Cuts of up to £450m to the NHS budget in Scotland are of “grave concern” to those running health services in the north east, it has been claimed.
The revelation that NHS finance bosses across the country may have to consider centralising hospitals and closing services has fired furious debate as the referendum campaign enters its final stages.
Better Together leader Alistair Darling claimed that the first and deputy first ministers had been deceiving voters over the future of the NHS.
But Alex Salmond said cuts claims were “mythical” amid plans to increase the overall health service budget.
Councillor Barney Crockett, former leader of Aberdeen City Council and NHS Grampian board member, said the board had been kept in the dark about savings.
This is despite the paper being presented at a meeting of NHS managers on August 6, where an executive from NHS Grampian is thought to have attended.
He said: “We haven’t heard anything at board level about this and it is a matter of grave concern.
“The SNP are operating a system of smoke and mirrors on health and this is the latest example of this.
“We have these problems in the health service of increased demand and the Scottish Government are trying to obfuscate this information.
“Board members are at risk because of the lack of information and we are not seeing specific planning for patients because we are not dealing with the realities.”
The paper, which was leaked to the press by a NHS whistleblower, said “radical and urgent decisions” need to be made around the future of services.
It added: “The status quo and preservation of existing models of care are no longer an option given the pressing challenges we face.”
Last year, NHS Grampian received around £740m from the Scottish Government which puts it at the bottom of the funding table per head of population.
Warnings have been sounded by chief executive Mark Carey over the “cumulative impact” of years of underfunding.
Mr Darling seized on the leaked report yesterday. He said Scots had been “deceived” by the first minister and his deputy.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “Now we discover the greatest threat to the NHS in Scotland is Salmond’s secret cuts. As Scots prepare to vote we must all ask ourselves – what else is Alex Salmond hiding from us?”
Deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the issue highlighted the need for Scotland to be in full control of its resources.
She said: “The No campaign is jumping on this today, I’m not sure if they realise they are making our case for us because the centre of the case around the NHS is that yes, we’ve got policy control but we don’t have control over our own resources, and as long as we remain at the mercy of Westminster cuts to our overall budget then it gets harder to protect the things that matter.”