Covid Scotland: Humza Yousaf tells NHS staff he will prioritise recruitment and mental health

Health and social care secretary Humza Yousaf has told NHS staff he will prioritise recruitment and staff mental health.

In an opening address to the annual NHS Scotland Event on Tuesday, Mr Yousaf said he was “honoured” to have taken up his new role.

Although event attendance is open to anyone, he was primarily speaking to NHS staff, in conversation with national clinical director Jason Leitch.

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Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (right) looks on as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday June 17, 2021.

The health secretary faced several questions on staff shortages and workload in a return to pre-Covid activity.

The Scottish Government will drive NHS recruitment, he said, and gave an “absolute commitment” that staff mental wellbeing would be prioritised.

He said: “I'm not just simply going to say, look, this is our plans to increase what we're doing over the next five years, without providing the NHS resource for it, and when I say the NHS I mean our people.

“We can’t ask the same cohort and cadre of people to do even more than they're doing, and what they have done over the last 15 months.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re recruiting more now and that’s one of the commitments we have made already.

“We will recruit, we have to recruit. I think we've got to take care of our staff too, and our terms and conditions will be hugely important.”

Mr Yousaf said staff mental wellbeing would be at the “forefront” of the Scottish Government’s consideration.

“I give you an absolute promise, an absolute commitment, that if we are setting ambitious targets for remobilisation and recovery, redesign of the NHS, which we are committed to doing, then your mental wellbeing – and your physical health –

will be at the forefront of our consideration.

“We're not going to ask you to do more, to meet certain targets, if we can’t step up to the plate in relation to your mental health. Our workforce are so important.”

Mr Yousaf opened up about his appointment as health secretary, admitting the role “never crossed his mind” before he was approached.

He was “convinced” Nicola Sturgeon would ask him to continue in his role as justice secretary after the May election, he said, and did not believe he would be given the larger responsibility of health.

The health secretary revealed Ms Sturgeon told him not to “panic” when she assigned him to health, adding that he did not at first believe her assessment that he would be good at it.

“I was actually quite convinced that I would be staying in justice,” he said.

“I thought I'd done a fairly decent job, but I also thought there was still some unfinished business that I had in justice, that I wanted to get back to.

“It just didn't cross my mind that it would be given this level of responsibility.”

Mr Yousaf said part of his surprise was due to him suffering from imposter syndrome.

He added: “It's a huge honour to be entrusted with it. And I just want to make sure I do the best I possibly can.”

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