'Honest conversation' on NHS future needed with new Scottish health secretary, warn doctors

Humza Yousaf “must be realistic” about what the NHS can deliver as it continues to recover from the strains of Covid-19, doctors have warned.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives to pose with members of her new cabinet outside Bute House, Edinburgh

Reacting to the appointment of Mr Yousaf as health secretary by Nicola Sturgeon as part of her cabinet reshuffle after her election victory, the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland warned doctors are under “more pressure than ever before” and risk “burn-out”.

It comes as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) call on all members of the new cabinet to focus on Covid-19 recovery.

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Among the high profile appointees include Shirley-Anne Somerville as education secretary, Michael Matheson as a new ‘net zero’ and transport secretary, with Kate Forbes retaining an expanded finance and economy role and John Swinney taking on a Covid Recovery portfolio.

BMA Scotland chair Dr Lewis Morrison, welcomed Mr Yousaf’s appointment but said staff wellbeing must be “front and centre” of the NHS’ recovery from the pandemic.

He said: “This new administration and the Cabinet Secretary must be realistic about what doctors and NHS Scotland are able to deliver with current staff and resources, especially as Covid will continue to have an impact on almost everything we do for a long time to come.

"Across both primary and secondary care, doctors and their teams are under more pressure than ever before; many are tired and at risk of burn-out. NHS recovery must be synonymous with staff recovery as we look to provide a more normal NHS service - recuperation from what has been the most challenging year of people’s careers in healthcare is an essential part of repairing the NHS.

"As we strive to provide care for all those who need it, including that which has been paused or delayed, clear communications to patients and the public about what they can realistically expect are crucial.”

Dr Morrison added: “As we move forward through and then beyond the next few critical months BMA Scotland believes it is time for a honest conversation with the public, healthcare professionals and politicians alike, about what we need NHS Scotland to deliver in the long term, and a crucially we need a proper plan to recruit and retain the staff that that will require.”

Professor Angela Thomas, acting president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, added that healthcare faces “enormous challenges” and called for “bold action” on drug deaths as well as movement on a bill restricting promotions on unhealthy food.

She said: “The next five years must be about recovery, improving the health of the nation, and ensuring that care is person-centred with human rights and equity at its heart.”

Members of Scotland’s business community also called on the new cabinet to focus on Covid-19 recovery.

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Business’ Scotland chair said John Swinney and Kate Forbes must focus on support firms in Moray and Glasgow impacted by last minute changes to restrictions.

He said: “While Mr Swinney has it in his title, Covid recovery is the responsibility of all the new and returning Ministerial appointments. At every turn, all Ministers must ensure their every decision helps smaller businesses and the self-employed get back on their feet.

"We can’t see new pressures placed on these operators that sustain half of all private sector jobs.”

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