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Letters / Partition of the UK will end our ‘free to all’ NHS

I was born into the first generation to benefit from a National Health Service with the core principles that it meets the needs of everyone, and is free to all at the point of delivery. NHS Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government out of the block grant it gets as being part of the United Kingdom.

I’m not surprised that the SNP are skirting around the details of their desired partition of the UK (aka ‘independence’). If the SNP and the other partitionist parties, Alba and the Greens, eventually get their way there will be no UK block grant to fund those NHS core principles.

The economy of a small independent country on the fringe of Europe simply cannot fund an NHS ‘free to all at the point of delivery’. The Republic of Ireland can’t afford it after 100 years of independence, so Scotland certainly won’t.

Today there is no ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but there is a very distinct ‘health border’.

Northern Ireland enjoys exactly the same NHS ‘free to all’ as the rest of the UK. Across the border in the Republic, access to their ‘two tier’ health care system is means tested.

Only 30 per cent of the residents there have mainly free health care due to being in low pay or on welfare benefits; the rest of the population have to pay for medicine, GP services, hospital treatments etc.

If Scotland breaks away from the UK then there will be a ‘health border’ with the rest of the UK and we, like the Irish, will have to pay for our health care.

Examples of what the Irish have to pay:

  • GP visit £45 to £65.
  • Visit to A&E without a GP referral £87.
  • Stay in hospital £70 per night up to a cap of £700.
  • An X-ray from £78 and up.
  • A MRI scan from £208 and up.
  • Drugs cost capped only for some at £125 per month.

The Irish Republic has some of the highest rate of unmet need for healthcare due to cost, and longest waiting times for treatment in the EU. It is of little wonder then, that many have turned to the private sector for treatment to avoid delays, either paying out of their own pocket or through private health insurance. Indeed, some cross the border into Northern Ireland for private treatment, which is in many cases cheaper than in the Republic.

The SNP know full well that ‘independence’ will mean an end to the NHS as we know it. That’s why they don’t want to build Shetland a new hospital or pay for our MRI scanner. That’s why they are already talking about centralisation of health boards in Scotland.

If the SNP and the other partitionists get their way, I will be of the generation that saw both the beginning and the end of the NHS in Scotland as we have known it.

As a resident in Scotland I will not be eligible for free NHS services anywhere else in the UK.

With the looming threat of partition, and if I was a young person in Scotland today, I’d be seriously looking at private health insurance, or emigration across the SNP’s inevitable health border.

Allen Fraser
Hamnavoe