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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
NHS running costs increase by 30%
Surgery generic
The Tories say patient needs have been neglected
The cost of running the NHS in Scotland has risen steeply since devolved government began.

Scottish Executive figures showed the bill for management and administration had increased by 30%.

The Conservatives and the Scottish National Party accused ministers of neglecting patient care while increasing red tape.

But the Scottish Executive said running costs had fallen as a proportion of the total health spending budget.

The official figures, published on Tuesday, revealed that running costs for all Scottish NHS boards had risen from 279.84m to 364.31m during the first term of the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Tory health spokesman David Davidson said: "There has been a rise of 30% in admin costs between April 1999 and April 2003 - but a 40,000 fall in the number of treatments, a rise in the total waiting list of 20,000 and the median waiting time up by a full week - more evidence of how we have been let down by Labour and the Lib Dems.

The main problem is that there are too many senior managers
Shona Robison
"These latest figures, issued in the week that the latest waiting list and waiting times statistics are to be published, show that this government is driving up costs, but driving down patient care.

"All that extra money - 85m per year more - spent on paper clips instead of patient care, squandered on sticky tape instead of sticking plasters."

Mr Davidson said the rise in annual administration costs was enough to employ an extra 3,500 nurses or 1,500 doctors.

But the executive insisted that spending on administration had fallen as a proportion of the total rising investment in the NHS, while clinical staff numbers had risen by more than management and clerical staff in the past five years.

Administrative and managerial costs were 6.75% of total NHS spending in 1995-6, and this proportion had fallen to 6.10% by 1998-99, and dropped further since then to 5.4% in 2002-3, a spokesman said.

He added: "Administrative and clerical staff are essential to the smooth running of clinical services and include clinic receptionists and medical secretaries.

More doctors

"They provide vital support for front line clinical staff freeing them up to use their skills in treating patients."

But the Scottish National Party accused ministers of tying the NHS up in more red tape.

The party's Shona Robison claimed administration costs were "getting out of control", just when hospitals were "crying out" for more doctors and nurses to cut waiting times for treatment.

She said: "While I recognise that there are crucial administration positions, such as the role of medical secretaries, these figures show that government spending on administration has grown to ridiculous levels.

"The main problem is that there are too many senior managers and despite NHS trusts being abolished, the executive has refused to scale down the number of these positions.

"The executive must think long and hard about their priorities in the NHS, because it's clear that at this time they are more concerned with lengthening the paper chase instead of improving patient care."

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