Scottish health boards have been told to clamp down on their use of the private sector for treating NHS patients.
New guidance issued by Scottish health secretary Alex Neil makes it clear that the vast majority of patients should be treated within NHS Scotland, the Scottish government said.
Health boards have been asked to submit plans for their use of the independent health sector, and all significant private sector spend in future years will need to be agreed by the Scottish government.
NHS spending in Scotland in 2012-13 for independent healthcare to help meet waiting list targets was around £28m, or 0.8% of the overall budget, ministers said.
The figure is expected to fall to around £25m in 2013-14, but Mr Neil wants it to drop further.
Ministers said the funding in Scotland is already lower than the percentage of public sector spending on private healthcare in England, which the Scottish government said was 9.5% in 2011-12.
Mr Neil said: “I have been very clear with all NHS health boards that I expect them to take every action possible to ensure that the private sector is only
used in exceptional circumstances.
“I recognise that there are times where it is not possible for the patient to be treated by the NHS within a reasonable timescale, but these arrangements should only be used in the margins and should not be the norm.
He added: “It is important to set this out in context - fewer than 0.5% of NHS patients had their treatment undertaken in the private sector.”
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