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A SICK JOKE; Outrage as 350 hospital beds are axed ..on same day salaries for civil servants are doubled.

Byline: By CRAIG McGILL

SCOTLAND'S politicians showed what's important to them yesterday.

On the same say that they announced plans to slash 350 hospital beds, they admitted DOUBLING the cash spent on special advisors to the Executive.

While MSP'S seem determined to keep YOU out of hospital, they can't get penpushers into the civil service fast enough.

Official figures revealed yesterday show that the number of Executive staff increased from 3,336 in 1999 to 4,410 this year, and the number of media staff grew from 30 in 1997 to 90 in 2004.

It also emerged that the salaries, National Insurance and pension costs for special advisors increased from pounds 398,062 during 1999-2000 to pounds 704,790 in 2004-2005.

But, at the same time, NHS Greater Glasgow admitted it wants to cut the number of beds from 3,378 to 3,021.

Health chiefs say the move reflects the availability of new surgical techniques, which mean more operations can be carried out in day surgery or outpatient clinics.

They claim surgical advances mean an extra 10,000 people will be treated as day patients every year by 2010.

But patients' groups insist that, no matter how many are treated in day surgery, there will still be many others queueing up for beds.

Margaret Davidson, chief executive of the Patients' Association in Scotland, said: "This proposal is quite shocking.

"At a time when people are on waiting lists for years, it's ludicrous to be thinking about getting rid of beds.

"Even if more people are treated by day surgery there always needs to be beds for them in case something goes wrong - and we know things can and do go wrong regu- larly, for whatever reason.

"Where will these people go if there is no bed for them?

"And what will happen if there's no bed for them? Their lives could be at risk.

"Despite what some health bosses want to believe, a number of patients, espe- cially the elderly and people who have been very ill, don't want day surgery.

"They want to be in hospital where they can receive adequate after-care."

Brian Cowan, NHS Greater Glasgow's medical director, insisted that the overhaul would bring Glasgow's services in line with the UK's top-performing hospitals - by treating more patients.

He said: "In order to fore-cast how many day cases might be done by the time our new developments are open, we have compared our performance with other similar hospitals.

"By carrying out in 2010 the same levels of day cases that others are achieving now, we predict that up to 10,000 more patients could be treated as day patients - and would therefore have no need for a bed."

While the NHS is being run down, the Tories criticised the Executive for making the civil service one of Scotland's biggest growth industries.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Ted Brocklebank said: "It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

"The overall number of Scottish Executive staff has soared by 32 per cent since April 1999, the number of media staff has tripled since 1997 and the bill for special advisers has risen by 77 per cent.

"These figures merely reflect the big government approach of Labour and the Lib Dems."

He added: "Their first instinct is to legislate, regulate and interfere at every opportunity.

"No wonder our economy lags behind the rest of the UK when government itself is the biggest business of them all."

A Scottish Executive spokesman claimed the number of press officers had remained "static" over the past four years, with the only rises coming in areas such as support staff.

And he insisted that he and his colleagues' workload had "increased considerably" since the start of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

He said: "Communicating what the government is doing in Scotland is a crucial part of the Executive's work.

"The level of media interest since 1999 has increased significantly."

CAPTION(S):

NHS: Board plans cuts; HEALTH BOSS: Cowan; PLAN: Glasgow wants to treat more people in day surgery; CRITIC: Brocklebank
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 27, 2005
Words:673
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