Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Scotland is sick

Scotland spends more per capita on the NHS than England does, but by next year it will have Europe’s lowest life expectancy, says Fraser Nelson

Scotland spends more per capita on the NHS than England does, but by next year it will have Europe’s lowest life expectancy, says Fraser Nelson

Imagine a British National Health Service flowing with French or German levels of funding. This dream, we are promised, will soon be delivered in return for higher taxes. But for the impatient, there is a solution: visit Scotland.

For some time now, NHS Scotland has been living in Tony Blair’s promised land, enjoying European levels of health spending. Its NHS budget of £1,300 per head is a full 21 per cent higher than England’s. But instead of being an alluring example of what lies ahead, Scotland warns of disaster. Next year, it will claim two records: for Europe’s highest state health-spending and its lowest life expectancy. It is living proof that the NHS system does not work.

Gordon Brown’s motherland was strangely absent from the list of countries sized up by the Treasury when it examined health systems from around the world last year — a study which predictably concluded that money, not organisation, was the problem. Yet only Scotland shows what happens when cash is stuffed into an unreformed state-run monopoly stamped with the DNA of the late 1940s. It is the only country in the free world to have tried what Brown is now aiming for.

The extra cash is not thanks to any act of magnanimity. In Scotland the NHS has long been richer than in England, thanks to the archaic system used by the Treasury to divide up public spending: it sends a fixed chunk to Scotland whether it needs the money or not. The result is a generous spending advantage, guaranteed by London politicians, who have for decades shovelled money at the Celtic Fringe whenever they feared for the Union.

As if by way of apology for the poll tax, Scotland now has been sent its NHS funding early.

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