Swinney apologises to patients as NHS waiting list grows

Figures this week showed the number of people waiting for tests or treatment is more than 840,000.

John Swinney apologises to patients as NHS waiting list grows PA Media

Scotland’s First Minister has apologised to patients on NHS waiting lists after news the number has risen to more than 840,000.

Statistics from Public Health Scotland this week showed the number of people waiting for treatment or tests has increased, with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar accusing the First Minister of caring more about defending former health secretary Michael Matheson than cutting waiting times.

Mr Matheson has been suspended from Holyrood over a near-£11,000 data roaming bill he racked up on a parliamentary iPad during a family holiday, but Mr Swinney has accused the standards committee which recommended the 27-day ban of being prejudiced.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Mr Sarwar said: “Rather than protecting Scots, John Swinney chose to put his party before the country.

“While John Swinney spent all of his time this week managing his party and defending sleaze, waiting lists in Scotland reached a record high.

“Now over 840,000 Scots are stuck on an NHS waiting list – more than one in 10 have been waiting more than a year.

“Why is John Swinney putting the SNP first, not Scotland?”

Responding, the First Minister said he is the “first to acknowledge we face challenges in the National Health Service” following the pandemic.

“I’m sorry for the amount of time people are having to wait for treatment,” he said.

“We are reducing the longest waits, we’re making headway on that.”

The figures showed an increase in activity in the NHS in an attempt to clear the backlog.

The First Minister went on to say waits are “far too long for too many people”.

But Mr Sarwar said the First Minister has to “get his head out of the sand”.

“Every day John Swinney spends putting the SNP before Scotland has consequences for our NHS,” he said.

The Labour leader raised the case of Natalie, a woman from Glasgow who had emergency surgery for a brain tumour in 2019, before another on her optical nerve was found.

In December, she was told she would have to have a section of her skull removed as part of the required procedure.

“She has heard nothing since,” Mr Sarwar said. “A brain tumour, and she’s heard nothing for almost six months.”

Natalie told Mr Sarwar she was “in the dark” and felt “completely alone”.

The Labour leader asked “Does the First Minister understand that patients like Natalie should be his priority, not defending a failed health secretary who attempted to misuse public money?”

The First Minister apologised to Natalie, claiming patients like her “are my focus”.

He added he is focusing on the “real and legitimate concerns” of the people of Scotland.

Mr Sarwar said the NHS needs change, and Labour will “begin the process” of doing so after the General Election.

He added: “But that also needs change in Scotland, because the priorities of this SNP Government are all wrong.

“Why is John Swinney more interested in defending Michael Matheson than defending our NHS? Why is John Swinney putting his party before the country, and why is John Swinney failing NHS staff and NHS patients every single day?”

Responding, the First Minister said his “primary concern” is to ensure Scots receive healthcare as soon as possible.

“But I have to say, some of the rest of what Mr Sarwar went on to is just a little bit hollow,” Mr Swinney added.

He went on to quote Labour’s shadow health secretary at Westminster, Wes Streeting, who said underfunding from the UK Government is at the core of issues in the health services of the devolved administrations.

Mr Swinney added that Labour has said it will not raise taxes and will adhere to “strict borrowing limits”, accusing the party of proposing “austerity on stilts”.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in