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Nicola Sturgeon admits Scotland’s NHS in ‘crisis’

Nicola Sturgeon has finally admitted Scotland’s NHS is in ‘crisis’ after the worst A&E statistics on record were published.

The First Minister had previously refused to say that the NHS was in crisis, despite the Scottish Conservatives repeatedly challenging her to admit the harsh reality that Scotland’s health services are at breaking point.

In response to Tuesday’s Covid update, Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP had urged the First Minister to accept Scotland’s NHS was in crisis and to publish a real NHS recovery plan before the worst of winter hits.

Neither Nicola Sturgeon or Humza Yousaf would confirm exactly when an NHS winter plan would be published.

New figures published on Tuesday revealed new record A&E waiting times. The number of patients waiting more than half a day at A&E has almost doubled since last week.

Half of all patients at Scotland’s flagship hospital, the QEUH in Glasgow, are now waiting more than four hours.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine also said on Tuesday that Scotland’s NHS is short of 1,000 acute beds.

Jamie McNamee of Unite also told Good Morning Scotland that “this is as bad as it has been in my experience of 35 years in the ambulance service”.

On the SNP’s announcement of 300 additional staff, McNamee said: “The 300 additional staff are from a totally different project that has been ongoing since 2016, because we have been queuing at the hospitals since 2016.”

He added “I don't accept the position that the global pandemic is entirely to blame for this situation.”

Responding to the Covid update, Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “Finally, Nicola Sturgeon admitted that our health service is in crisis, weeks after we warned that systemic failures had led Scotland’s NHS to breaking point.

“Today’s stark figures reveal the worst A&E waiting times on record. Behind each of these appalling statistics are patients and families who are suffering.

“Too often, the SNP hide behind Covid when warnings have gone ignored, not just for weeks but for years. These longstanding issues cannot all be blamed on Covid.

“Humza Yousaf’s flimsy NHS plan is not cutting it. Since it was published, things have got worse.

“My colleagues are doing all they can. Nurses, doctors and paramedics are all working flat out.

“Scotland’s NHS needs a real plan to tackle one of the worst winters it will ever face. The SNP Government has been too slow to accept the problems and too sluggish to act.”

Responding to Humza Yousaf’s statement, Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “Humza Yousaf dodged answering how many of the 300 supposedly new staff are actually new positions, after the Unite union pointed out that SNP promise dates back to 2016.

“He said in his statement that “the Scottish Ambulance Service is the heartbeat of our NHS” – but his government is demanding the ambulance service makes £15 million of “efficiency savings”, which are really just cuts.

“I hope he will now agree to publish weekly response data, which would help us know exactly how the service is performing across the country each week.

“Scotland’s ambulance services need real leadership from Humza Yousaf. So far, he’s not delivering.”

Notes

  • The number of patients waiting more than half a day to be seen at A&E has almost doubled in the past week. For week ending 5 September, 293 patients waited more than 12 hours and for week ending 12 September this had increased to 551 (Public Health Scotland,  NHS Performs - weekly update of emergency department activity and waiting time statistics, 21 September 2021, link).

Rough transcript of Jamie McNamee on Good Morning Scotland is here:

Gary Robertson: How much worse could this crisis get, do you believe?

Jamie McNamee: Well, this is as bad as it has been in my experience of 35 years in the ambulance service. We are creeping towards the winter. I fear for the winter, unless there is major significant changes announced by the government this afternoon. 

GR: Well, the Scottish Government say that this is obviously down to the pandemic and its multiple knock-on effects. They acknowledge the ambulance service is under the most pressure it has ever been since the inception of the NHS in 1947, but they make the point that the First Minister is giving urgent consideration to temporary admission wards, to ease bottlenecks between ambulances and hospitals and investing an extra £20m to fund almost 300 new ambulance service staff. What is your reaction to that?

JM: So, my reaction is that the global pandemic has become a convenient hat-stand for everyone these days. But can I address the 300 additional staff? The 300 additional staff are from a totally different project that has been ongoing since 2016, because we have been queuing at the hospitals since 2016. I don't think the pandemic was in town in 2016 and therefore I don't accept the position that the global pandemic is entirely to blame for this situation that we are presented with at the moment. 

GR: Well, if this has been ongoing for a few years, how many of those 300 new staff have been provided up until now?

JM: There has been steady increases in the additional staff coming in, it is part of a wider programme, a demand and capacity programme and we anticipate in the region of 600 staff coming into the organisation, but that was to meet the demands that were projected a couple of years ago and not necessarily factored in things like a global pandemic or indeed bed shortages at major A&E and medical receiving units.