Open letter to Scottish party leaders - Commit to fight for our NHS

Pictures of Scottish party leaders

6 May 2024


John Swinney, Scottish National Party leader

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, Scottish Green Party co-leaders

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative Party leader

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour Party leader

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader

Dear Scottish party leaders,

The NHS in Scotland is in crisis. 

And as families, young adults, grandparents and patients from all across Scotland, we are writing to ask that you pledge today that you will fight to protect our NHS. 

Our Scottish NHS is our number one priority at the next general election and we are asking you to make it yours too.

The situation in Scotland's NHS is dire, with Audit Scotland recently warning that the pressure the service is experiencing is having a tangible impact on patient safety. 

As of December 2023:

  • 824,725 Scots were waiting for treatment and checks on NHS Scotland - this number stood at around 776,000 when we wrote to the last Scottish Health minister in November 2022.
  • 17,761 Scots have waited over 18 months for inpatient or day case treatment.
  • Over 7000 people had waited for treatment for more than two years.
  • As of February 2024, 6218 patients waited for over 12 hours in A&E, and the key 4-hour A&E target continues to be missed, with just 67% of patients being seen in under 4 hours.
  • An intolerably large number of patients who may have deadly conditions are being forced to live with the fear of the unknown while waiting for tests or to begin treatment.

The Scottish government is investing more money into the service, but nowhere near what is actually required to build up capacity so that patients can be seen more quickly in the NHS.

In the meantime, private healthcare companies are benefiting from the struggles of our NHS. We know the problem of NHS privatisation is not as endemic in our Scottish NHS as it is in England, but the Scottish government has not done enough to protect our NHS from private influence and those who would profit from ill-health.

In 2019-2020, even before the pandemic, the Scottish Government committed £18 million to buy up all private healthcare capacity in Scotland to be available to the NHS. 

Furthermore, as The Herald revealed in 2021, the NHS National Services Scotland, a Scottish government body, opened the door to NHS privatisation in Scotland through the so-called Dynamic Purchasing Systems, inviting private for-profit companies to supply quotes for 1500 medical procedures normally provided by the NHS in Scotland. 

But this is not just a recent problem. A 2014 Freedom of Information request revealed that the Scottish government paid at least £482 million to private healthcare companies between 2007-8 and 2013-14, even while recognising that the real figures may be significantly higher as much of the spending information for the different NHS Scotland Boards is not collected centrally.

We completely disagree with the former head of the NHS in Scotland, Prof Paul Grey, who said last year that the NHS in Scotland is unsustainable. 

Unlike in England, Scotland’s NHS has not had strikes. Scotland has also done a better job of keeping the Scottish NHS faithful to its founding principles - publicly funded and delivered.

Whereas England repealed the Health Secretary’s legal duty to provide health services, Scotland retained this key duty.

Scotland’s NHS has so much to be proud of.

The NHS across the UK ranks among the most efficient health systems in the world and was ranked number 1 in overall performance by an international panel of experts at the Commonwealth Fund in 2014. What it needs is the right investment and an end to privatisation.

That is why we are asking you today to take We Own It’s Pledge for the NHS

By taking the Pledge for the NHS, you are committing your party to:

  1. Fight for proper funding from the UK government of £3.9 billion more per year for Scotland (£40 billion for the whole of the UK) to catch up with comparable European countries (according to Health Foundation).
  2. End NHS privatisation in Scotland and bring services outsourced to for-profit companies back into the NHS when their contracts end (to end this wasteprotect patients and save lives).

Please write to We Own It at to let them know whether you and your party will sign up to the Pledge for the NHS.

We are grateful for your time and we hope to hear the good news of your support soon.

Kind regards

The undersigned

This open letter has been signed by 1077 people and will be delivered to all Scottish party leaders once a new SNP leader is elected.

Pictures of Scottish party leaders

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David McFall replied on Permalink

By supporting this pledge for the NHS it helps equality for all people especially the less fortunate in our society!

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