Record number of Scots going private for medical care amid 'NHS crisis'

Scottish Labour hit out at the figures, which show a record 21,000 people opted to pay for medical treatment themselves in 2023.

Scottish Labour hit out as figures show record number of Scots going private for medical care amid ‘NHS crisis’ Getty Images

A record number of Scots are going private for medical care – with Labour warning the figures highlight the “crisis in Scotland’s NHS”.

Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie hit out after new figures showed there were 46,000 private medical admissions in Scotland in 2023 – up by 11% from the previous year.

While 25,000 of these were funded via insurance, a record 21,000 people opted to pay for their medical treatment themselves.

Data provided by the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) showed these self-pay admissions were up by 8% on 22% and were at “the highest level ever”.

It comes as separate figures showed that of the 23,482 NHS operations planned for April, a total of 1,943 (8.3%) were cancelled either the day before the patient was due to be treated or on the day of the surgery itself.

That was a slight improvement on April 2023, when 8.7% of surgeries were cancelled either on the day or the day before.

The Scottish Government stressed that “despite continuing pressures on the system, there were 718 operations carried out on average per day, compared to 604 in April last year”.

A spokesperson added that “in the year ending April 2024, there was a 9.1% increase in the number of performed operations compared to the previous year.”

April 2024 also saw an average of 1,914 hospital beds occupied every day by patients who were medically well enough to leave but who were waiting on care arrangements being made.

The number of beds being used by people whose discharge had been delayed was higher than in the previous three months, Public Health Scotland said.

People whose discharge had been delayed spent a total of 57,433 days in hospital in April 2024, with this up from by 12% on the total number of delayed days recorded for the same month in 2023.

Baillie said: “These statistics lay bare the extent of the crisis in Scotland’s NHS.

“The SNP bear responsibility for this crisis – they should be apologising to the people of Scotland for the damage they have done through their incompetence and mismanagement.

“Behind every statistic, there are ordinary people whose lives are being ruined by long waits and debilitating pain. Many see no other option but to pay for private treatment.

“With record numbers of Scots forced to go private to access treatment, it is clearer than ever that our NHS is not safe in the SNP’s hands.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane was also critical of the Scottish Government, claiming it was “completely unacceptable that nearly 2,000 patients were languishing in hospital beds in April, despite being well enough to go home”.

The Tory MSP, who is also a GP, said: “This has a domino effect for patients and staff in other areas of our already struggling health service, including planned operations being cancelled and even longer delays at A&E.”

He added there were now “nearly 460,000 fewer operations taking place compared with the pre-pandemic period” – saying this was “leaving far too many patients languishing in pain”.

Dr Gulhane said: “The buck stops with successive SNP health secretaries who have failed to tackle this crisis and left our NHS in permanent crisis mode.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work with health and social care partnerships to reduce delays in people leaving hospital.

“The health and social care system continues to face pressure due to a number of factors, including availability of workforce, and suitable care placements.

“We are also reviewing the Delayed Discharge and Hospital Occupancy Action Plan to create the necessary capacity to deal with emerging pressures and continue to work with partners across local authority areas to enable people to receive the right care in the right place.”

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