Humza Yousaf has been accused of inaction on NHS waiting lists as figures reveal more than 1,700 chemotherapy treatments were paid for privately in Scotland.
Figures published by the Private Health Information Network (Phin) showed 42,890 private episodes – the time patients spent under the care of a private consultant – were recorded in Scotland in 2022/23, an 8% increase on the previous year.
It showed 7,805 cataract surgeries, 4,739 hip and knee replacements, 2,055 endoscopies and 1,745 chemotherapy treatments were among the procedures paid for by Scots.
It comes as 17,201 people continue to wait more than 18 months on an NHS waiting list.
The average prices for knee and hip replacements, according to Nuffield Health’s Glasgow hospital, is around £15,000, while endoscopies were £2,026 and the excision of a malignant legion in the trunk or limbs, costing £1,934.
However speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Yousaf said Scotland’s rate of private treatment was lower than England and Wales, which have a 16% and 51% higher rate respectively according to Phin’s statistics for the first quarter of 2023.
But he said: “Of course, that will be cold comfort for people who have to dig deep into their own pockets to pay for healthcare. But I would say is its not unique here to Scotland. So what we’ll do is continue to see that recovery, continue to reduce waiting lists.”
He added: “We know, of course, the impact the pandemic has had on our health services and indeed on those waiting lists.
“But this is something that is being seen right across the health systems across the globe, let alone the rest of the UK.”
However, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Health care at the point of need – a founding principle of our NHS. How can the SNP have let it get so bad that patients are having to find the cash to pay for lifesaving cancer treatment?”
He added: “Patients in pain and heartbroken families, trying to scrape together the cash, some even being forced to to re-mortgage their homes, to pay for care they should be getting on the NHS.
“First Minister, why are more and more Scots being forced to pay the price for SNP incompetence and failure?”