Scotland's NHS crisis is serious, but Health Secretary Humza Yousaf should not be sacked – Scotsman comment

There is no doubt that the NHS is in a most serious crisis. And with new figures showing Scotland’s hospitals have set a new record low for accident and emergency waiting times, it appears things are getting worse.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is under pressure over the state of the NHS (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is under pressure over the state of the NHS (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

The situation led to calls from Labour and the Conservatives for Nicola Sturgeon to sack the “hopeless” Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf. This is understandable. After all, part of the job of the Opposition is to hold the government’s feet to the fire and make them pay a heavy political price when public services are in trouble. Such attacks help concentrate ministerial minds.

However, there is a danger of adopting the approach of angry football supporters calling for a manager to be sacked after a run of bad results. Any sporting ‘crisis’ is of an entirely different order to one that is a matter of life and death.

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If Sturgeon seeks to ‘placate the fans’ by removing Yousaf after 18 months in post in order to deflect some of the heat over the issue, that would not reduce the shocking number of people forced to wait for hours on end in A&E or solve the health service’s wider problems.

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What the First Minister must consider is not the politics of the situation but whether Yousaf is making the NHS crisis better or worse. And if it’s the former she should keep him, no matter the political cost. Another key consideration is whether she has anyone better to replace him.

Yousaf admitted that A&E performance “is not where I want it to be”. What he now needs to demonstrate – in a measurable and convincing way – is that his plans to drive down waiting times are working, his NHS recruitment drive is sufficient to address staff shortages, and he is a competent leader of the health service.

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The Scotsman has become accustomed to calling for high-profile resignations, with Boris Johnson (dishonesty) and Liz Truss (economic incompetence) ultimately forced out. However, while the NHS crisis is undeniable, it is not yet clear that Yousaf is guilty of the kind of egregious faults which warrant his dismissal. That said, it should be obvious to him that he must up his game, both for the sake of his career and the health of the nation.

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