Covid Scotland: Fully remobilising NHS will take years, admits Humza Yousaf

Fully remobilising the NHS in Scotland after Covid will take years, health secretary Humza Yousaf has warned.

He was speaking on the issue on Wednesday as health boards across the country continue to come under pressure because of the impact of coronavirus.

Bosses at NHS Lanarkshire were on Tuesday forced to cancel some planned surgeries, with the health board’s director of acute services Judith Park saying “the pressures on our hospitals are as severe as at any time in the whole pandemic”.

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Health secretary Humza Yousaf receives his second dose of the BioNTech Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine administered by vaccinator Arhum Asif at the Glasgow Central Mosque. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Accident and emergency departments are also under pressure, with the latest weekly figures showing almost a fifth (19.9 per cent) of patients had to wait more than four hours to be dealt with.

Mr Yousaf stressed that operations were not being cancelled “across the board”, but by “some health boards”.

While he accepted this had “an impact” on patients, he said it allowed health services “to deal with the most urgent priorities”.

Mr Yousaf also said some emergency departments were dealing with higher volumes of cases than they were before the pandemic, describing this as “quite extraordinary”.

He said the Scottish Government had given an additional £12 million to A&E departments “for them to be able to use in whatever way they think is appropriate”.

The health secretary insisted there were “no quick fixes”, but said emergency units were performing “well given the real, real challenges and pressures they are facing”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Yousaf said: “The fact that eight out of ten people are being seen within the four-hour treatment time target that we have, it doesn’t suggest to me they’re in crisis.

“Challenging for sure, difficult for sure, nobody is denying that, that is why we are giving additional funding to health boards.”

He said he had spoken to a “number of the health boards that are facing probably the most acute pressure”, explaining they are often dealing with more complicated cases than pre-Covid.

Mr Yousaf said: “We have just been through a huge shock here for the last 16 months where a number of people who might have presented during that 16 months haven’t presented and therefore are coming with more complexities.”

A plan for the full remobilisation of the NHS in Scotland will be published “shortly”, he promised, noting the SNP had committed to doing this within 100 days of the May 6 Holyrood election.

But he stressed: “The plan will be realistic. I am not going to sit there and tell people the NHS will be fully remobilised within a month, within two months, within three months.

“This is going to take years to fully remobilise our NHS.

“Anybody who presents you with some false solutions to this is being inaccurate.”

NHS Lanarkshire had confirmed on Tuesday that increased Covid-19 cases, staff shortages due to annual leave or staff having to self-isolate as a result of contacts outside of work was causing major pressure, along with trying to maintain and recover services – including planned operations.

The health board said that as of Tuesday there were 81 Covid-19 cases across its three acute sites, University Hospital Hairmyres, Monklands and Wishaw, with seven people in intensive care.

On Monday 643 patients attended accident and emergency departments across the three hospitals.

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