Health boards are being asked to clamp down on their use of the private sector for treating NHS patients.
Health Secretary Alex Neil has issued new guidance to all health boards making it clear that the vast majority of patients should be treated within NHSScotland.
Health boards have been asked to submit plans their use of the independent health sector, and all significant private sector spend in future years will need to be agreed by the Scottish Government.
Recent figures show that NHS spending in Scotland in 2012/13 for independent healthcare in order to meet waiting list targets was around £28 million, which is 0.8 per cent of the overall budget
Current projections show that this is anticipated to fall to around £25 million in 2013/14, but Mr Neil is keen for this figure to reduce further.
The funding in Scotland is already lower than the percentage of public sector spending on private healthcare in England, which was 9.5 per cent in 2011/12.
Mr Neil said:
“I have been very clear with all NHS health boards that I expect them to take every action possible to ensure that the private sector is only used in exceptional circumstances.
“I recognise that there are times where it is not possible for the patient to be treated by the NHS within a reasonable timescale, but these arrangements should only be used in the margins and should not be the norm.
“That is why I have asked health boards to clearly set out in their plans for future years how they plan to use the private sector, and report back to me on how they will reduce their spending in this area.
“However, it is important to set this out in context – fewer than 0.5 per cent of NHS patients had their treatment undertaken in the private sector.
“In Scotland, our use of the private sector is already far lower than that in England, and I am determined to drive this down further.
“This should be seen in stark contrast to the competition, privatisation and complicated reforms being introduced in England that I believe threatens the very foundations on which the NHS is built.
“It is welcome that in this year alone that Scottish health boards are investing £67 million in increasing capacity.
“We are continuing to protect funding for our NHS, and invest in providing frontline care. Health resources in Scotland are at record high of £11.8 billion and by 2015/16, there will have been an increase in resource spending of £2.1 billion since 2007.”