NHS Borders says it has “significantly reduced” the number of its patients being sent to private hospitals for treatment.
The local health authority was responding to the figures that were given in a Scottish Parliamentary answer last week which indicated an almost tenfold increase in its use of private healthcare providers from 2011/12 to 2014/15.
In a trend consistent with the rest of Scotland, the number of NHS patients in the Borders treated as an inpatient or day case in private hospitals was as follows: 2011/12 – 26; 2012/13 – 70; 2013/14 – 249; 2014/15 – 238.
The figures were seized upon on by local Conservative MSP, John Lamont, who is seeking re-election as the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire in the election on May 5.
He accused the Scottish Government of “actively presiding over this huge increase in the use of private hospitals”.
“The use of private providers in our NHS is appropriate as long as they can provide a high quality service in a cost-effective way which remains free at the point of use,” said Mr Lamont.
He added: “However, these figures show the complete hypocrisy of the SNP and their stewardship of the NHS in the Borders.
“Questions must now be asked to understand why NHS Borders is turning to the private sector to treat so many patients.”
A health board spokesperson told Tweeddale Press this week: “A particular challenge to NHS Borders, similar to other Scottish health boards, has been the difficulty in recruiting to certain staffing groups.
“NHS Borders is working hard to ensure that, where possible, patients are treated locally and has significantly reduced the number of patients who are sent to private hospitals. Indeed, we expect that the number of patients treated in private hospitals this year [2015/16] will have halved.”