14 August 2023

Barclay should not lecture any nation on solving NHS waiting lists – Sarwar

14 August 2023

Steve Barclay should not lecture any nation on how to solve record waiting lists in the NHS, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said.

On Sunday, the UK Health Secretary accused his Scottish and Welsh counterparts of having worse delays for treatment than in England and invited ministers to discuss what “lessons can be learnt”.

The Department of Health and Social Care said more than 73,000 people have waited at least 77 weeks for treatment in Wales, and more than 21,600 in Scotland waited over 78 weeks for outpatient, day-case or inpatient appointments, while more than 383,000 waited longer than a year in England.

But Mr Sarwar took aim at both the Health Secretary’s comments and the leadership of the Scottish Government, as he argued neither government was equipped to deal with the crisis.

Speaking on a visit to the Lind and Lime Gin Distillery in Leith, Edinburgh, on Monday, he said: “The idea that Steve Barclay will lecture anyone on how to destroy the NHS in England, or the fact that the SNP get a free ride from the mess that they’ve made here in Scotland, I think is for the birds.

“Frankly, we need two governments to move out the way, two governments that have made a mess of our public services, are destroying our economy and failing people in Scotland and right across the UK.

“We need to get rid of both governments and get the change that we need and we’ve already made clear that in Scotland that means improving the workforce, reform, it’s around digital technology.

“The idea that the First Minister, who was the health secretary that destroyed the NHS is now the great saviour of the NHS, I think frankly people just won’t believe it.”

Mr Sarwar was joined by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as he sets out his case for Scotland ahead of the next general election.

Sir Keir said the previous Labour administration met its NHS waiting times targets by “working co-operatively across the board”.

But he added: “What we didn’t do is what this government is doing, which is missing the target time and again, times are getting tough and they’re walking away from the targets.”

Mr Barclay’s comments were also dismissed by Scottish Health Secretary Michael Matheson, who said record waiting lists and healthcare strikes were impacting the NHS south of the border.

He said: “The NHS in England is about to experience its fifth round of strikes by junior doctors, with the waiting list for hospital treatment rising by over 100,000 to a record high of over 7.5 million as a result of the UK Government’s refusal to even get around the negotiating table.

“Rather than attempting to involve themselves in devolved areas, the UK Government would be well served focusing on tackling the many issues in the health service south of the border.

“In contrast, the Scottish Government has negotiated constructively and made significant commitments to our junior doctors – which is why we are the only part of the UK to have avoided strike action in our NHS this year.”

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