A senior advisor the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee has said that patients should pay for NHS services to help out health budgets.
In a report to members of the Scottish Parliament, budget advisor to the finance committee, Professor David Bell, said NHS Scotland could save £300m by adopting a system similar to that in Sweden where patients pay to visit a doctor or stay in a hospital.
In his report, a response to an independent budget review, he said that in Sweden, user charges provide around three per cent of the health budget. He said: “Thus, for example, hotel charges for hospital stays and other charges in Sweden provide what would be the equivalent of £300m to the Scottish health budget.”
Professor Bell also questioned the ring fencing of NHS budgets, saying: “There are few external commentators who believe that there are no significant improvements in efficiency that could be made in NHS Scotland within its existing resources.”
The Scottish government ruled out the plan for NHS Scotland. A spokesman for finance secretary John Swinney said: “We are completely opposed to the idea of charges for NHS services, as we firmly believe Scotland’s health service must remain free for all our citizens at the point of need.”
Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish National Party and former GP, Dr Ian McKee, said: “Not only does this go against the priorities and values of the NHS and the SNP but putting hotel type charges on hospital stays would put the wrong people off from coming to hospital and risks people leaving hospital before they are ready.
“Without the financial and economic powers to manage Scotland’s economy properly we are set to face difficult times but I hope all parties in Scotland will make clear that these proposals are not an answer.”