In a speech to the Scottish Conservative Party's Council meeting in Perth on 30th October, David McLetchie MSP set out the lessons that the Scottish Executive should be learning from Sweden in order to improve our health service in Scotland.
'In Sweden, the private sector has been embraced as a way of delivering better taxpayer-funded healthcare for all at no cost to patients. Healthcare in Sweden is run by the local authorities and in Stockholm in the 1990s Swedish Conservatives initiated a reform which turned a large local hospital, St Goran's, into a privately-run hospital with its own independent management.
'I visited this hospital which operates under a contract with Stockholm County Council and, by applying disciplines and management techniques used in any other business, is now offering the same operations at a higher standard and lower cost.
'Intriguingly, the company which runs this hospital, Capio, has been given the go ahead by the Health Department in England to open 5 new independent diagnostic and treatment centres across England to help reduce waiting lists for routine orthopaedic and cataract operations.
'Don't get me wrong, such a change in itself will not transform our health service and Tony Blair's reforms do not go nearly far enough. But at least Labour down south is taking some steps in the right direction and waiting lists are coming down as a result. Here we are going in the opposite direction with an increasingly centralised health service which is not interested in working with the private sector to increase capacity and choice for patients.
'Surprise surprise, our waiting lists are going up. Our NHS is in a mess and even those working within the service are starting to realise it and speak out.
'My message to Jack McConnell and his new Health Minister Andy Kerr is this. It is time to take off the ideological blinkers and act in the interests of patients throughout Scotland.
'The Scottish Executive should be encouraging independent providers to set up diagnostic and treatment centres here in Scotland to reduce waiting lists and waiting times for our patients. We should not be left behind.'