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50 per cent surge in Scottish patients being sent to rest of UK for specialist treatment

SNP ministers are under pressure over their “mismanagement” of Scotland’s NHS after it emerged the number of patients being sent to other parts of the UK for specialist treatment has increased by almost 50 per cent.

The Liberal Democrats urged Shona Robison, the Health Minister, to explain why the number of Scots referred for treatment to England, Wales or Northern Ireland increased from 427 in 2013/14 to 625 in 2016/17.

Over the same period the cost of referring patients to hospitals in other parts of the UK has increased from £11.9 million to £15.2 million. The total bill for the Scottish NHS over the past four years has reached £51.7 million.

The disclosure came amid mounting criticism of the SNP government’s NHS workforce planning, with official figures published earlier this month showing nursing and consultant vacancies at a record high.

The British Medical Association said the 460 unfilled consultant posts were “inevitably having a significant effect”, with nearly half the positions lying empty for more than six months. It also emerged that more than 400 vacancies were cancelled in July, the equivalent of around one in 12.

In a further sign of the increasing pressure on Scotland’s NHS, it also emerged that the number of prescriptions for dementia drugs das almost doubled in seven years.

The Tories disclosed that more than 263,000 drugs were prescribed last year, an increase of 5.4 per cent compared to 2015/16 and almost twice the total of 135,840 in 2010/11.

Shona Robison, the Scottish Health Minister

Credit:
PA

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman, said: “It’s important that patients in Scotland have access to the best possible care. If there is expertise elsewhere in the UK that they can benefit from then it is right that they can do so.

“However, we need to know whether the significant rise in patients being sent outside Scotland is a consequence of SNP ministers’ failures.”

Highlighting the number of consultant vacancies, he said: “It is inevitable that patients will have to travel unnecessarily, within Scotland and further afield, if we don’t have the right balance of specialist staffing in each part of the country.”

The Lib Dems obtained the figures from the NHS National Services Division (NSD), which funds access for Scottish patients to specialist services south of the border that are accessed through a service agreement.

It also manages a pool of funding on behalf of Scottish health boards to pay for individual patient referrals for a “prescribed” list of specialised services which are not included in the agreement.

The figures show NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has spent £10.6 million over the past four years sending 447 patients elsewhere in the UK for specialist care, with the annual total increasing to almost £2.9 million last year.

NHS Lothian has spent more than £9 million sending 412 patients to other parts of the country, with the number of referrals almost doubling from 59 in 2013/14 to 116 in 2016/17.

The cost to NHS Lanarkshire has spiralled from £1 million in 2013/14 to £1.7 million last year, with nearly £6.5 million spent over the four years. Spending by NHS Grampian has nearly doubled from £1.2 million to £2.3 million over the same period.

The number of elderly Scots prescribed drugs for dementia has increased rapidly

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PA

However, the Tory figures showed spending on dementia drugs fell despite the increased number of prescriptions. Last year, the average cost per item decreased to £14.38, compared to £21.57 two years ago.

It is estimated there will be nearly 20,000 newly diagnosed cases of dementia a year by 2020 and Annie Wells, the party’s public health spokesman, said it would be “foolish” to ignore the consequences for the NHS of people living longer.

She said: “The Scottish Government will have seen this coming down the track for many years now, so there’s no excuse for it not to be ready.”

The Scottish Government said NHS staffing and funding were at record levels and spending on this “very specialist care” represents only “a tiny proportion” of the total number of procedures carried out.

A spokesman said: “As complexity of healthcare increases and costs rise, it is right that very specialised care for procedures such as lung transplants is occasionally provided at specialist centres outwith Scotland to allow expertise to be concentrated and patients and families to be treated in quality settings.”

Maureen Watt, the Public Health Minister, said the Tory figures demonstrated “a rather disappointing ignorance of the fantastic efforts of health and care staff in Scotland to diagnose and support people living with dementia.”

Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/12/30/50-per-cent-surge-scottish-patients-sent-rest-uk-specialist/

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