Nicola Sturgeon yesterday warned Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans are a “real and present” danger to the NHS.
The First Minister told supporters in St Andrews yesterday that the Conservative leader’s proposals would make it harder to attract NHS staff from Europe.
She said: “Brexit is just the latest – albeit extreme example – of Westminster Tory governments damaging jobs, living standards and public services.
“The effect on the health service will be particularly severe. All health services are facing pressures. Scotland is no different. In government the SNP is investing record amounts.
“Despite cuts from Westminster, we’re spending £136 per head more than England on frontline health services.
“We’ve made prescriptions free. And there are more consultants and more nurses than when we took office.”
The SNP leader said the Scottish Government had worked to block the creeping privatisation of health services that, she said, was happening in England.
She added: “But make no mistake, Brexit is the biggest threat to Scotland’s NHS since it was founded just over 70 years ago.
“It is a real and present danger to our precious, publicly-run health service.
“Brexit will make it harder to attract NHS staff from Europe. The economy will slow down, putting increased pressure on NHS budgets.”
Ms Sturgeon also promised the SNP would work with other parties at Westminster to introduce an NHS Protection Act that would stop a UK Government selling off the NHS.
She said: “Any proposed agreements without these protections could not be considered for approval by either the UK Government or UK parliament.
“And there will be a double-lock to protect Scotland’s NHS.
“The NHS Protection Act will also require the explicit consent of the Scottish Parliament before any new trade deal can be ratified.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard promised to tackle hospital bed blocking by investing £600 million in social care services.
Some of the cash would go towards reducing bed blocking in hospitals by increasing care in the community.
Delayed discharges, where patients continue to stay in hospital despite being ready to be discharged, cost NHS Scotland more than 500,000 bed days last year.
Mr Leonard said: “The SNP has been in power in Scotland for 12 years and has presided over a crisis in social care that is unprecedented.
“There are 1,430 hospital beds occupied every day by patients who don’t need to be there but have nowhere else to go. This cannot be allowed to continue.
“Scottish Labour’s ambitious plan to resource and reform Scotland’s social care system and establish a Scottish Care Service could save the NHS £130m every year. It would also give people in need of care renewed dignity and hope.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said voters must “act now” to stop the SNP seeking a second Scottish independence referendum.
On a visit to the St Andrews aquarium, he said the SNP has not learned the lessons from the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
He said: “I want to see Scotland working in partnership with our neighbours, as we have done for hundreds of years.
“From pushing forward the frontiers of science to building the NHS, we have always been stronger when we work together.
“The clock is ticking as the SNP want the split next year, so we need to act now to make sure it stops now.”