Alex NeilScottish Health secretary Alex Neil has attacked the “damaging” effects of NHS privatisation in England, pledging to take the service in Scotland down a different path to ensure the best care for patients.

In a report by the Scotsman, Neil says he “totally rejects” the approach south of the Border, where the private sector has become increasingly involved in NHS provision.

Writing in Scotland on Sunday today a year on from his appointment to the health job – and 12 months ahead of the independence referendum – he spells out the differences between the two countries, stating that the Scottish NHS would remain faithful to the principles on which it was founded.

But opposition politicians said Neil needed to focus more on concerns in Scotland rather than criticising what was happening elsewhere in the UK.

Neil writes that privatisation of the NHS in England, which has included private companies running GP practices and other health services such as the new non-emergency 111 phone line, is “growing ever more pronounced and damaging”.

He said while England and Scotland share the same challenges – financial pressures, the effects of an ageing population and tackling health inequalities – the NHS south of the Border was going in “a completely different direction of travel” with its market-led system.

“One of the big criticisms of what has happened in the last three years south of the Border is that £2 billion has been spent on top-down reorganisation, not a penny of which has been on patient care,” he said. “I think they are going to end up with a much more bureaucratic health service than we have in Scotland.”