Prime Minister David Cameron entered the row over NHS Grampian yesterday as he backed claims that the Scottish Government was responsible for its woes.
The Conservative leader intervened after being quizzed about the troubled health board during prime minister’s questions at Westminster.
Sir Malcolm Bruce, of the Liberal Democrats, told MPs that the “responsibility for the crisis” lay with SNP ministers – and Mr Cameron said the Gordon MP was “absolutely right”.
NHS Grampian has been rocked by a series of issues in recent months, including a recruitment crisis and damning reports which claimed Aberdeen Royal Infirmary was suffering from “significant deficiencies” in its management.
Raising the issue at Westminster, Sir Malcolm said: “Will the prime minister confirm that NHS spending under the coalition government has risen by 4% in real terms?
“That has been passed on to Scotland, where spending has in fact been cut by 1%. Is he also aware that Grampian has a £70million two-year shortfall in funding?
“Consequently, the responsibility for the crisis in the health service in the north-east of Scotland lies firmly with the Scottish Government, led until a few weeks ago by Alex Salmond, the MSP for Aberdeenshire East.”
Mr Salmond, the former first minister, announced earlier this month that at May’s election he planned to contest the Gordon seat represented by Sir Malcolm, who is standing down.
Mr Cameron responded to the questions by saying: “My right honourable friend is absolutely right.
“We have increased spending by £12.7billion. That translates into a real-terms increase.
“Scotland and Wales have had the extra money to spend, but Labour in Wales chose to cut the NHS rather than to invest in it, and in Scotland the SNP government have not translated the full amount of money.
“That is why, when we look at figures for such things as accident and emergency, yes, we need to do better in England, but our performance is still well better than it is in Wales, Scotland, or, indeed, in Northern Ireland.”
An Scottish Government spokesman said last night: “In Scotland we have increased the health resource budget by 4.6% in real terms. NHS Grampian has seen an overall increase of 9.7% in real terms. That is despite Scotland’s resource budget being slashed by 6.3% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2015/16 by the current Westminster Government.
“In addition NHS Grampian’s share of national NHS funding has increased from 9.1 per cent to 9.6 per cent under this government, and for 2015/16 we have committed a further £34.4 million to the board, both above inflation and the largest increase of any Scottish health board.”