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What will happen to the NHS in an independent Scotland?

The NHS is already the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. The process of becoming independent will not change the way you receive your health care. You’ll still be able to visit your GP and local hospital as now.

NHS Scotland already operates independently in Scotland. NHS Scotland has been the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament since devolution in 1999.

The Scottish Government’s vision for the NHS in Scotland is to maintain our publicly owned, publicly funded health service providing care free at the point of delivery.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will the NHS be safe from privatisation?

Yes. Scotland has taken a very different approach from that in England. The Scottish Government has categorically ruled out the disruptive and costly structural reforms happening in NHS England. Avoiding the privatisation of services seen south of the border has allowed us to focus on improving safety and quality of care.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will an independent Scotland maintain the current number of doctors and nurses in the NHS?

In Scotland’s NHS, staffing decisions are made by Health Boards in line with their own local needs and circumstances. This will continue to be the case on independence. Under the current Scottish Government, NHS staffing has increased by 5 per cent overall and by 1.5 per cent in the last year. There are now over 1,000 extra qualified nurses and midwives and over 1,500 more doctors working in our health service.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will be the impact of constitutional reform on funding for medical research in Scotland?

Medical research is a Scottish strength.

Scottish researchers win a disproportionate share of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) funds for which researchers based in Scotland can apply. For example, in 2011/12, with a population share of 8.4 per cent, researchers in Scotland won 9.8 per cent of the total funds awarded by the MRC and won 14.6 per cent of the total funds awarded through the NIHR funding streams open to them.

There are clear benefits, for the whole medical research community in these islands, from Scotland remaining within a research funding system with the rest of the UK. An independent Scotland, contributing directly to the overall research council budget, will be in a strong position to influence research priority setting at a UK level.

Levels of public investment in university research will enable our researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive, with current levels of public investment in university research, through the Scottish Funding Council and Research Councils, at least maintained.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will independence affect the length of NHS waiting lists in Scotland?

As NHS Scotland is already under the control of the Scottish Parliament, its values and priorities will continue on independence. However, with independence, the Scottish budget will no longer be constrained by decisions made at Westminster, and will therefore reflect Scottish priorities.

Our approach to transforming waiting times for patients is an example of how better results are achieved for the people of Scotland when decisions are made in Scotland. As part of the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011, the Scottish Government introduced the 12 week Treatment Time Guarantee for inpatients and day cases which enshrines in law a patient’s right to be treated within 12 weeks. By March 2013, 97.5 per cent of patients waited less than the 12 week standard for a first outpatient consultation. This compares with waits of six months in March 2007.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will an independent Scotland still have free prescriptions?

Yes. The move to independence will not change the benefits we currently enjoy. Decisions on things like free prescriptions will form part of the policies set out by parties in their manifestos for future Scottish parliamentary elections, with the political parties each offering their own approach, just as now. The current Scottish Government’s vision for the NHS in Scotland is a publicly funded health service providing care free at the point of delivery for all who need it. This includes free prescriptions.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to free personal care in an independent Scotland?

We have no plans to change the successful policy of Free Personal and Nursing Care in an independent Scotland. This distinctively Scottish approach is an example of how decisions made in Scotland provide better outcomes for the people of Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will an independent Scotland have to put in place new arrangements for medical training and education?

No. Scotland already has five medical schools, which continue to attract high numbers of undergraduates from across Scotland and England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as students from overseas, who want to study medicine.

Medical education operates in a world-wide market, and Scotland continues to enjoy a well-earned reputation for providing trainee doctors with high quality training and development opportunities. Given these strengths, we see co-operation on medical training continuing on the same four-country basis as today.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will medical workforce representatives participate in NHS Scotland pay negotiation processes after independence?

Yes. Responsibility for pay, terms and conditions of service for staff in NHS Scotland is already devolved.

The Scottish Government will ensure that they continue to have independent pay advice when setting pay for NHS Scotland doctors and dentists.

In recent years the Scottish Government has successfully developed a Scottish GP contract with the British Medical Association (BMA), and with independence we will continue to work with them to ensure that GP contracts are developed to meet the needs and circumstances of the people of Scotland.

Similarly, for hospital-based doctors and dentists, the Scottish Government will work with the BMA, and seek to co-operate with the Westminster Government where appropriate, to negotiate pay, terms and conditions. The funding and terms and conditions for General Dental Services, General Ophthalmic Services and Community Pharmacy are already devolved and fully negotiated in Scotland. These arrangements will also not change.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will Scotland continue to access services from NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence)?

In Scotland, NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland provides a similar function to that provided by NICE in England and Wales. The Scottish Medicines Consortium already delivers the functions of NICE in Scotland in relation to access to new medicines and will continue to do so.

The Scottish Government currently purchases some services from NICE via a Service Level Agreement negotiated and operated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland. This arrangement too could continue in an independent Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will an independent Scotland agree the price of medicines with the pharmaceutical industry?

The UK Department of Health currently agrees the pricing of medicines on a UK-wide basis given that this is currently a reserved area. Negotiations on new pricing arrangements from 1 January 2014 have been agreed between the Department of Health and the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). The agreement will run for a five year period in line with previous agreements.

The UK Department of Health currently agrees the pricing of medicines on a UK-wide basis given that this is currently a reserved area. Negotiations on new pricing arrangements from 1 January 2014 have been agreed between the Department of Health and the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). The agreement will run for a five year period in line with previous agreements.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will happen to blood donor services in an independent Scotland?

Scotland already has a fully independent blood donor service. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has in place a reciprocal agreement with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) and the other UK Blood Services to provide mutual assistance in the event of a blood shortage or unplanned event that affects their ability to supply hospitals. Following independence, this Government proposes to continue this reciprocal arrangement.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

How will an independent Scotland organise organ donation and transplantation services?

Organ donation and transplant activity across the UK is co-ordinated by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) which operates in Scotland under a contractual arrangement with the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government contributes to the running costs of NHSBT and the organisation is accountable to Scottish Ministers for the organ donation and transplantation activities it undertakes in Scotland.

Donations and transplantations are organised jointly across the UK as it is in the best interests of patients to ensure that organs have the best match to recipients. We will be able to continue these arrangements following independence, in much the same way that the Health Service Executive of the Republic of Ireland currently works with NHSBT on transplants. This is the same as other parts of Europe where groups of countries work together across borders to achieve the best outcomes for their patients.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I still be able to get specialist treatment in England?

Yes. The NHS in Scotland already co-operates with England, as well as with other countries for some services, to provide a range of specialised services not routinely available in Scotland. Access to a range of highly specialised services in England is managed and paid for by NHS National Services Scotland. Similarly, services currently offered in Scotland to patients from England will continue in an independent Scotland.

The Westminster and Scottish Governments also have arrangements in place with a number of other nations, including the Republic of Ireland, for reciprocal treatment. It will be in everyone’s interest for such arrangements and co-operation to continue in an independent Scotland.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

Will I be able to get NHS treatment if I am taken ill while in England?

Yes. Following independence, should someone resident in Scotland take ill while in England, Wales or Northern Ireland they will be treated by local health services according to their clinical need, just as they are now.

Equally, visitors to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK will be cared for and treated as they are under current arrangements. EU directives protect access to such treatment.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.

What will the law on abortion be in an independent Scotland?

On the principle of continuation of existing law, current legislation on abortion will continue to apply within an independent Scotland until such times as that legislation is amended or repealed by the Parliament of an independent Scotland. There are no plans to change the current abortion time limit.

Source: Scotland's Future, Scottish Government, November 2013.