£600 million task force to tackle Covid treatment backlog

The Scottish Conservative manifesto will push for a one-off £600 million boost to target support at tackling the NHS treatment log-jam.

Douglas Ross will announce today (Monday) a pledge for a £600 million fund over the next year to tackle the treatment backlog that built up under the SNP and has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

The £600 million will be over and above the party’s manifesto commitment for at least £2 billion extra for Scotland’s NHS by the end of the next Parliament, as part of their plans for a ‘double lock’ to protect health spending.

In a speech launching the party’s manifesto on Monday, Douglas Ross will say that the £600 million fund should be managed independent of government, led entirely by a task force of clinicians with the skills and expertise to ensure those most in need get seen first.

The task force would have the necessary resources to make outpatient appointments and elective surgery available seven days a week.

The party’s manifesto will say that a top priority should be increasing the diagnostic workforce to help tackle the hidden backlog of people yet to be referred because of the pandemic.

Their manifesto will add that “a sustained and targeted campaign should be launched to encourage people who have been putting off visiting their GP to come forward, with a focus on preventing health inequalities worsening.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Our manifesto will have a laser-focus on Scotland’s recovery and what needs to happen to get the country back on track.

“Unlike the SNP, we are not setting out a fantasy wish list. Their manifesto could easily cost in excess of £100 billion in a single year.

“The Scottish Conservatives fully-costed manifesto will focus on what matters most – rebuilding our economy and our NHS after the Covid pandemic.

“Treatment times were already too long under the SNP and Covid has turned a problem into a crisis.

“If we don’t treat this crisis with the importance it deserves and tackle it as quickly as possible, the long-term health repercussions of missed early diagnosis and delayed operations will plague us for decades.

“It may require difficult choices and sacrifices in some other portfolios but we will be advocating for £600 million of targeted support to tackle the treatment log-jam.

“This one-off cash injection, over and above our plans to increase the health budget by at least £2 billion, would give a task force of clinicians the resources they need to get treatment times under control.

“While the SNP spend the next 12 months focussing on how to get another independence referendum, the Scottish Conservatives would fixate on substantially reducing treatment wait times by the end of next year.”

Notes

During the pandemic there were almost 200,000 less operations planned. The latest statistics show that between February 2020 and February 2021 there were 181,420 ‘scheduled elective operations in the theatre system’ (planned operations). This is 183,637 less than the 365,057 scheduled between February 2019 and February 2020. (PHS, Cancelled Operations, Table 1, 6 April 2021, link).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people on the waiting list who have waited over 12 weeks for treatment has more than doubled. The SNP’s flagship 12-week treatment time guarantee states that no one should wait longer than 12 weeks for treatment. However, the latest figures for December 2020 show that 54,327 people on the waiting list had waited over 12 weeks, this is compared to 26,074 people on the list in December 2019. (PHS, Stages of treatment, Excel table 2.2, 9 March 2021, link).

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