Tayside health bosses warn SNP against cutting spending for improving nation’s health

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Health Secretary Shona Robison

NHS chiefs in Tayside have spoken out against the government’s plan to slash spending on improving the nation’s health.

The board was backed up by senior doctors, pharmacists and leisure providers, who accused ministers of not taking the prevention of health problems seriously enough.

The Scottish Government said the total health budget has gone up to a record £13.1bn and there is a “continued focus” on early intervention.

Derek Mackay’s spending plan for 2018/19 sets aside £63m for health improvement and protection, which is down from £103m in 2016/17.

Health bosses at Tayside said the reduction undermines the Scottish Government’s efforts to meet a key national health and wellbeing target, which states that people are “able to look after and improve their own health and wellbeing and live in good health for longer”.

In a submission to a Holyrood committee, the NHS Tayside’s directorate of public health, said there is a cut even when cash for alcohol and drug support is included.

“We think reducing the spend on health improvement is counterproductive in achieving the national indicators,” the statement said.

The intervention from NHS Tayside, which sits in Health Secretary Shona Robison’s constituency, was endorsed by some national bodies in their assessment of the draft Budget, which will be voted on by MSPs next month.

The Royal College of Physicians said the budget does not “devote sufficient attention of resource” to helping people become healthier and that the poorest in society bear the brunt of that failure.

Sporta, which represents bodies supplying publicly-run leisure services, called for ministers to match their talk with action.

“There has been much discussion around the importance of prevention, but this has not translated into practice on any significant scale,” a spokesman said.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Scotland told MSPs: “Treating illness is only one aspect of the NHS and there must be increased funding for public health measures which encourage prevention of disease and investment in health literacy.”

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman, said: “We have to get serious about trying to prevent many health issues from ever arising by investing in measures to improve public health.

“Sadly this is yet another instance of the under resourcing of our health service after a decade of SNP mismanagement.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the budget for day-to-day health spending has increased by £400m to a record high.

“The budget includes a continued focus on early intervention and prevention including an additional £20m in alcohol and drugs treatment and support services.

“This is in addition to our consultation on a new diet and obesity strategy and the measures we are progressing to limit marketing on products high in fat, sugar and salt, which disproportionately contribute to ill health and obesity.”