‘Think twice’ about calling 999 shows naivety from Yousaf - Conor Matchett

Running Scotland’s health service is arguably the most important job in the Scottish Government, so why does Humza Yousaf make it look so difficult?

I may be being unfair here given the fact he has only been in post since May, but Mr Yousaf is an old hand at having ministerial responsibility and does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

On Wednesday, he told Scots via Good Morning Scotland the public should “think twice” about phoning an ambulance in the event of an emergency.

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Covid Scotland: Health Secretary under fire after he urges Scots to ‘think twice...

Mr Yousaf has also previously said people should only call 999 if there is a life-threatening incident, but surely this decision is not something that should be on the shoulders of untrained medical professionals.

He was also slapped on the wrist by the UK’s statistics regulator around hospitalisations of children “because of” Covid.

These are relatively minor errors, but they speak of a politician who is not on top of the detail and who speaks first – often overly candidly – and considers how the public will hear his words second.

There is something to be admired about a politician who is willing to be frank about the problems facing the NHS, but the tone of responses must take into account the very real impact of the words on people listening.

Opposition parties labelled this “reckless” and said it might lead to those suffering stroke symptoms or heart attacks to delay calling for time-sensitive help.

Mr Yousaf will hope his words do not have this impact, but it is plausible it might and naive to think it will not.

What is obvious is that Scotland’s ambulance service and accident and emergency departments are under serious strain as the decision to allow Covid-19 to run rampant among the young continues to bite the NHS.

Make no mistake, the stresses on Scotland’s NHS are inherited from pre-Covid and have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

But Mr Yousaf – nor the Conservatives who backed a quicker reopening of society – cannot wash their hands of the fact his government’s policy to let Covid circulate at high levels is also a major factor.

Policy and words matter, and the health secretary is beginning to feel the pressure unintended results of both can have.

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