NHS Scotland strikes: Nicola Sturgeon says Humza Yousaf has her 'absolute confidence' as health secretary despite sacking calls

Nicola Sturgeon has said her health secretary Humza Yousaf has her “absolute confidence” despite calls for him to be sacked.

The health service has struggled in recent months, with accident-and-emergency (A&E) waiting times worsening and staff threatening to strike.

But Nicola Sturgeon defended the health secretary on Monday as she visited a school in Glasgow’s east end, urging opposition parties to stop their “political game playing”.

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“I have absolute confidence in Humza Yousaf,” she said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon talking to pupils in a Modern Studies class during her visit to Whitehill Secondary School in Glasgow. Picture: Robert Perry/PA Wire
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“Anybody who thinks the challenges – the very real challenges – our National Health Service is facing now is down to who the health secretary is, probably doesn’t understand the nature of those challenges.”

The First Minister said the NHS was performing “better in many respects” than the health service in England and Wales, pointing out the opposition parties in Scotland calling for Mr Yousaf to go – Labour and the Conservatives – are in power in control of health in those countries.

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“I think what we need to see from the opposition is a bit less political game-playing over the NHS and a real focus on the very real and very hard challenges that our National Health Service is facing,” she said. “That is what I am bringing to bear and that is what Humza Yousaf is bringing to bear.”

Addressing the looming strikes in the health service, which will include nurses, ambulance staff and physiotherapists if a deal is not reached, the First Minister said there was “political will” in Scotland for a higher settlement, but the finances were lacking.

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“The management of the health service is absolutely the responsibility of the Scottish Government, but our ability to put more resources into the health service depends on decisions taken by the UK Government, which determines the overall size of our budget,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“We can see from the higher pay increase that NHS workers are being offered in Scotland compared to England and Wales, that political will is there in Scotland – what is holding us back is a lack of funding, and that can only come now from the UK Government.”

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