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by Margaret Taylor
04 January 2023
Clinical director advises return to face masks as NHS crisis deepens

Clinical director advises return to face masks as NHS crisis deepens

National clinical director Jason Leitch has urged people to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of disease as pressure mounts on health secretary Humza Yousaf over the challenges facing the NHS.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme this morning, Leitch said people should be mindful of the pressures facing A&E departments and GP surgeries, saying “there are things we can do to help each other, whether they are relatives, friends, neighbours and those around us”.

"We shouldn't pass on diseases to others. This is a new culture for Scotland. This means not going to the office if you are sick, not going to drive that bus,” he said.

"If you have a virus, if you're not well, you should stay at home and not pass that virus on to others."

He continued: "One of the cultural differences there is that if you are unwell, recovering from a virus or you feel as if you've got that scratchy throat at the beginning of a virus, then you wear a face covering in the shops, in the street and on public transport."

It comes as new figures from Public Health Scotland show that a record number of people had to wait more than half a day to be seen in Scotland’s A&E units in the week leading up to Christmas.

In total, 1,925 patients waited more than 12 hours in the seven days to 25 December, up from 1,821 the week before and representing the highest figures since comparable records began in 2015.

Earlier this week the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) and the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM) a issued a joint statement saying they have “never been more concerned about standards of acute medical care across hospitals in the UK than we are now”.

RCPE president Prof Andrew Elder, SAM president Dr Tim Cooksley and SAM Scotland representative Dr Dan Beckett said that the situation is more difficult now than at any time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With patients waiting many, many hours to be assessed and treated, sometimes in ambulances queueing outside our hospitals, the maxim that our patients should receive ‘the right care, in the right place, at the right time’ has never been further away from the reality of what is actually being provided,” they wrote.

The Scottish Conservatives have been calling for parliament to be recalled this week so MSPs can debate the situation, and opposition parties are making renewed calls for Yousaf to be sacked over his handling of the crisis.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the Public Health Scotland figures “make it clear that Humza Yousaf must go and go now”.

“Thousands of Scots have waited for hours and hours for medical treatment while lives have been put on the line,” she said.

“Staff are working tirelessly but the inaction of this SNP government has left them facing an impossible struggle. We are only halfway through this winter so there is still much more to come.”

She added that as the situation has arisen “on Yousaf’s watch” those working in the NHS “have no confidence that he is the person capable of taking action and leading them out of this crisis”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton agreed, saying that Yousaf has “totally lost control of this winter crisis”.

“Despite every single red light flashing on the dashboard, Humza Yousaf has opposed and voted down Scottish Liberal Democrat calls for a burnout prevention strategy, a staff assembly that puts their expertise to good use and an urgent inquiry into the avoidable deaths linked to the crisis in emergency care,” he said.

“The health secretary must fundamentally change his approach and get control of this crisis, otherwise he will need to go because patients and staff have been taken for granted for far too long.”

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