Unpopular decisions may be needed to ease pressure on NHS – Humza Yousaf

NHS staff are “extraordinarily tired” and unpopular decisions may be required to free up hospital capacity, health secretary Humza Yousaf has conceded.

During a visit to Wishaw General Hospital in North Lanarkshire on Wednesday, Mr Yousaf said staff had told him they are “really feeling the pressure” on emergency departments. It comes after Scotland’s accident and emergency (A&E) waiting time performance fell to record lows in the latest weekly figures.

The health secretary said bed blocking was a key issue putting pressure on hospitals. Speaking to reporters during the visit, Mr Yousaf said: “It’s exceptionally busy.

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“The staff are extraordinarily tired, they tell me that they’re really feeling the pressure here in the ED (emergency) department.”

NHS staff are “extraordinarily tired” and unpopular decisions may be required in order to free up hospital capacity, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said.
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The most important issue is capacity, Mr Yousaf said, and being able to discharge individuals who are clinically safe to leave hospital would make a “big, big difference”.

He said the Scottish Government and councils were looking at options they would not consider in “normal times”.

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Mr Yousaf said: “It may be unpopular for people, it may not be their first choice of care home, for example, it may not be their second choice of care home. But we desperately need people out of acute sites and if there is a single bed available in the community, we’ve got to make sure it’s filled.”

Discussing the financial pressures on the NHS, Mr Yousaf was asked about the Government’s recent announcement of £5 million for countries in the global south to deal with the impact of climate change, and whether similar sums could be found for the health service.

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Mr Yousaf said he disagreed with “taking money away” from the global south, adding: “You can make that argument if you wish, it’s not one I subscribe to. I think the nature of the problem that we’re facing here is one that is predominantly caused by the UK Government’s mismanagement of the economy.”

Pressure has been growing on the health secretary to quit over A&E wait times, with opposition parties asking for Mr Yousaf to stand down or for him to be sacked by Nicola Sturgeon due to record low A&E waiting time performances.

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Mr Yousaf said the problems facing the NHS were “far bigger than any one individual”. He said he had a “relentless focus” on improving the front line of the NHS, and accused others of using it as a “political football”.

“People can focus on personalities if they want, but the situation is extremely difficult in Conservative England, in Labour-run Wales, in what was DUP-run Northern Ireland,” he said. “To make this about an individual or event, a political party, I think is missing the point.

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“The point is we have had the biggest shock our NHS has ever faced in its 74-year existence. What we’re focused on, and what I’m focused on, is what can we do to help get us through this winter?

“This is an issue that is far bigger than one individual and I think those that are trying to make it about personalities are doing a disservice to those on the front line.”

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Mr Yousaf also hit out at comments from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said he believed too many people are being recruited from overseas into the health service.

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