No more money for NHS as strike looms, warns Scottish Health Secretary

Humza Yousaf speaks about NHS pay dispute

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has insisted there is no more money for NHS pay despite looming strikes. He also said the threshold for military assistance to the ambulance service is "extremely high" due to pressures on the Army.

On Saturday, the GMB union announced staff at the Scottish Ambulance Service will go on strike on November 28, the first time they have done so in decades. Nurses across the UK have also voted to strike as they push for increased pay deals.

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Speaking to BBC Scotland's Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf said he did not think that strikes were inevitable. Discussing the pressures on the NHS, he said: "Recovery will take time. We are putting money into record staffing and record investment in our health service."

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf. Photo PA.

He acknowledged vacancies among nurses are "far too high" and said plans are in place to recruit more.

Mentioning the Government's recent decision to "reprofile" £400 million away from various health services, Mr Yousaf said: "I don't have more money."

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In September 2021, soldiers were drafted in to help drive non-emergency Scottish Ambulance Service vehicles, as well as help in Covid testing centres. The military assistance ended in March this year.

Mr Yousaf said discussions had been held for months about contingency plans for the ambulance service, including with other emergency services and the Ministry of Defence.

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He said: "The Maca (military assistance to civil authorities) would be an extremis option given the Army are under their own pressures at the moment. They've rightly said the threshold for any Maca support would be extremely high."

The Health Secretary would not be drawn on when he expected A&E waiting time performance to return to the target of 95 per cent of cases being seen within four hours, but said it would "foolish" to expect it to be this winter. Performance against the four-hour target fell to 63.1 per cent in the week ending October 30. Mr Yousaf also branded opposition calls for him to resign as "desperate".