Scottish Parliament to Debate Future of Healthcare

The Scottish Parliament is to debate plans for healthcare in the coming term - including a call for the NHS to be "protected" from an EU-US trade deal.

Health Secretary Shona Robison will lead a Holyrood debate on "delivering a healthier Scotland".

Her motion says deals like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership should include "explicit protection" for public services.

Opposition parties will also have a chance to outline health policies.

Downing Street has already said it will accept a move to exclude the NHS from TTIP, having faced a revolt over it prior to the Queen's Speech.

Ms Robison's motion lauds the NHS as "the country's most cherished public service", and notes that it "must remain free at the point of need and be publicly owned, funded and operated".

It also backs the SNP's election pledge to increase NHS budgets by £500m more than the rate of inflation by the end of the term, and to develop a 10-year plan for mental health care.

There is criticism of the UK government's reforms to the welfare system, which Ms Robison said were "exacerbating inequalities and putting more pressure on the NHS".

And there is a warning that it would be "totally unacceptable if the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or any other trade agreement were to go ahead without explicit protection for the NHS and public services on the face of the agreement", calling on the UK government to demand this be part of the deal.

NHS targets

Opposition MSPs will have the chance to respond to Ms Robison's motion and lay out their own party plans for health in the coming term.

The Scottish Conservatives, who support "gradually reintroducing prescription charges" to raise extra funds for the NHS, will use their time to call for a review of target-setting in the health body.

An amendment lodged by MSP Donald Cameron says the government should assess whether targets "are having a positive effect on patient care", asking for patients to be "put at the centre of a flexible decision-making progress across health and care services".

Mr Cameron also underlined the UK government's previous pledge to include protection for the NHS in the TTIP deal.

Labour meanwhile plan to use the debate to push for a cut in cancer treatment waiting times.

Anas Sarwar has put forward an amendment saying the 62-day waiting time standard has not been achieved in three years, calling on the government to "prioritise achieving" this goal.

He also said that if a GP suspects a patient has cancer, "they should be entitled to see a specialist and get results within a fortnight".

Labour has previously campaigned saying that TTIP "should not be allowed anywhere near" the NHS, fearing the trade deal "may encourage more commercial operators" in the health service.

'Serious threat'

Alison Johnstone, of the Greens, put forward an amendment for the debate calling for "an end to funding cuts of wider public services under the Scottish government's control" in a bid to reduce pressure on the NHS.

Ms Johnstone also said parliament should note that TTIP and similar deals "pose a serious threat to the NHS and other public services", and urge the UK government to oppose them.

Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Lib Dems said it should be noted that "funding for the NHS in Scotland has slipped", asking for it to "stay ahead of inflation and keep pace with that in the rest of the UK".

After his party campaigned strongly on better mental health care during the election, Mr Cole-Hamilton also called for a "step change" in the sector, including a doubling of funding for services for children and adolescents.

Source: BBC News

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