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by Louise Wilson
16 January 2023
‘Slight easing’ of NHS pressures but hospitals still ‘very full’ – Nicola Sturgeon

The FM said A&E waiting times were “far higher” than they should be | Adobe Stock Photo

‘Slight easing’ of NHS pressures but hospitals still ‘very full’ – Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has said there has been a “slight easing” in some areas of the NHS, but hospital occupancy remains at high levels.

The number of calls to NHS24 have reduced in the last week and the situation in A&E departments is “stabilising”, the First Minister said at a press conference on Monday.

However, she accepted that A&E waiting times were “far higher” than they should be and hospital occupancy levels remains “broadly similar” to previous weeks.

Sturgeon said: “Hospitals remain very full, despite some initial – very initial – indications of a very slight easing of some winter pressures in the past week. Hospital occupancy is still very high at this stage.

“In summary, therefore, pressure remains intense, but we do hope to see further easing of it in the weeks ahead and of course we remain focused on supporting the service to address these pressures.”

Last week, health secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed £8m would be provided to health boards to help secure an additional 300 care home beds to help tackle delayed discharge.

Patients being unable to leave hospital despite being clinically well enough is one of the main reasons for the current pressures.

In addition, three health boards have paused non-urgent elective procedures temporarily as they deal with current pressures, though Sturgeon acknowledged this would have a “knock on” impact on backlogs going forward.

The First Minister also welcomed trade unions lifting the immediate threat of strike action to allow pay negotiations to continue.

She said: “I don’t want NHS staff to feel the need to strike at any time, but the impact on patients and indeed on staff in this period of acute pressure would have been especially difficult.”

This is in contrast with the situation down in England where NHS staff have been striking over pay.

The UK Government is attempting to push through legislation which would ensure minimum service levels are in place when workers do strike.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government would not be a “willing implementer” of this legislation if it were to pass.

She said: “My view is that the legislation shouldn’t happen… but if the government is intent on going forward with it, they should not apply it to Scotland. If they do apply it to Scotland, they should give the power to Scottish ministers to decide whether or not to implement it in the sectors affected.”

Unions have labelled the bill “undemocratic, unworkable and almost certainly illegal”.

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