Humza Yousaf has admitted that more Scots paying for operations because they face long NHS waits, and even paying for chemotherapy, is a “worrying trend”.

The First Minister was confronted over the issue at FMQs by Anas Sarwar, who cited new figures on the rising use of private care by insured and self-patients in Scotland.

They included people paying for 1,745 rounds of chemotherapy privately.

The First Minister said the NHS was still recovering from the Covid pandemic.

The Scottish Labour leader reminded Mr Yousaf that as Health Secretary last year he vowed no one would be waiting more than 18 months for an NHS procedure by September 2023.

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Yet the latest figures showed 17,200 people who had waited longer than 18 months on lists.

He said: “Yet another broken promise from a Health Secretary who has failed upwards. The result - people turning to private care.

“Figures out this week show 40% of all hip and knee replacements being carried out in Scotland are being self-funded by patients. “In the last financial year alone a total of 43,000 patients treated privately in Scotland – an 8% increase in one year.”

He said the total included 4,739 hip and knee replacements paid for privately, 7,805 cataract surgeries, 1,980 colonoscopies, 2,055 endoscopies and 995 hernia repairs.

“And most shockingly of all 1,745 rounds of chemotherapy paid for privately by patients.

“Health care free at the point of need is a founding principle of our NHS.

“How can the SNP have let it get so bad that patients are being forced to find the cash to pay for life-saving cancer treatment?”

The Herald:

Mr Yousaf said: “Of course we don’t want people to have to fund care out of their open pockets. We know of course the impact the pandemic has had on our health service and indeed on those waiting lists.

“But this is something that is being seen in health systems across the globe, let alone across the UK. It’s happening here in Scotland as well as across the UK

“When I look at the figures from the Private Healthcare Information Network over the first quarter of 2023 of course it shows worrying trends in relation to those who are accessing private healthcare, but it does also show that Scotland has a lower rate of take-up of private healthcare compared to England and Wales.

“The rate of people who are self-funding for private in-patient day care is 16% higher in England and in Wales it’s 51% higher where the Labour party are in charge.

“It’s not unique here to Scotland.”

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Mr Sarwar replied: “The number of people going private each year is going up. 

“Tbose answers from the First Minister are going to be no comfort to the 43,000 patients who are being forced to pay privately. 

“One person I spoke to in Cambuslang [in the Rutherglen byelection] just a few weeks ago, £15,000 for a hip replacement because he had to wait three years [on the NHS]. 

“Completely and utterly unacceptable. In a cost of living crisis, when people are struggling to pay the bills, they shouldn’t also have to worry about the costs of getting sick.”

He said the costs were around £15,000 for a hip or knee replacement, £3,000 for cataract surgery, £3,000 for a colonoscopy and £4,000 for a hernia repair.

“Patients in pain and heartbroken families, trying to scrape together the cash, some even being forced to remortgage their homes, to pay for care they should be getting on the NHS.

“Why are more and more Scots being forced to pay the price for SNP incompetence and failure?”

Mr Yousaf said: “What we’re seeing are the impacts of that global pandemic which has impacted every single health service, including of course the health service here in Scotland.

“But we are seeing more and more activity within the NHS. We are seeing more and more day patients an inpatients being seen.”