Page last updated at 23:37 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 00:37 UK

Row over health budget cut claim

Ambulance staff with a patient
Scottish ministers strongly denied claims of budget cuts

A row has broken out between the Scottish Government and Labour, after the party claimed health boards could lose 85m because of rising inflation.

Labour said inflation would outstrip Scottish Government budget increases at 4.4% - and raised concern that patient care would suffer.

But Scottish ministers said the NHS budget increases were above the projected inflation rate at the time.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said Labour had committed a huge blunder.

Scottish Labour said health authorities and the ambulance service were facing cuts and urged Ms Sturgeon to find extra cash.

This is an absurd and inaccurate attack - which rebounds right back to the Labour Party
Scottish Government spokesman

"These are not just efficiency savings, but real cuts to the health service totalling more than 85m," the party's health spokeswoman, Margaret Curran, said.

"I am very concerned that patient care will suffer as a result.

"If Nicola Sturgeon doesn't want to be branded the 'minister for health cuts' she must make the NHS a genuine priority for the SNP and find the money to fund it properly."

The Scottish Government has increased NHS funding of about 3%, adding 257m.

Labour said 4.4% inflation would see cuts of between 300,000, in Orkney, to 21.7m in, Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The party added that the Scottish Ambulance Service would lose 2.2m.

'Political blunder'

Public spending expert Arthur Midwinter, who advises the Labour party, said the SNP had over-promised and under-delivered on the NHS, adding: "Their financial incompetence is now coming home to roost."

A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said Ms Curran had committed a "huge political blunder".

"This is an absurd and inaccurate attack - which rebounds right back to the Labour Party," he said.

"Despite the tightest funding settlement since devolution, the Scottish Government increased the budget for our NHS above the projected inflation rate.

"And money for cutting waiting times and other priorities is extra to the health board allocations."

The spokesman added that when in power the SNP reversed the closure of A&E units at Ayr and Monklands - a decision taken by the previous government - and had announced the scrapping of prescription charges.

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