Angus Robertson MP

Leader of the SNP in Westminster

House of Commons

London SWIA 0AA

2nd September 2011


     Health and Social Care Bill


Dear Mr Robertson,

I write as chairman of the Scottish Health Campaigns Network which is an organisation concerned with many aspects of healthcare in Scotland. It was originally formed as a lobby group in relation to proposed hospital closures in Scotland in 2003. The membership were delighted when one of the first acts of the the SNP government elected in 2007, was to appoint scrutiny panels to examine the proposals of the previous Labour administration, resulting in amongst other things the retention of Monklands and Ayr accident and emergency departments, and also the revoking of the attempted closure of the Vale of Leven Hospital. The Network has been very supportive of many aspects of SNP health policy and we have had regular meetings with Nicola Sturgeon. In particular we have been strongly supportive of the SNP policy of democratisation of health boards, and I had the opportunity to give evidence to the health committee in support of this.

Whilst we fully understand (thankfully) that health policy is entirely devolved to Holyrood there are some aspects of the proposed bill, which if passed will directly impinge quite profoundly on some aspects of our Scottish NHS. Two of the most important are firstly the training of junior  medical staff which is currently done on a UK basis, and is indeed overseen by UK authorities involving the universities and Royal Colleges, and secondly the fact that we have  UK conditions and terms of service relating to the employment medical staff.. If this bill is passed this will cause total fragmentation of both aspects of the service, since the private sector have no interest in spending money on training juniors, and the proposed market which will very significantly involve the private sector and will  therefore mean an abolition of national conditions and terms of service.

I raised both aspects of these at a hustings meeting at the BMA in Edinburgh before the last Scottish election, and Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that the knock-on effect on the Scottish service if the bill is passed would have far-reaching consequences.

I wrote to my own MP, Jo Swinson, expressing my concerns. These were passed on to Earl Howe who seems to have little understanding about what the bill is about.

One of the members of the Scottish Health Campaigns Network has produced data which shows that the Scottish Health Service (without the market), is more efficient than in England. This data has been compiled using  the official statistics of the Information Services Division in Scotland and its comparable counterpart in England.

In view of this, the Scottish Health Campaigns Network would urge the SNP party group in Westminster to vote against the bill when the proposed legislation when comes back to the Commons at the report stage in early September.

The “listening” exercise has not removed the ability of the private sector to compete for NHS services. Indeed any changes which have been made have made the whole thing a bit of a “”bourach”,(to use a good Scottish word), and the bill should  at this stage be rejected rather than reformed

It is also rather anomalous that England is the odd one out, in that that the devolved parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have rejected the market.

If you wish further information about our organisation we have a website which can be googled under “Scottish Health Campaigns Network”, and I would be happy to expand on any information you might request.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Yours sincerely,




Dr Robert LC Cumming

Chairman, Scottish Health Campaigns Network