By a Newsnet reporter
A Labour MSP who once falsely claimed that Scottish NHS Hospitals were the most infected in Europe, has launched yet another attack on the Scottish Health Service.
Jackie Baillie, who is Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson, has attacked a lack of guarantees over secondary treatment for cancer patients, claiming that waiting time targets should be introduced in order to ensure patients are seen within 31 days.
According to BBC Scotland Health correspondent Eleanor Bradford, the Scottish Labour MSP’s criticism means that patients “may be waiting too long for follow up treatment”.
The Labour MSP also claimed that treatment in England was better than in Scotland because a 31 day guarantee was in place.
According to the BBC reporter, Ms Baillie said: "When you speak to clinicians, their priority is to treat as quickly as possible.
"This is a question of resources and priorities. The cabinet secretary really needs to ensure that the clinicians are supported in treating people with cancer."
Responding, Health Secretary Alex Neil said setting too many targets could skew resources and that decisions on when to pursue follow up treatment was best left to clinicians who, freed from having to meet targets, would refer patients solely on clinical need.
He said: "That's why we've actually reduced the number of targets substantially over the last five years."
The attack by the Labour MSP follows similar criticisms of the Scottish government policy by Ms Bradford herself. In January this year, the BBC reporter described the Scottish government’s policy as a “loophole” and cited breast cancer patients who waited 15 weeks for follow up radiotherapy.
The claims contained in the online article featured in several news broadcasts by the BBC Scotland reporter.
However, according to specialists, there is in fact no definitive medical evidence to suggest that a delay in radiotherapy treatment after surgery hampers recovery.
The criticism by the BBC reporter and the Scottish Labour MSP follows revelations last year of waiting time targets having been manipulated at one hospital in West Lothian and one in Dundee. The revelations led to an inquiry by Audit Scotland which found no evidence that the practice was widespread.
As revealed though by Newsnet Scotland, both Bradford and Baillie have themselves been guilty of manipulating information in relation to the Scottish NHS.
In another article published on January 12th, Ms Bradford claimed that “As many as 3,500 people at risk of bone fractures are waiting eight months for a scan to detect osteoporosis at a clinic in Aberdeen.”
However, Newsnet Scotland discovered the statement was inaccurate – the 3,500 figure was the number of patients treated by the centre in a year and not the number who were affected by the 32 week delay.
Indeed, the situation was hardly a secret having been published on NHS Grampian’s own website since October 3rd 2011 – fully 15 months before the BBC Scotland reporter revealed the ‘scandal’.
NHS Grampian put out a detailed statement following the BBC report which refuted all of the allegations made by Eleanor Bradford in no uncertain terms.
It subsequently emerged that, far from 3,500 people having been affected by the scanner problem at NHS Grampian as claimed by BBC Scotland, the real figure was closer to one hundred.
In the case of Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP has a history of launching attacks on the Scottish NHS.
Back in 2012 Ms Baillie was guilty of issuing false information relating to the infection rates at NHS hospitals in Scotland, describing Scottish hospitals as being at the top of the European Infection league table.
Ms Baillie said: “Being the superbug capital of Europe is an accolade no country wants.
“These figures show that, despite recent progress, the SNP government still has a long way to go in the battle against healthcare-associated infections.
“Sadly, almost everybody knows someone who has contracted a healthcare-associated infection, like C.diff or MRSA.
“We must aspire to deliver the cleanest hospitals and the lowest levels of hospital-acquired infections in the whole of Europe – not the highest.”
However, as revealed by Newsnet Scotland at the time, the claims were false. The data used by the Labour MSP was in fact collated in 2005/6, at a time when Labour were in power at Holyrood.
Ms Baillie’s attack featured prominently on BBC Scotland and was published by the Scotsman newspaper. She has yet to face a single question from anyone at the BBC over the false claims.
At the time of Ms Baillie’s attack, Scottish hospitals were the cleanest they had ever been.