In the build up to the 2014 independence referendum we heard a lot from the nationalists about inequality in Scotland and how “Westminster” was to blame. We heard frequently about how life expectancy in deprived areas was far lower than in affluent neighbourhoods. The nationalists were short on detail, but happily reassured Scots that independence was the answer.
Now, a year after the referendum, we find that the SNP Government provides GP practices in deprived areas with less funding than their colleagues providing healthcare to middle class Scots. The difference in funding equates to around 2000 fewer appointment slots per year in each practice serving deprived communities.
The news will not be a surprise to some Scots, in December 2012 it was reported that Audit Scotland had said “health inequalities were “long-standing and entrenched” throughout the country, and that “resources should be better targeted at those who require them most”. In response to the report the BMA urged the SNP Government to “use the unique relationship that GPs have with their patients and in their communities to target healthcare to those who need it most”.
In response to this damming criticism the SNP established a “taskforce”. Although this is welcome, it is clear that the most basic recommendation made by Audit Scotland has not been delivered 3 years later – healthcare resources are not being targeted where they are needed most.
Yet again, it appears we have a Government in Scotland which is long on rhetoric, but short on action.