An increase in patients paying for private operations alongside growing NHS waiting lists shows the healthcare system is becoming “two-tier”, Scottish Labour have said.
Compared to before the pandemic, waiting lists were almost 40% higher during the three months to September 30.
Labour highlighted research from the Private Healthcare Information Network, which said a total of 3400 patients paid for private procedures between April and June 2021, compared to only 2300 over the same period in 2019.
The party accused the SNP of allowing a system to develop where only those with the means to pay could receive speedy care.
Health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said: “The evidence is clear – the SNP’s catastrophic failure to re-mobilise the NHS is creating a two-tier health system in Scotland and leaving thousands living in pain.
“Despite warning after warning, the SNP has failed to act to get this situation under control.
“Our NHS is overheating, staff are at breaking point and A&E services are in disarray.
“If Humza Yousaf is not prepared to act now to support staff and patients then we will face a ticking timebomb of cancelled operations and spiralling waiting lists.”
Amid the Omicron wave of coronavirus, A&E waiting time performance fell to the lowest level on record at the start of January, though it has improved in later weeks.
A spokesman for health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Labour’s claims have no basis whatsoever.
“The SNP-led Scottish Government is absolutely committed to keeping our Scotland’s NHS true to its founding principles – publicly-owned, publicly-operated, and free at the point of need for everyone.
“As is the case across the four UK nations, hospitals in the independent sector have been contracted to provide additional capacity for NHS priority patients throughout the pandemic.”
He continued: “Sadly for Labour this attack has backfired, as on these same figures, in Labour-run Wales the number of people who self-funded for private healthcare is actually over 25% higher than it is here in Scotland, per head of population.
“And the rate for the UK as a whole is actually well over 50% higher than it is in Scotland, per head.”