Health services in Scotland are losers in the first SNP government's budget, seeing a real terms increase of just 1.4 per cent next year, a leading economist has warned.
Within that total, NHS boards will receive just a 0.5 per cent uplift while some areas of primary care, such as general medical and general dental services, see a real terms cut.
The SNP government announced last week that spending on health and well-being would rise to£11.2bn in the next financial year, equivalent to£2,200 per head.
The figures are presented in a new way which makes it difficult to compare the budget with previous years or with the settlement in England. Actual spending on health appears to be rising from£10.215bn in 2006-07 to£10.65bn in 2007-08 and£11.52bn in 2009-10.
This amounts to a 3.9 per cent rise, or 1.4 per cent after inflation, compared with 6.7 per cent rise in England's health budget (3.9 per cent after inflation). It is also less than the total Scottish budget uplift of 1.5 per cent in real terms.
Glasgow University professor of applied economics Richard Harris said it was bad news for Scotland.
'The bottom line is that in England and Wales there will be a real increase in health spending over the next three years, but this isn't the case in Scotland,' he said.
'It's difficult to make comparisons because of the way the figures in the Scottish budget are laid out, but we can say that while NHS Scotland benefits in real terms by 0.5 per cent, dental services, general medical services and pharmaceutical services all decline by 2.6 per cent - spending has effectively been flatlined.'
Professor Harris speculated that health had suffered because the SNP had used much of its settlement from the Treasury to fund a freeze in council tax. Local government sees an overall real terms increase of 1.6 per cent, compared with health's 1.4, according to Professor Harris.
Public services, including health, will also be hit by efficiency targets rising from 1.5 to 2 per cent.
Cabinet secretary for health and well-being Nicola Sturgeon outlined spending plans for the next three years, including£97m to phase out prescription charges and£270m to cut waits. She said: 'Today's spending plans underline and underpin our commitment to improve Scotland's health, tackle health inequalities and deliver a first-class, patient-focused NHS.'
But Unison Scottish secretary Matt Smith warned: 'This is a very tight budget for the key public services and seems to be predicated on a pay cut for public sector staff.
'Even in health an increase of around 4 per cent does not match inflation in a service where inflation traditionally runs ahead of the retail price index.'
Key plans for the three years are:£270m to cut waits to 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment for routine conditions;£97m to phase out prescription charges;£30m to ensure more flexible access to primary care;£350m on health improvement and public health, including£85m to cut harm caused by alcohol.