Tory claims Nicola Sturgeon is 'beeching of the NHS'

11 August 2018, 07:30

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon is turning into the "Beeching of Scotland's NHS", the Conservatives have claimed.

Miles Briggs, the party's health spokesman, accused the First Minister of driving a centralisation and cuts policy.

He said the impact on the health service outside Scotland's cities could mirror the effects of widespread cuts to rail networks, including hundreds of branch lines deemed uneconomic, by railway chief Richard Beeching in the 1960s.

Mr Beeching published his report recommending closing about a third of Britain's rail network in 1963 while the Conservatives were in power.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Orkney, where he will meet NHS workers, Mr Briggs said: "Nicola Sturgeon has become to Scotland's NHS in rural communities what Beeching was to railways.

"The SNP government's shocking record in office speaks for itself.

"It has mismanaged the workforce, finances and all the while has stripped away local services and centralised them elsewhere."

He highlighted the children's ward at St John's Hospital in Livingston, West Lothian, which has been closed to inpatients since last July, leading to dozens of children each month being taken by ambulance to Edinburgh for treatment.

The MSP pointed to an ongoing campaign to retain services at Perth Royal Infirmary as the Scottish Government plans to send patients who arrive at the A&E there in need of operations to Dundee.

He said centralisation is also happening in Fife as out-of-hours GP care at hospitals in Dunfermline, St Andrews and Glenrothes is being provided at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy due to staffing difficulties.

Mr Briggs said: "There are examples of this all over Scotland, from Dumfries and Galloway and the Lothians, to Tayside and the Highlands.

"People in these areas have had enough of the constant SNP health cuts which have caused the loss of much-loved and much-needed services."

He called for a new approach to "rural-proof" health services.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Across Scotland overall health service staffing and investment are at record high levels.

"We are putting record investment into our health service and legislating to ensure we have the right staff with the right skills in the right place.

"By the end of this Parliament we will invest an additional £500 million per year in Primary Care, and aim to increase the number of GPs by at least 800 over ten years.

"We have also negotiated a new GP contract to stabilise income, reduce workload, and improve patient care.

"This is backed by over £100 million investment this year and ensures GPs can spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy."