NHS Scotland crisis: Nicola Sturgeon will take 'every possible step' as recruitment concerns raised

Health experts have voiced fears it may be "almost impossible" to recruit the extra social care staff required for the Scottish Government’s emergency plans as Nicola Sturgeon said “every possible step” will be taken to help the NHS.

Health experts have but voiced fears it may be "almost impossible" to recruit the extra social care staff required.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) and British Geriatric Society (BGS) Scotland cautiously welcomed the Government's plan in issuing a joint response to health secretary Humza Yousaf's announcement earlier this week of extra funding to provide more interim care home beds.

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The £8 million pledged to procure about 300 additional beds aims to alleviate "bed blocking" – the long-term occupation of hospital beds, primarily by elderly people, due to a shortage of suitable care elsewhere.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images

The NHS24 service is also due to take on around 200 new staff before the end of March.

Recent Public Health Scotland data shows the average number of hospital beds occupied a day due to delayed discharges was 1,950 in November, the highest since comparable data began to be collected in 2016.

Andrew Elder, president of the RCPE, said there remained "a number of concerns" about the announcement, including around the need for more staff.

"The RCPE welcomes all efforts by the Scottish Government to ease 'front door' and acute ward pressures by tackling the very significant delayed discharge challenge at the 'back door' of hospitals," he said.

"Indeed, we have been consistent in urging ministers to focus intensely on 'exit block', as we consider it key to decreasing the intense strain on acute services, and we are committed to working constructively with the Scottish Government to improve the situation.

"However, our college has a number of concerns about the announcement of an extra 300 interim care beds, and we are asking for further clarity and assurances from ministers.

"We question whether the funding announced will deliver as many interim care home places as envisaged, not least as the staffing pressures in the social care sector are so extreme that it may be almost impossible for care providers to recruit the extra staff they will require."

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Professor Elder said the Government also needed to provide more assurance that patients in interim care places would be able to access adequate rehabilitation support from physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

He said interim placements had "existed for too long", and measures should be put in place to end them, such as "building a respected and valued social care workforce that can care for our older people in the years to come".

"No patient should have to experience any 'interim' placement,” he said.

Ms Sturgeon, who chaired another resilience meeting on Friday to discuss the ongoing pressure on the health service, said: “It is clear that pressure on NHS and social care continues to be very high, and that we need to maintain our emphasis on doing everything we can to help the service through the remainder of the winter.”

She added: “The focus of today’s meeting was to ensure that we keep pushing ahead with every possible step to support our tremendous health and social care staff, and ensure the people of Scotland continue to get the care and treatment they need.”

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