First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to recall Holyrood – with Scottish Conservatives insisting the NHS is on “life support” and an emergency response is needed from ministers.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane, who is the Tory health spokesman at Holyrood as well as being a practising GP, said the “unprecedented crisis” within the health service was “by far the worst” he had seen during his career.
The NHS is now in the “perilous situation where lives are being needlessly lost”, Dr Gulhane claimed.
He spoke out after Scotland’s accident and emergency (A&E) departments recorded their worst-ever performance against waiting-times targets – with just 55% of patients seen and subsequently admitted, discharged or transferred within the four-hour target in the week to December 18.
In the same week, a record 1,821 people waited longer than 12 hours in A&E – an increase of almost 700 from the previous week.
A&E doctor David Caesar – who is also a former deputy chief medical officer in Scotland – meanwhile revealed the pressures on the NHS meant he had been forced to see some patients outside his hospital’s front door.
Dr Caesar, an emergency medicine consultant at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, complained of a sense of “impending doom” among medical staff.
Dr Iain Kennedy, chairman of BMA Scotland, has also spoken out about how the NHS is “broken” and cannot survive in its current form.
Dr Gulhane said: “Each day, it seems, a fresh apocalyptic warning is issued by a senior medic or health board, yet Humza Yousaf is missing in action and there is silence from the Government.
“Our NHS can’t afford to wait until next week for action from the Health Secretary – who staff have lost faith in and who ought to be sacked – or an SNP government which has typically made a debate on independence its first priority in parliamentary business for the new year.
“That’s why I’m calling on Nicola Sturgeon to reconvene parliament this week to debate the enormous crisis that is continuing to unfold on her watch.”
Dr Gulhane has been working as a GP over the festive break, saying he had “experienced first-hand how bad things are and how over-stretched and shattered staff are, during locum GP shifts over the holidays”.
The Tory stated: “It’s no exaggeration to say Scotland’s NHS is on life support at the moment – and an emergency response is needed from Nicola Sturgeon.
“Our health service is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis – by far the worst in my clinical career.
“The system is hanging together by a thread. Years of dire workforce planning by successive SNP health secretaries has left us with a desperate shortfall of frontline staff in all areas of the NHS – nurses, GPs, specialist doctors.
“This, coupled with Humza Yousaf’s woefully inadequate Covid recovery plan, lack of leadership and undermining of staff has left our health service in the perilous situation where lives are being needlessly lost.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We know that this is one of the toughest winters in the NHS’s 74-year history.
“We are monitoring the situation in emergency departments extremely closely and are in daily contact with health boards to ensure all possible actions to support services are being explored.
“Covid has still not gone away and these pressures, combined with pandemic backlogs, are making it a very challenging time for the NHS. We have been dealing with one of the coldest periods for many years which put an increasing strain on the NHS.
“On top of that, flu has been classified at extraordinary levels, with cases admitted to hospital the highest in five years. We also had to deal with rising cases of Strep A and other respiratory viruses which has resulted in significant demand on services.
“Delayed discharge continues to have a major impact in driving up accident and emergency waits, and we are working with health boards to ensure people leave hospital without delay, freeing up vital beds for those who need them most.”
A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “No request to recall Parliament has been received by the Presiding Officer.
“Recall is a matter for the Presiding Officer, however in practice this would be discussed with party business managers before decision is reached.”
Published: 02/01/2023 by Radio NewsHub