infinitum" under Labour.

He claimed his rival's attack "wasn't about the health service, it's all about get Nicola Sturgeon from the Labour Party".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asked if Mr Salmond regreted 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," said Mr Rennie.

Mr Salmond said: "The availability status code that was abolished could be described, under a government of course which the Liberal Party were part of, as the health service equivalent of Siberia because you lost all rights in waiting times within the system.

"The whole purpose of the new system that was introduced was that you didn't lose these rights.

"The clock was reset and you still retained these rights in the health service."

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, asked why the Scottish government had committed a "smash and grab" of over £1m on the Food and Standards Agency in the budget, after the horsemeat scandal had broken.

Mr Salmond said every part of the public sector was under pressure as a result of cuts from the UK Coalition government and that the decision to keep the FSA separate from government in Scotland had led to a better situation here than south of the border.

SNP MSP Jim Eadie asked if the first minister backed the call for a six month moratorium on job cuts at BBC Scotland, following industrial action earlier in the week.

The first minister said: "I think that is a positive proposal".

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.