Covid pandemic: Scottish government looks set to make same catastrophic mistakes again as NHS crisis grows – Ian Murray MP

The NHS is facing one of the toughest winters on record.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 4:55 am
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon must act to protect the NHS (Picture: Andrew Milligan/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon must act to protect the NHS (Picture: Andrew Milligan/WPA pool/Getty Images)

Covid is still hospitalising people, and there’s the knock-on impact from the lockdowns, concerns about the new Omicron variant, the return of seasonal flu, and widespread staffing shortages.

Despite the incredible efforts of frontline workers, who are absolutely exhausted after a near two-year ordeal, it’s clear that our NHS is in a state of emergency.

We need urgent government intervention to support the health service during the difficult months ahead.

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Instead, the SNP government in Edinburgh is still fixated on tired old arguments about the constitution – utterly reckless and irresponsible behaviour that no serious government would even engage with.

What should be concerning ministers is not how to keep Scotland on pause, but how to address the backlog for health treatment.

It emerged this week that more than 650,000 patients are stuck on NHS waiting lists, their lives on hold. The Scottish government is presiding over record-breaking lists and the threat to patient outcomes is stark. If lives are to be saved, the Health Secretary needs to act now.

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We also have the A&E crisis which I highlighted in last week’s column, and it shows no sign of going away, however much Humza Yousaf might want to ignore it.

During the week ending November 21, only 73.2 per cent of attendances at A&E services were treated within four hours.

Staff are working tirelessly to plug the gaps, but there’s only so much they can do without government support.

To address the crisis, as well as drafting in the British Army, the government should establish temporary wards and field hospitals, back the asks of workers and adopt a 30-minute maximum turnaround time for ambulances from arrival at hospital.

We also need a catch-up programme in screening services, a roll-out of rapid diagnostic centres across the country and a single point of contact for cancer patients.

The chaos under the SNP cannot become the new norm, especially with the new Covid variant.

When the Scottish government made a series of catastrophic mistakes in its handling of the pandemic, such as failing to get the Test-and-Protect system functioning properly and the tragedy in our care homes, Labour repeatedly said that lessons should be learned. The fears growing over Omicron demonstrate why.

The government set a target of 400,000 Covid vaccinations a week but only 240,000 boosters were handed out last week. We’re at risk of the same mistakes being made all over again.

Only two health boards – Tayside and Western Isles – are running drop-ins for boosters.

We need drop-in clinics to be opened across the country in all health boards, particularly here in Edinburgh where people are already struggling to make appointments for booster jags and are travelling far to get them.

In areas in the south of the city, many facilities simply don’t have any appointments they can offer patients looking to get their jag.

There will also be additional pressure on Test and Protect in the weeks ahead, so the government must be prepared to provide the system with additional resources.

Action today is crucial – no more distractions. Our NHS must be protected and prioritised this winter and beyond.

Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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