It’s about time Holyrood treated NHS Lothian fairly

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NHS Lothian has always grumbled about being shortchanged by the Scottish Government – and rightly so. The disparity was set out many years ago, and promises by the SNP to address this unfairness repeatedly fall short.

It many ways NHS Lothian is a victim of its own success on this front.

It is regarded as serving a wealthy, healthy population – in comparison to its west coast counterparts – and as such it is considered that money can be taken from its allocation, and redistributed to those which don’t serve such fortunate places.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story; NHS Lothian serves a great number of deprived communities, and runs the busiest hospital in Scotland.

This idea that the health board at Waverley Gate can magically do without cash on the basis of an income study painting it as some kind of prime-of-life utopia is a nonsense, and it has to stop.

The shortchanging of NHS Lothian also fails to recognise the fact it does a great deal of work for neighbouring health boards.

The Scottish Government will say it has made top-up payments to address this disparity, but that hasn’t come close to making up the total black hole, which has been amassed over several years.

You only need to read the front pages of the Evening News to see just how grave a financial situation the NHS in Edinburgh is in.

Spending decisions by the SNP haven’t helped. In 2008, the then health secretary (now First Minister) Nicola Sturgeon pledged a paltry 
£48 million to help make the new Sick Kids hospital happen, welcoming the fact it would be up and running by 2013.

No-one across the Lothians needs to be told what happened next, other than to say the project was moved off the government’s books and on to a funding regime not a million miles away from the disastrous one which has beset the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

All the while, in Ms Sturgeon’s backyard, hundreds upon hundreds of millions were being lavished on a new Southern General hospital for Glasgow.

It’s no wonder people here think they are being punished for other areas’ failures to address health inequalities, healthy living and life expectancy.

For far too long, the Lothians’ increasing and ageing population has been completely overlooked by a Scottish Government intent on prioritising other agendas.

It may be impossible to ever assess completely the impact that has had on NHS Lothian’s finances.

But the SNP has to remember it has a responsibility towards all of Scotland’s health boards, not just the ones ministers regard to be in areas of deprivation.

Cameron Buchanan is Lothian MSP for the Scottish Conservatives