NHS Scotland crisis: Call in the army to help NHS through 'winter crisis', says Scottish Labour

Scottish ministers are being urged to call in the army to help boost capacity in the struggling NHS.

Scottish Labour made the plea, saying military assistance was needed, particularly to ensure that ambulance services and accident-and-emergency (A&E) departments "do not buckle under pressure".

Ministers had previously called in the army to help during the coronavirus crisis, with soldiers being brought in to drive ambulances in 2021 – with Labour calling for similar action now.

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Party health spokesperson Jackie Baillie challenged both First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her health secretary Humza Yousaf to act, telling them: "The time has come to end the dither and to act."

She made the call after the latest waiting time figures for A&E departments showed a record 1,925 Scots spent 12 hours or more there in the week leading up to Christmas.

Ms Baillie insisted: "Scotland is now in the midst of the worst NHS winter crisis in living memory – for which this SNP Government is solely responsible."

Labour wants the Scottish Government to ensure that "promised increases" in investment for NHS24 delivers "quicker response times and better quality support for patients instead of long waits on the phone".

The party also insists A&E departments must be "properly staffed, so that patients can be triaged and have tests carried out in a timely manner" and for action to tackle delayed discharge – where patients who are medically well enough to leave hospital have to remain while they wait for care packages to be put in place.

Dealing with this would allow for people to be "cared for appropriately" while also increasing hospital bed capacity for those with urgent clinical need, Labour said.

As part of this, it suggested putting plans in place to raise the minimum pay for care workers to £15 per hour could help tackle staff shortages in the social care sector.

Ms Baillie said Labour was calling for action in these "key areas to bolster our NHS, protect patients and support staff", as she challenged both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Yousaf to act.

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She stated: "For months, Scottish Labour warned of potential winter NHS chaos and offered solutions that would support staff and patients, but Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon stuck their fingers in their ears and simply ignored everyone, including clinicians.

"The result of SNP inaction and incompetence is the lives of thousands of Scots being put in danger on a weekly basis."

Ms Baillie continued: "After 15 years of the SNP's mismanagement, the very existence of an NHS worthy of the name in Scotland is at stake.

"Scottish Labour will not stand by and let that happen, which is why today, I have demanded action in key areas to bolster our NHS, protect patients and support staff.

"If Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon refuse to work with us to end this crisis then they will have to answer to the righteous fury of the Scottish people.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.



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