The Scottish Labour Party has attacked the Scottish National Party for “allowing” standards of healthcare to fall behind those in England.

The party claimed it has identified five examples, including healthcare associated infections and waiting times, which it says prove standards of care are now worse in Scotland.

Shadow health secretary Cathie Jamieson said: “It is simply unacceptable that Scotland should invest less in the NHS or have lower standards of health care than England.

“I am calling on the Scottish government to make the NHS a genuine priority and launch a nationwide drive to improve standards. Scots deserve the best health service in the world and nothing else will do.”

The examples given by Ms Jamieson include:

  • In Scotland, the number of deaths in which C difficile was reported on the death certificate as the underlying or a contributory factor rose by 28 per cent from 597 to 765 in 2008. In England the number has fallen by 29 per cent.
  • In Scotland, patients with cancer will continue to be charged for prescriptions until 2011. In England, they have been free since April.
  • Breast cancer screening is being extended in England but there are no such plans north of the border.
  • The NHS in England is already meeting its target for patients to be seen and treated within 18 weeks of referral, while the SNP is not aiming to meet this target until December 2011.
  • Screening for medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency in babies, linked to sudden infant death syndrome, starts in 2011 but in England this is already being carried out.

A Scottish government spokeswoman responded: “This is not a true reflection of what is happening in the health service in Scotland. Indeed, based on the last quarterly figures we are cautiously optimistic that due to the concerted efforts of this administration, that C difficile figures are now coming down.

“We are also making good progress on tackling waiting times for cancer – with the latest statistics showing that 96 per cent of urgently referred patients began treatment within 62 days of their referral between January and March this year, compared with 84.5 per cent in the same period in 2007,” they said.

“We have meanwhile cut prescription charges for all patients to £4 and given our commitment to abolish these for all patients by 2011,” they added.