NHS Scotland in crisis: Michael Matheson's iPad expenses bill is not the only reason why he should be ashamed – Jackie Baillie
Two sets of figures should have shamed Michael Matheson this week. The first was a poll from Ipsos showing that 61 per cent of voters, including a majority of SNP supporters, believe the Health Secretary should step down over the lies told about his £11,000 iPad bill.
The second set of figures shows that by the end of the three months to September 30, a staggering 828,398 people were stuck on NHS waiting lists – more than one in every seven Scots. I cannot help but wonder which figures would have caused Mr Matheson most concern.
He and his boss, Humza Yousaf, have been spinning in the wind ever since Mr Matheson’s submitted claim on the taxpayer to cover the roaming charges racked up watching SPL games on his parliamentary iPad while on holiday in Morocco.
Cut through each one of the sub-clauses of excuses trotted out by Mr Matheson and only two questions are left. The first, the obvious, is at which point did he think it was not his responsibility and just fine to claim £11,000 in expenses from his holidays from the taxpayer?
Secondly, the so-called “understated, underrated”, but actually underperforming Health Secretary had months to get his story straight and couldn’t manage it. It’s highly doubtful he will have unfolded all the creases in the truth in time for a parliamentary inquiry and he should save the public purse the bother and go.
Knocking on the other side, neglected while the SNP take a fire extinguisher to their latest scandal, are over 800,000 Scots waiting for NHS tests and treatment. Waiting lists are at an all-time high after rising by 182,448 since 2021. The number of people facing long waits also rose again, despite the SNP government’s targets to eradicate them, with 80,673 people now stuck waiting more than a year – an extra 3,572 people compared to the previous quarter.
With winter looming, and the Health Secretary clinging to an increasingly icy ledge, another set of figures show that Scotland’s A&E services are also on the brink of disaster. For the week ending November 19, only 63.5 per cent of A&E attendances were seen within four hours – meaning well over a third of attendees waited longer than the four-hour standard.
Some 3,234 patients spent more than eight hours in an A&E with 1,370 patients waiting over half a day to be seen. On top of that, cancer screening-time stats are still going the wrong way and the Scottish Government has still to catch up on pre-Covid figures.
In short, waiting lists are at an all-time high, thousands of Scots are left to suffer for over a year waiting for treatment and the SNP seem incapable of doing anything except flannelling to save a lame-duck Health Secretary. Scottish Labour has repeatedly called for action to ease pressure on hospitals by tackling delayed discharge, supporting NHS staff, and stopping waiting lists spiralling with a comprehensive catch-up plan.
It is shameful that Michael Matheson is still clinging on to his job and drawing his ministerial salary despite not only lying to the public but also failing to deal with the crisis in our NHS as winter approaches.
Jackie Baillie is MSP for Dumbarton, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader and her party’s spokesperson for health
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