An urgent investigation is being called for by the Scottish Tories after NHS chiefs discussed the creation of a “two-tier” health service which would charge the wealthy.
Audit Scotland have been urged to intervene after leaked minutes of a September meeting with senior health official say they were given the “green light” to discuss reforms by NHS Scotland chief executive Caroline Lamb.
One suggestion in the minutes, seen by the BBC, was to “design a two-tier system” which would see those who could afford to, go private.
Nicola Sturgeon quashed the discussion yesterday as she told the PA news agency she was “emphatically” against the idea, stating the principles of the NHS were “not up for discussion”.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf also shot down the claims, which he described as “abhorrent”.
The leaked document also discussed sending patients home more quickly after treatment and pausing the funding of some new drugs.
It comes as the health service in Scotland faces crisis, with weekly A&E waits within four hours remaining significantly below the 95% target, at 65.3% on the week ending November 13.
Despite the Scottish Government’s moves to dismiss suggestions of a two-tier system, Tory MSP Craig Hoy has said the public need to know why such radical proposals were being debated.
He said an Audit Scotland probe is necessary to cast light on the “controversy surrounding this meeting”.
Mr Hoy said: “Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf may have been at pains to try to shoot these reports down but that should not be the end of the matter.
“We need Audit Scotland to investigate the controversy surrounding this meeting.
“The leaked minutes clearly suggest NHS leaders were given the green light to think the unthinkable – including patient charging.
“We must urgently find out why that was.
“Presumably this came from the top and senior ministers gave the political cover to examine every eventuality to reform our NHS.
“We need to know if they are now speaking with forked tongues.
“This is a matter of huge public interest – and yet we have already seen the desperation of nationalists to close down the story, as the BBC were forced to defend even running it on Monday following a barrage of criticism.
“Of course, it’s a reflection of Humza Yousaf’s rank mismanagement of Scotland’s health service that NHS leaders were forced to consider such unpalatable options.
“Rather than contemplating such a Doomsday scenario, Nicola Sturgeon should sack her failing Health Secretary and go back to the drawing board.”
The issue was addressed by Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane in Holyrood on Tuesday.
In response, Mr Yousaf said: “It is genuinely laughable that Sandesh Gulhane thinks this is a really good use of Audit Scotland’s time, to investigate an informal meeting where one NHS chief executive was there.
“And of course, as I’ve said, it does not represent the view neither of NHS chief executives, nor NHS chairs, nor the chief executive of the NHS, nor the chief operating officer, and may I say, most importantly, by anybody in Government, because we are the ones of course who decide the policy of the NHS.
“No, I won’t ask Audit Scotland.”
And he told Dr Gulhane that the threat of NHS privatisation comes from Westminster after Tory MPs were reportedly whipped to vote against House of Lord amendments to rule out potential NHS deals in the future.