Documents leaked to the BBC and Scottish newspaper The Herald have revealed that the NHS in Scotland could face deficits in funding of over £400m, suggesting ‘sweeping changes’ would have to be made to plug the gap.
Senior GPs warned the cuts would hit general practice hard, but the Scottish government said independence would protect the country's NHS from austerity.
UK GPC negotiator and former chairman of the Scottish GPC Dr Dean Marshall warned that any resultant cuts could ‘lead to a collapse’ of general practice in Scotland.
‘General practice in Scotland is in a similar position to that in England – on the verge of imploding and further cuts will lead to a collapse in my view. Unless the politicians are honest with the public about our major problems we will continue to stagger on until it collapses,’ he said.
Cuts to services
Dr Mary Church, former joint chairwoman of the Scottish GPC, agreed that any ‘efficiency savings’ could only mean further cuts, which would add to the already ‘intolerable workload’ of GPs.
She said: ‘This budget cut can only mean cuts in services, as every department in the NHS is already working at over full capacity. Waiting lists will increase and, if A&Es have to close, the pressure on general practice and the remaining A&Es will be enormous.
‘These budget cuts will make us the fall guys for secondary care, mental health services and every other service available in the community. It will only accelerate the exit from general practice with early retirements and emigration.’
The leaked report, which emerged just days ahead of the referendum, refers to a meeting held by NHS leaders on 6 August. It outlines a lack of sufficient funding to realise plans for the next two financial years.
The papers were reportedly leaked by ‘a senior NHS whistleblower’ who was ‘frustrated’ by claims from the Yes campaign that the biggest threat to NHS funding comes from Westminster cuts. The pressures, the whistleblower alleges, are a result of the Scottish government’s policies.
Independence 'can protect Scottish NHS'
Scottish health secretary Alex Neil told the BBC the papers were ‘part of the regular discussions among NHS leaders to plan for NHS Scotland’s future’.
He added: 'We've protected Scotland's NHS from the Tories' cuts, and with independence we can ensure that it is never again under threat from Westminster's dangerous obsession with austerity.
‘To ensure we can continue to develop the NHS, it's important that NHS boards regularly discuss their future plans to inform budget discussions with Scottish government officials, and to identify how we will continue to deliver quality care and treatment.’