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‘They have taken their eye off the ball’ – Scottish ministers being called upon to act to save health boards from collapse

Health services across the north are at breaking point following a surge in Covid-19 admissions.
Health services across the north are at breaking point following a surge in Covid-19 admissions.

The shadow health secretary is calling on the Scottish Parliament to be recalled to outline support measures being adopted as health services reach ‘breaking point’.

Conservative MSP Annie Wells accused ministers of “taking their eye of the ball” as NHS boards begin to buckle under the strain of a third wave of Covid-19.

Two of NHS Grampian’s flagship hospitals have entered ‘code black status’ forcing them to cancel dozens of appointment and procedures.

NHS Highland health officials have also been forced to put Raigmore Hospital on high alert, cancelling all non-essential procedures at the Inverness facility.

Meanwhile, NHS Lanarkshire have also said they have reached ‘breaking point’ and are considering scaling back non-urgent procedures.

Figures released by the Public Health Scotland also showed that over 200,000 planned operations have been cancelled or delayed as a result of the pandemic.

Demanding answers

Shadow health secretary Annie Wells urged the government to be recalled to put forward a strategy to help alleviate pressures felt by NHS frontline workers.

Mrs Wells is now calling on the Scottish Parliament to be recalled so Health Secretary Humza Yousaf can provide an update on how they aim to support NHS boards, particularly in the north of Scotland.

Ministers are already being recalled primarily for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to give an update on easing Covid restrictions

The Scottish Conservative MSP, said: “It is hugely concerning to see three of Scotland’s NHS boards effectively reach breaking point.

“While Parliament is rightly being recalled so that a Covid update is delivered in Holyrood first, time must also be found for the SNP’s health secretary to deliver an urgent statement on the critical issues in our health service.

“Our heroic frontline health service staff are under increasing pressure, particularly in the north of Scotland.

“Humza Yousaf must address this situation and outline a clear plan as to how the SNP will give increased support to health boards, especially those under significant strain.”

NHS Grampian staffing crisis

This week, NHS Grampian’s Medical director Nick Fluck made a “personal plea” for help as two of the north-east flagship hospitals entered ‘code black status’.

Both Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s in Elgin have been full to capacity forcing them to cancel dozens of scheduled procedures to alleviate the growing pressure.

NHS Grampian took the decision in an attempt to free up staff working on urgent and emergency care.

The board has been hit by low staff numbers as a growing number of frontline staff have been required to self isolate, while fellow staff take their annual leave or holidays.

Mrs Wells added that SNP Ministers must explore every measure to ensure staffing levels in the NHS do not continue to deteriorate due to self-isolating as a result of a surge in Covid cases in Scotland.

“The surge in Covid cases is having a huge impact on staffing levels in our health service,” she added.

“SNP Ministers need to explore all ways to ensure more staff having to self-isolate will not continue to mean more and more procedures and treatments cannot be carried out.

“SNP Ministers have taken their eye off the ball in tackling the pandemic. Cases have surged, test and protect is completely overwhelmed and our vaccination programme has slowed down.

“That is now having a major impact on other services in our NHS and Humza Yousaf must now deliver a statement at the earliest opportunity to Parliament and allow MSPs to scrutinise him on his plans to support staff and health boards.”

Government ‘working with health boards’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise the additional pressure NHS staff are facing as they work tirelessly to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and safe patient care.

“We are in daily contact with Boards facing the greatest challenges and are monitoring the situation closely.

“NHS Highland and Grampian have provided assurances that those of most clinical urgency, including vital cancer treatment, will continue during this challenging period.

“Any reductions to service will be short term to ensure that those of most critical need have the immediate medical attention they require.

“We are working with Health Boards to remobilise our NHS safely, ensuring decision making is clinically led and evidence-based.”

 

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