Ministers ‘putting headlines before health’ amid spin doctor costs

More than 20 staff are tasked with handling press and communications relating to the health brief.

Ministers ‘putting headlines before health’ amid NHS spin doctor costs, says Scottish Labour PA Media

Scottish ministers have been accused of putting “headlines before healthcare” as figures showed almost £2m was spent on the portfolio’s “spin doctors” last year.

Figures obtained by Scottish Labour revealed there were 29.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff tasked with handling press or communications support across the health and social care portfolio in the 2023-24 financial year.

The numbers included staff specifically assigned to the National Care Service (NCS) and general marketing strategies.

A total of £1,942,506 was spent in the 2023-24 financial year on the staff, with £1.17m specifically covering new marketing and strategy teams, while £228,260 for the NCS.

The Scottish Government has said effective communication allows people to understand key public services and promote “better health”.

However, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Dame Jackie Baillie said the figure could be used to recruit around 64 nurses.

She said: “The facts are clear for all to see – Scotland’s NHS is in crisis and the SNP Government is putting headlines before healthcare.

“With every major infrastructure project cancelled due to SNP financial incompetence and over 4,000 nursing and midwifery posts unfilled, people will be shocked to know this SNP Government is spending almost £2 million of public money to defend their disastrous stewardship of our NHS.

“This money could be used to pay for scores of frontline nurses – instead it is spent on spin doctors.

“The people of Scotland should not pay the price of SNP spin. Only Scottish Labour has a plan to bring down waiting lists, slash red tape and empower NHS workers.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are investing more than £19.5bn in health and social care services, with NHS staffing levels at a record high – 186,347 staff were employed as of December 2023 and nursing and midwifery numbers are up 17.8% since September 2006 – from 10,100.4 whole-time equivalent (WTE) to 66,883.6 WTE.

“Effective communication to help people understand policies and access public services, or to prompt behaviour change and promote better health, is a key part of government work.

“Communications professionals working on areas related to health and social care perform a variety of roles.

“These include managing campaigns to communicate important public health information, delivering a high-quality response service to meet round-the-clock demands of news organisations, assisting journalists and facilitating interviews that help hold ministers to account.”

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