Extra cash for social care beds announced amid mounting NHS pressures
The First Minister has announced extra cash to increase the number of social care beds available to reduce delayed discharge from hospitals in a bid to alleviate mounting pressure on the NHS.
Nicola Sturgeon said the government was aiming to secure as many places as possible and “will fund as many care home beds we can access”. She was unable to give a precise figure.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf will provide more details in a statement to parliament tomorrow.
The two were addressing a press conference, alongside deputy chief medical officer Graham Ellis, following mounting concerns about strains on the health service.
Sturgeon said a mixture of Covid, winter flu and strep A, combined with existing backlogs, meant hospitals were “almost completely full”.
She said: “Hospitals right now are currently almost completely full. Last Wednesday, hospital bed occupancy across Scotland exceeded 95 per cent. For context, at the same stage in 2020 before the pandemic struck, occupancy was around 87 per cent.”
The FM also said local NHS health boards were being encouraged to take decisions to reduce pressures, including limiting elective treatments to prioritise emergency and critical care, should they feel the need to do so.
She also defended her health secretary, saying Yousaf was “doing a very good job in very difficult circumstances”.
And she said the strike action would “not be welcome in a health service that is facing the pressures it is currently facing,” though she said she could “appreciate and recognise the strength of feeling” among strained staff.
She highlighted several trade unions had accepted the government’s pay deal and on the remaining ones, she said: “I want to see the prospect of industrial action removed if at all possible and we’ll continue to engage fully to try to achieve that.”
Asked about the future sustainability of the NHS, she said: “I don’t believe the NHS is unsustainable in its current form.”
She added: “The NHS was under pressure before Covid struck us. Changing demographics and ever-increasing expectations of what healthcare advances can deliver, which of course in themselves are positive developments, were posing challenges for the NHS and necessitating reforms to care packages.”
The First Minister also confirmed that she had never accessed private healthcare.
Responding to the statement, Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Staff are exhausted, services are at breaking point and patients are dying – but the First Minister spent more time making excuses than setting out solutions… These changes will barely scratch the surface of this deadly crisis and fail to grapple with the major structural problems clinicians are raising.”
The Scottish Conservatives' Sandesh Gulhane said the announcement was "too little, too late".
He added: "The Scottish Conservatives published a series of sensible, practical measures that could make a difference to our NHS now yet, to date, the SNP Government have not adopted any of them.
“That has to change. Humza Yousaf must accept his lack of preparation and woefully inadequate plans for the winter crisis have been brutally exposed, and implement the policies we published last month."