THE Better Together “tag team” of Tory and Labour was in action this week when Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale combined their efforts to attack the First Minister on the issue of Scotland’s NHS.

In a week where the Red Cross had to step in to help the health service in England it seemed a strange tactic by the Dynamic Duo of Davidson and Dugdale. Scotland’s NHS consistently outperforms the NHS in the rest of the UK on any number of issues from A&E waiting times to bed blocking, yet this hapless duo seem to believe that if they keep shouting “NHS failure” loud enough, Scots will get confused about the media coverage of a failing NHS in England (and Wales under Labour) and start to assume there is in some sort of crisis in Scotland.

If we look at the issue of waiting times, the Scottish NHS released figures showing that 92 per cent of patients were seen within the four-hour time slot. Although this is below the 95 per cent target, it is still approximately 10 per cent higher than the figures achieved in the NHS in England. But instead of supporting this and trying to encourage our hard-working NHS staff to reach the ambitious 95 per cent target, Davidson and Dugdale treat them with derision.

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If anyone thinks that the Tories or Labour could do better, you only have to look at the relative figures in the NHS in England (under Tory control) or Wales (under Labour control) which reveals a far lower level of patients being treated within four hours. In fact, Scotland’s A&E performance has been the best in the UK for more that 20 months, but apparently that’s not good enough for Tory or Labour politicians. We should also remember that when Labour were in power in Scotland there was even a waiting list to get on the actual waiting list! The latest embarrassment for the NHS in England was the news that the Red Cross has had to be called in to help.

The Red Cross is known for its great humanitarian work. It is an organisation that brings up images of war zones and natural disasters, so it’s a major embarrassment for the Tories that the latest disaster this organisation has had to deal with is not a natural one, but rather the result of Tory Government policies.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said his organisation was “on the front line”. He said: “[We are] responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country. We have been called in to support the NHS and to help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds. This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients.”

This is a direct consequence of the Tory Government’s disregard for the NHS in England. The signs of failure are becoming more apparent every week. Only last month around 50 out of the 152 NHS acute hospital trusts in England were forced to declare an alert and even scale back the level of care they could offer patients as they could not cope with the number of people seeking medical attention.

Seven of these trusts even went as far as declaring the highest level of emergency no fewer than 15 times, effectively meaning they were unable to give patients comprehensive care.

As I’m writing this article, the latest news from the NHS in England looks even worse with 66 out of the 152 trusts raising an alarm after mounting bed shortages led to large numbers of patients experiencing trolley waits and delays in A&E.

Data leaked to the BBC suggests that less than 80 per cent of patients are now being seen within the A&E waiting time target. To cope with this, some hospitals have started calling in extra staff, cancelling routine treatments, such as knee and hip operations, and diverting ambulances away from their hospital – so far this has happened at 39 A&E units in England.

In contrast, health spending in Scotland reached a record £13 billion in 2016, despite the ongoing cuts and pressures on Scotland’s block grant. This has allowed NHS staffing to reach a new record high – with 11,500 more whole-time equivalent staff under the SNP. Although there will always be room for improvement and no one could suggest otherwise, the fact remains that the SNP’s commitment to the Scottish NHS is also reflected in the number of patients who rate their care and treatment as good or excellent, with a 90 per cent approval rating – the highest rating since inpatient surveys began in 2010.

Of course, if Davidson and Dugdale were interested in actually improving the NHS – and other public services in Scotland – they would be joining the SNP in demanding more resources rather than more cuts for Scotland. Let’s not forget that both of them have sat silently by as their respective party leaders in London have consistently cut millions from Scotland’s budget.