Scottish Labour were today challenged over their position on private provision in Scotland's NHS after the Scottish Labour Party's Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar and 31 of his Scottish Labour colleagues including Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran voted at Westminster in favour of "an important role for the private sector in supporting delivery of NHS care."
SNP MSP and Deputy Convener of the Health Committee Bob Doris today called on Labour to clarify if this was now Labour policy in Scotland.
In his letter to Mr Doris writes: "As Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour it is surely the case that your votes and your actions represent the position of the Scottish Labour party on reserved and devolved areas. As the NHS is devolved in Scotland - a position which has ensured the Scottish Government can maintain the NHS as a public service in public hands - can you clarify if Scottish Labour would support an "important role for the private sector" in Scotland's NHS."
Mr Doris said: "Scottish Labour's MPs including the party's deputy leader Anas Sarwar and shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran voted in favour of using the private sector throughout the NHS.
"Given that 32 Scottish Labour MPs voted in favour of privatisation is this now the policy of Scottish Labour?
"With Labour joining the Lib Dems and the Tories to support the private sector as part of the NHS it is only the SNP that will ensure Scotland's NHS remains the our NHS.
"One of the advantages of decisions about Scotland's NHS being taken in Scotland is that the Scottish Parliament has been able to protect the NHS from the worst of New Labour and Tory/Lib Dem privatisation at the same time as meeting ambitious targets for treatment, waiting times and hospital cleanliness.
"Does this Labour policy apply to Scotland? Or were Scottish Labour MPs, under their new Scottish Labour leader saying one thing in London and hoping no one in Scotland would notice."
The following 32 Scottish Labour MPs voted on Monday 16th January 2012
Sarwar, Anas - Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour
Curran, Margaret - Shadow Scottish Secretary
Alexander, rh Mr Douglas
Bain, Mr William
Begg, Dame Anne
Brown, Mr Russell
Clarke, rh Mr Tom
Donohoe, Mr Brian H.
Doran, Mr Frank
Harris, Mr Tom
McKenzie, Mr Iain
Murphy, rh Mr Jim
Roy, Mr Frank
Teller – David Hamilton
ROLE OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR IN THE NHS
That this House believes there is an important role for the private sector in supporting the delivery of NHS care; welcomes the contribution made by private providers to the delivery of the historic 18-week maximum wait for NHS patients; recognises a need, however, for agreed limits on private sector involvement in the NHS; notes with concern the Government's plans to open up the NHS as a regulated market, increasing private sector involvement in both commissioning and provision of NHS services; urges the Government to revisit its plans, learning from the recent problems with PIP implants and the private cosmetic surgery industry; believes its plan for a 49 per cent. private income cap for Foundation Trusts, in the context of the hospitals as autonomous business units and a 'no bail-outs' culture, signals a fundamental departure from established practice in NHS hospitals; fears that the Government's plans will lead to longer waiting times, will increase health inequalities and risk putting profits before patients; is concerned that this House has not been given an opportunity to consider such a significant policy change; and calls on the Government to revise significantly downwards its proposed cap on the level of private income that can be generated by NHS hospitals.