Gordon Brown targets chronically ill in latest attack on independence

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The anti-independence campaign has been accused of using desperate tactics in order to scare Scottish voters into rejecting a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum.
 
Today former Prime Minister Gordon Brown resurrected claims that an independent Scotland would face cross-border problems if patients needed life saving organ transplants or blood transfusions.

According to the former Labour leader, patients north of the border would be “at risk” in the event of a Yes vote.

Brown said: “I call on the SNP to tell the truth about the benefits we receive from direct links with England in healthcare.”

However the Labour politicians attempt to scare patients who benefit from cross-border collaboration has been condemned by the Scottish Government.

A spokeswoman for the SNP administration said: “NHS Blood and Transplant, which co-ordinates organ donation across the UK, has already confirmed in writing that independence would not lead to any change in these arrangements.”

The claims from Brown were disproven in March this year when a letter from the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) service, which deals with the transport of vital organs across the country, stated that it expects cross-border healthcare systems to stay in place after a Yes vote in September.

In a letter initially sent to Tory MSP Nanette Milne officials stated that: “NHSBT would expect this reciprocal agreement to continue if Scotland does agree to independence as the arrangement offers additional security to all four blood services.”

The letter also stated that: “NHSBT has representation on the Scottish Transplant Group and, in addition to this, senior members of NHSBT have regular discussions with Scottish Government officials.

“From these discussions I can confirm that NHSBT and Scottish Government do not believe that there would be any significant change to the relationship or the management of organ donation and transplantation in the event of independence.”

Evidence of cross border healthcare cooperation has already been published by pro-independence campaign group Yes Scotland.  One story involved a mother whose baby received treatment in Germany after officials from England, Scotland and Germany seamlessly worked together.

Consultant Izhar Khan has criticised claims that cross-border medical treatment and co-operation would be under threat in an independent Scotland, describing the statements as “scaremongering”.

Speaking last September, Dr Khan said “This appears to be nothing more than scaremongering.  As a doctor, I do not ask if a patient is Scottish, English, Irish or Welsh. Doctors treat patients, not nationalities.”

He added: “An independent Scotland would continue these arrangements for a number of very straightforward and sensible reasons – not least because these services are paid for and are extra-contractual.

“Money follows the patient from Scotland and the struggling NHS in England is not going to refuse lucrative contracts.”

Commenting in March, SNP MSP Aileen McLeod, who sits on the Health and Sport Committee, said:

“The NHS Blood and Transplant service makes it perfectly clear that they expect the reciprocal arrangement with NHS Scotland that currently exists to continue after Scotland becomes independent.

“That is an entirely sensible position and one that confirms that an independent Scotland will of course cooperate closely with the rest of the UK on all kinds of issues where it is in our mutual interest to do so.”