A bill to introduce directly elected health boards is part of the Scottish government’s first legislative programme, which was announced last week.

The proposed Local Healthcare Bill will be based on public consultation, due to begin this autumn. The move is intended to improve public engagement with health services.

First minister Alex Salmond also announced a bill to update public health laws and said he wanted to press ahead with measures which would not require legislation, including scrapping prescription charges for long-term conditions.

The BMA in Scotland cautioned against directly elected health boards, saying they would not improve engagement. Scottish secretary Martin Woodrow said: ‘Instead of wasting valuable NHS resources on these elections, more should be done to strengthen existing public involvement structures.’

The programme also includes improvements to the Emergency Workers Act, to provide enhanced legal protection for more NHS workers and a new alcohol strategy, including a crackdown on cheap drink promotions.

Principles and Priorities: The Government’s Programme for Scotland can be found via www.scotland.gov.uk