Issues guide: Health

Holyrood oversees the performance of the NHS in Scotland.

It is also responsible for public health issues such as drink and drug abuse, dentistry, pharmaceutical services and mental health. The Scottish Parliament led the way in the UK with a public smoking ban and also moved to abolish prescription charges.

Some aspects of health policy, such as abortion and embryology, are not devolved.

Here, BBC news online Scotland outlines the health policies of the SNP, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens.

Election issues 2011


Scottish National Party



Liberal Democrats


  • Protect the NHS budget with extra £1bn over four years.
  • £30m to increase number of cancers detected at first stage by 25%, starting with lung, breast and colorectal cancer.
  • Re-introduce legislation on minimum alcohol pricing.
  • Will keep prescriptions free in the coming years.
  • Single, integrated system of health and social care across Scotland.
  • Roll out family nurse partnerships across Scotland, providing support for teenage mothers.
  • Deliver National Care Service for elderly in next parliament.
  • Right to see cancer specialist and get results within two weeks by 2015, halving current waiting time.
  • Protect the NHS budget.
  • Cut NHS boards under plan for "bold efficiency measures".
  • Limit caffeine levels of caffeine in pre-mixed alcoholic drinks as part of new alcohol strategy.
  • No reintroduction of prescription charges in Scotland.
  • Reintroduce prescription charges at the 2009 level - set at £5 for a single item and £48 for a prepayment certificate - putting £37m into the NHS.
  • Protect NHS spending.
  • Pilot walk-in treatment centres in major cities, set up either by the NHS or independent providers.
  • £20m fund to give all parents guaranteed level of health visitor support until their child reaches the age of five.
  • Create a cancer drugs fund, committing £10m of NHS spending to improve access to rare cancer drugs not available to patients in Scotland.
  • Merge health and social care budgets, placing social care under NHS control.
  • Protect free personal care.
  • New target for urgent referral for cancer diagnosis, with every patient to see a specialist within two weeks.
  • Tackle obesity, by setting a new national objective
  • Work towards an NHS dentist for everyone.
  • Reform out-of-hours care as part of a shake-up of NHS services.
  • Ensure "stringent enforcement" of existing alcohol law.
  • An NHS free at the point of use, with no privitisation.
  • Emphasis on primary and community care, provided as locally as possible with support for cottage and community hospitals.
  • Improve hospital food.
  • Fund day-care services for older people at the overlap of health and social care.
  • Back minimum alcohol pricing and a strategic plan to reduce smoking.
  • Improve breastfeeding rates.

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