Health

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Will we still get the NHS?

Yes, the National Health Service is currently run by the Scottish Parliament and government and will remain so.

In terms of health policy, Scotland is already effectively independent.

The Scottish government will continue to fund all the health services it currently provides, including cross-border services. Medical experts have already made clear that the contracts currently in place to provide for cross-border treatment would carry on in exactly the same way.

EU Directives protect our access to cross-border treatment, and there are also separate agreements in place with countries outwith Europe.

Will we be able to afford to run the health service and other public services in an independent Scotland?

Yes – without any doubt. The most recent national accounts for Scotland show that our national finances are in a healthier condition than the rest of the UK (in fact, we have one of the best sets of national accounts of any nation in the developed world). This means we are better able to afford current levels of spending on services like the NHS.

The Scottish Parliament and government already control Scotland’s NHS and its budget.

Since 1999, successive Scottish governments have made steady improvements to Scotland’s health and the quality of healthcare, while protecting the NHS as a free public service, consistent with the values of the NHS and the priorities of the people in Scotland.

Our NHS has been protected from Westminster reforms which have seen increased privatisation in other parts of the UK.

A Yes vote will therefore not affect the day-to-day running of our NHS. What it does do is provide us with the opportunity to radically alter the environment in which it requires to operate – by giving us all the powers we need to address income and health inequalities, to regulate alcohol and tobacco, and promote a healthy diet.

In short, Scotland will be able to tackle all the key health challenges it faces through preventative measures – instead of having to focus on cure.

What will happen to the NHS if we vote no?

The following is an extract from Iain McWhirter’s article in the Sunday Herald: “Forget the latest scare story … the real threat to our health service is a ‘No’ vote”

A major danger if Scotland votes no to independence is the future of the Scottish NHS as a free service.

The NHS in England is being privatised as more and more hospital trusts are off loading of their services to businesses in an effort to reduce direct costs. Half of the hospital trusts are bankrupt.

According to the Financial Times up to 30% of English hospital trusts will be privatised by 2020. The Conservative health reforms have opened up the NHS to private providers on an unprecedented scale

In contrast, since devolution, all Holyrood regimes have prioritised Scotland’s specific health needs rather than just matching policy in England and Wales.

However, it is difficult to see how this uniquely Scottish arrangement could continue if Westminster continues to control the purse strings.

The Scottish Parliament is responsible for health in Scotland but funding remains with Westminster through the Barnett Formula, which increases or decreases every year in line with health spending in England.

George Osborne has pencilled in a further £35 billion in cuts to health spending. As consultant surgeon Philippa Whitford has argued, this means the Scottish Government might be forced to go along the same privatisation route to fill the gap.

A recent briefing from Yes Scotland explains the position very well: Only A Yes Can Protect our NHS

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Will Scotland still have free prescriptions?

Yes. In an independent Scotland you will continue to get your prescriptions for free, as promised by the current Scottish government.

The current Scottish government has promised to maintain free prescriptions in the event of a Yes vote in September.

Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing in the Scottish Government has said: “Thousands are benefiting from the abolition of prescription charges including many with long-term conditions. Charges were a tax on ill health, they prevent people getting the medication they need, damage their ability to work and can lead to an increase in the workload for hospitals, nurses and GPs.”

Out of the 4 home nations it’s only in England that people pay for prescriptions, and in April 2015 the charge will rise to £8.25.

I receive specialist medical treatment across the border. Will I still receive this treatment?

Yes. Independence will not affect existing cross border arrangements with health services in the rest of the UK.

If a Scottish resident falls ill in England, Wales or Northern Ireland they will be treated by local services in accordance with clinical need, as happens now. Similarly, residents from other parts of the UK falling ill in an independent Scotland will also be treated in the same way as happens now.

“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.”

Dr Khan, consultant physician and nephrologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary