Douglas Ross has challenged Scotland’s new Health Secretary to adopt Scottish Conservative policies he claimed will save the NHS from “breaking point”.
The Tory leader unveiled his party’s new health paper in Edinburgh on Friday, including plans to deliver 1,000 additional GPs by the end of the next parliamentary term.
The party also vows to give patients a guarantee of seeing a family doctor within a week by raising the proportion of NHS funding to GP services by 12%, while health boards could be sanctioned if they exceed national waiting times.
Mr Ross has appealed to Neil Gray, who was appointed Health Secretary on Thursday after Michael Matheson’s resignation, to take forward Tory proposals he said will strengthen the crisis-hit health sector now.
These include better conditions for health staff and creating an NHS app to let patients see live waiting times and book appointments.
It comes after Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf – himself a former health secretary – conceded his key ally Mr Gray is taking on a “tough job”.
Speaking after the launch of his party’s health paper at Edinburgh’s BioQuarter, Mr Ross said Mr Yousaf’s comment is an “understatement”.
He told journalists: “I want to see the NHS free at the point of need, to be accessible for everyone, but we can only do that if we address some of the issues we’ve been raising in our report and adopt some of these policies we’re bringing forward.
“I’m not precious – if the new Health Secretary Neil Gray wants to take an approach where he will be open and listen to new suggestions, then there are several policies in our paper today that he could immediately adopt, get into motion, that would improve our health service and get waiting times down.”
Additional proposals set out by the Tories include banning the closure of any NHS facility unless its replacement has been confirmed.
Revealing the plans alongside the party’s health spokesman, GP Dr Sandesh Gulhane, Mr Ross accused the First Minister of presiding over a “permanent crisis” in the NHS.
The Scottish Government currently aims to increase the number of GPs by at least 800 by 2028.
Mr Ross said: “We can all see the cracks in a system that is well past breaking point.
“Our health service is in permanent crisis. Yet the SNP Government offer no vision to turn around the NHS’s fortunes.
“Humza Yousaf is the architect of a flimsy recovery plan that has seen standards fall across our health service since the Covid pandemic – and not get any better.”
He said his party will “make unacceptable waits just to see your GP a thing of the past”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain fully committed to increasing the number of GPs in Scotland and will invest over £1.2 billion in general medical services in 2023-24 to ensure more people get the right care in the right place at the right time.
“Scotland has a higher number of GPs per head than the rest of the UK, and a record 1,200 trainee GPs coming through the training system in Scotland.
“In the face of UK Government austerity, we are providing over £14.2 billion for NHS boards in 2024-25 to support services – a real-terms increase of almost 3%.
“Despite this significant investment, NHS boards, like other public services, are under unprecedented pressure as a result of inflation, Brexit and Covid, and we are continuing to work with each board to recover and reform services and address the financial challenge this year and beyond.”