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Swinney: It is regrettable Scots have turned to private care for chemotherapy

Scottish Labour data estimates more than 1,000 rounds of cancer treatment were paid for privately last year.

Doctors and nurses working in a hospital ward

John Swinney has said it is regrettable that Scots are turning to private healthcare after Scottish Labour estimated £83 million was spent on treatment last year.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday that his party had obtained figures showing more than 1,000 rounds of chemotherapy were paid for privately in the last year.

The overall figure of £83 million also covered hip, knee and cataracts procedures in the last year.

Mr Sarwar said the figure is “horrifying”, and he highlighted the number of people using private healthcare had increased 86% since 2019.

Anas Sarwar delivering a speech in front of Labour signage
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said patients are ‘literally paying the price’ for being sick or injured (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He said: “The SNP’s mismanagement of the NHS is so bad that those who are in pain, who are sick, who are injured, are being forced to literally pay the price.

“But perhaps most horrifyingly of all, there are people who are being forced to go private and pay for their cancer treatment in Scotland. This is the reality under this SNP Government.”

Mr Swinney said the figures are a source of “regret”, but he took aim at Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting after he made reference to using capacity in the private health sector to ease waiting times in the NHS.

The First Minister said: “I regret the fact that people feel the need to take recourse to private treatment.

“But I have to say to Anas Sarwar that I think he is on very, very thin ground in challenging me on the question of private involvement in the National Health Service.

John Swinney looking off-camera, in front of a Saltire flag
John Swinney said he ‘regrets’ that some Scots have felt forced to pay for health care privately (PA)

“Let me just remind him of the comments of Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who said that a UK Labour government would – and I quote – ‘hold the door wide open for the private sector’ in the NHS.

“He said also ‘we will go further than New Labour ever did. I want the NHS to form partnerships with the private sector that goes beyond just hospitals’.

“What we have here is a classic example of what Anas Sarwar gets up to in public debate. He comes here in Scotland and says one thing and in England his bosses are doing a completely different thing.

“I don’t want anybody to have to pay for cancer treatment in Scotland, but I have to face up to the reality of the challenges facing our National Health Service.”

He said the privatisation rate for treatment is 13% higher in Labour-run Wales.

Mr Sarwar said the response from Mr Swinney was “embarrassing”, and he quoted from the UK Labour Party’s manifesto which states the NHS will “always be publicly owned and funded”.

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