THE vast majority of the public believe that MSPs play political football with the NHS, a new poll suggests.

Almost three quarters of people (74 per cent) in Scotland think political parties design health policy to win votes, not to do what is best for the health service, the survey found.

The survey of 2000 people in the UK shows that two out of three people believe the NHS should manage itself without the involvement of politicians, and only one in three say Parliament should set health service targets.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) released the poll, with Scottish results, to coincide with the start of its annual representative meeting in Harrogate.

The doctors' union has called for all political parties to put patient care before votes at the next election.

Dr Brian Keighley, Chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said: "In Scotland, we have not endured the massive reorganisation of the NHS that has happened in England, but political agendas here have stifled change and ... placed the NHS in an unsustainable position.

"This survey shows that the public is increasingly disenchanted with the use of the NHS as a political football by all political parties in Scotland.

"While the NHS remains high in public estimation, there is a significant majority of the population showing increasing impatience with decisions made with reference to opinion polls and potential votes rather than on grounds of clinical need.

"The public is not naive and is clearly suspicious of political interference in the NHS. They need to be convinced that decisions about their local health services are primarily about improving care."