NHS in Scotland faces 'really challenging winter', concedes Humza Yousaf

The NHS will face a “really challenging” winter, the health secretary has said, with the cost-of-living crisis adding to the usual pressures experienced by the health service.

Humza Yousaf said health boards were being asked to factor rising energy prices into their budgets as well as prepare for the impact of winter illnesses like flu.

It comes after The Scotsman revealed earlier this month that energy bills in Scotland's NHS were set to rocket by £70 million.

On Monday, Mr Yousaf visited the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to mark one year of the Scottish Trauma Network operating.

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf speaks to the media following a visit to the MTC (major trauma centre), at the Royal Infirmary Of Edinburgh, to mark the first year of the Scottish Trauma Network. Picture date: Monday August 29, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story SCOTLAND Yousaf. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

He spoke to clinicians and patient Sandy Baptie from East Lothian.

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The 66-year-old was injured after being hit by a car while out cycling and is currently undergoing rehabilitation.

Mr Yousaf said he would soon be updating MSPs on winter contingency plans for the NHS.

He said: “Even with those plans in place, it’s going to be a really challenging winter

“Not just for the usual slips, trips and falls, Covid, we may well see a flu season come back.

“But frankly, the cost-of-living crisis is also a public health crisis too.”

Asked if high energy prices would squeeze NHS budgets for care, Mr Yousaf said the UK Government should take “meaningful action” to reduce costs.

He said: “We’re asking our health boards to factor that into the cost of providing care, particularly with an eye to winter.

“But immediate action by the UK Government could make a big, big difference.”

Asked if the Scottish Government would provide its own support if Westminster did not, he said: “We’ll certainly look at that, of course, but the Scottish Government budget is extremely challenging.”

Scotland’s NHS has confirmed its gas costs are projected to rise by £61m this financial year, while its electricity costs will increase by more than £10m.

Earlier this month, the Royal College of Nursing union balloted members for strike action after rejecting a 5 per cent pay offer.

Mr Yousaf said he would soon be speaking to staff representatives about the pay offer, adding: “I can completely understand from their perspective, why they want to push the Government further, given the high cost of energy and fuel and the cost-of-living crisis.

“But also I hope they understand the really challenging fiscal position that we’re in too.”