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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Plans to end private cash for NHS
Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon rejects the idea of markets in healthcare
The Scottish government has signalled an end to future partnerships between the NHS and the private sector.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon told a conference in London that she opposed the use of public money to help the private sector "compete" with the NHS.

She said market forces would not lead to better healthcare, and the public opposed "creeping privatisation".

The minister also indicated that Scotland could go its own way on issues like junior doctor recruitment.

She told delegates at the NHS Confederation annual conference that a poll carried out before the election had suggested that voters' top concern was of "creeping privatisation of schools and hospitals".

She added: "Our opposition to stimulating private sector competition with the NHS at taxpayers' expense is not just based on public opinion.

"We reject the very idea that markets in health care are the route to improvement.

There will also be times when it makes sense for us to take our own decisions and plot our own direction, even where we have traditionally subscribed to a UK wide approach
Nicola Sturgeon
Health secretary

"We believe, instead, that it comes through the collective energy and ideas of committed staff, working with patients, and the communities they serve."

In April, a BBC Scotland poll also suggested that building and running state schools and hospitals through public bodies was a top priority for Scottish voters.

The SNP's position could see an end to collaborative projects such as Stracathro hospital in Angus, which was opened earlier this year by former first minister Jack McConnell.

It is run by the NHS in the daytime and a private healthcare company out of hours. The health board said this had saved a local hospital.

Ms Sturgeon also announced that she was inviting health ministers from across the UK and Europe to a summit in the new year focussing on tackling health inequalities.

"We also believe that we have a great deal to offer other governments and other healthcare systems in terms of the actions we have taken and the successes we have enjoyed so far," she said.

Scottish approach

Indicating that Scotland could go its own way in areas like the recruitment of junior doctors, she said: "On issues such as the regulation of professions, it makes good sense for Scotland to work in concert with other countries in the UK.

"But there will also be times when it makes sense for us to take our own decisions and plot our own direction, even where we have traditionally subscribed to a UK-wide approach."

She pointed to the controversy over the Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) programme introduced in a bid to find a fairer way of placing junior doctors in oversubscribed training roles.

She said the executive would continue to support the principles of MMC, but would maintain a "flexible and pragmatic approach" to the recruitment of junior doctors within the MMC framework.

Tory health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon MSP accused Ms Sturgeon of putting politics before patients.

Ms Scanlon added: "When it comes to public services, here we have the true colours of the SNP being nailed to the mast - putting politics before the needs of patients.

"Today's announcement confirms that there will be no patient-led NHS with this Executive. For them it is all about instigating outdated ideology and not improving our NHS."

Nicola Sturgeon makes the announcement in London

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