John Swinney said that while the NHS could cope with the twin demands of coronavirus and normal winter pressures, it had badly affected staff.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing he said that people who had watched broadcast footage from inside hospital Covid wards could not miss “the enormous pressure the NHS is under” and staff were carrying an “additional burden” as a result of the latest wave of Covid “coming on top of a period of enormous, intense, pressure”.
He added: “it would have been inconceivable the health service would have been able to cope with the volume of people presenting themselves if we hadn’t taken the steps we did”.
Pointing to the Dumfries and Galloway area, he said: “It wasn't so long ago that ministers were agreeing for Dumfries and Galloway to have restrictions relaxed because of very few cases in the area, only to find ourselves with the onset of the new variant, that cases were galloping away from us at an alarming pace. That illustrated the pressure on the NHS but also the necessity for restrictions.”
Asked if he was confident the NHS could cope he said: “I’m confident health and social care professionals are devoting every minute of the day to address this challenge but I have to acknowledge they are tired and burdened, and there will also be challenges on the capacity of the health service... in some parts of the country we're having to move patients from health board area to health board area. That's why we stand here and make the plea for members of the public to follow the rules and reduce number of cases and the pressure on the NHS.”
National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch agreed the NHS would manage the Covid outbreak, but he said it could only do so because “it's on an emergency footing and cancelling things it wants to do, and moving people around the country”.