Labour MSP quizzed after party’s London spokesman calls for UK wide NHS policies

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  By Martin Kelly

Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Neil Findlay has been asked to clarify his party’s stance on the NHS after Labour’s spokesman for health in England appeared to suggest that Labour MPs from outside Scotland should have a say in how the Scottish NHS is run.

The SNP has now written to Mr Findlay, urging for clarity on what it describes as a “threat” to Scotland’s NHS after Labour’s UK health spokesperson said he wanted “health policies that can be consistent across England, Scotland and Wales”.

Speaking to Holyrood Magazine, Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for health, said:

“That is why I am talking quite passionately about getting English Labour MPs back up the road and for me, sitting down with Neil [Findlay] and Richard [Simpson] and Rhoda [Grant] and others and saying, let’s get health policies that can be consistent across England, Scotland and Wales. Wouldn’t that be a good thing, pulling in the same direction as opposed to pulling our separate ways?”

The comment has prompted SNP MSP Aileen McLeod, who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, to write to Labour MSP Neil Findlay, asking if he agrees with the idea of a UK-wide NHS policy.

In a statement, Ms McLeod said:

“Our precious health service appears to be under a very real threat from Labour at Westminster.

“If there was a UK-wide NHS policy, how would Scotland be able to protect itself from Tory privatisation – or ‘American-style health care’ to quote Andy Burnham from last week.

“That is why I have written to Neil Findlay seeking urgent clarification on what Labour in Scotland’s position is on this – what have they discussed and agreed to?”

The NHS south of the border has seen significant changes to how it is structured with both Labour and the Conservatives supporting moves towards increased privatisation.

Last year several prominent Scottish Labour MPs were slammed after it emerged they had voted in favour of a motion that backed the role played by private providers in the NHS in England.  The MPs, including Margaret Curran, Anas Sarwar and Jim Murphy, backed a Labour motion which said:

“That this House believes there is an important role for the private sector in supporting the delivery of NHS care; welcomes the contribution made by private providers…”

Speaking in support of the motion,  Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for health Andy Burnham said: “Let me be clear.  As our motion states, we believe that there is a role for the private sector in helping the NHS to deliver the best possible services to NHS patients, and that was the policy we pursued in government.”

A concerned Ms McLeod said any attempt at placing the Scottish NHS under a “UK umbrella” would place it under threat from the privatisation policies of future Westminster governments.

She added: “Scotland’s NHS is a far stronger public service when compared to the fragmentation of the NHS south of the border – and that is precisely because it is under the control of the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster.

“Our fantastic health service – which proves that decisions for Scotland are best made in Scotland – makes the case for a Yes vote and independence, not for Westminster control of Scottish affairs.”

The Letter to Neil Findlay:

Dear Mr Findlay,

I am writing to you in your capacity as health spokesperson for Labour in Scotland. As you may be aware Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for health, told Holyrood magazine last week that he wanted “health policies that can be consistent across England, Scotland and Wales”.

I would like to clarify Labour in Scotland’s position on this. Do you want Scotland’s NHS to fall under a UK-wide umbrella?

Mr Burnham also said he wanted to discuss this policy with yourself, Richard Simpson and Rhoda Grant. Can I ask what discussions you have had and what decisions have been made?

Yours sincerely,

Aileen McLeod.