FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon told NHS at breaking point

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: John Devlin
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: John Devlin
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THE NHS in Scotland is at “breaking point” with 287,000 working days lost to it due to stress – a 21 per cent increase compared with two years ago – Nicola Sturgeon was told at Holyrood.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale made the claim as she pressed Ms Sturgeon to promise the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston will not be closed following a review.

More than a quarter of a million working days were lost during 2014-15 due to stress

Kezia Dugdale

Ms Dugdale also called on the government to reverse up to £60 million of budget cuts she claimed Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS was facing, at Holyrood’s First Minister’s Questions.

Ms Dugdale said: “Our NHS is at breaking point. Hard-working, loyal staff are crying out for help.

“Kicking unpopular decisions into the long grass has become a hallmark of this government and it’s not just in the Lothians.

“We know NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is preparing for budget cuts of up to £60m, including the closure of services and cuts to staff numbers.”

However, Ms Sturgeon stated that her government was protecting health services that she claimed the last Labour administration had been planning to cut.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The truth is that this is the government that has protected St John’s Hospital from the cuts that were planned to it by the last Labour administration.”

Ms Dugdale, a Lothian MSP, highlighted the 287,000 working days lost to Scotland’s NHS due to staff stress in 2014-15, a sharp rise on the figure of just over 237,000 two years before, citing data released under freedom of information laws.

She said: “This really matters because it puts vital NHS services facing cuts under even more pressure.

“One of those services is the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, which is currently under review and potentially under threat of closure.

“The First Minister will tell us it is a decision for the health board, but she has over-ruled officials before and she should do so again now.

“My constituents would like a simple yes or no answer to this question – can the First Minister confirm once and for all she will not allow the children’s ward at St John’s to be either closed or downgraded?”

But Ms Sturgeon hit out at the Labour leader for “asking me to say now, before an independent review has concluded, that I will ignore any recommendations” to reduce services at the children’s ward at St John’s, which has previously been forced to close to inpatients as a result of staff shortages.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We will go on taking the decisions to protect St John’s Hospital and hospitals right around our country.”