Scotland’s health secretary has said the recovery of the NHS after its toughest winter ever could take years.
Speaking to STV’s Scotland Tonight, Humza Yousaf said he still believed he was the best person for the job because the issues affecting the NHS were not unique to Scotland.
“It’s under the most intense pressure it has ever faced in its 74 years of existence,” he said.
“We can’t keep going the way we have been going and that’s why the interventions we have been making whether that’s on pay, delayed discharge or increasing the workforce, all of these will hopefully help us with the extremity of the pressure that Covid has brought to bare on our NHS and indeed on our social care systems.
“The four to six weeks over the festive period were probably the most difficult, genuinely, the NHS has ever faced in its existence.”
Mr Yousaf said that the Scottish Government had been prepared to deal with the toughest ever winter, but even with the mitigations put in place, winter was still going to be “extremely challenging”.
He told STV the pressure in the NHS was easing and there had been a “slight improvement” in accident and emergency figures.
He said: “I’m not going to pretend or insult the intelligence of your viewers by suggesting we are going to get to 95% [of patients seen within the four hour waiting target] in a few weeks.
“That is going to take time clearly.”
The Health Secretary admitted accident and emergency performance was at “unacceptably” low levels during the winter, but progress is being made, as well as on waiting times, but said that is a job that will take “years”.
She said: “This winter has been the worst winter ever.
“If we don’t sort things out we are going to be in an even worse situation next winter.
“We can’t be celebrating that it’s very slightly better – 70% just isn’t good enough.”
Hilary Nelson, from the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “It’s not getting any better, and in terms of nursing vacancies then there are 6,300 nursing and midwifery posts in Scotland vacant.
“Just over 4,500 of them are registered nurses. That’s pressure. When you’ve got unfilled posts and you’re expecting less nurses to provide all of that care, that is not sustainable.
“We need a plan to get a workforce that is fit for the population.”