Health secretary apologises to beleaguered NHS staff over handling of winter delays

© DC Thomson
Health minister Shona Robison

Health secretary Shona Robison has apologised to beleaguered NHS staff following criticism over her handling of winter strain on the service.

Ms Robison admitted health chiefs have lessons to learn after senior staff hit out at “absolutely hopeless” management of staffing levels, bed shortages and ever-increasing workloads in light of the extra demand.

One charge nurse, who has more than 20 years’ experience working for NHS Tayside, claimed morale has hit rock bottom as managers “shell out more and more cash” on agency workers and pressure staff to work increased hours to cover the shortfall.

“Management are expecting us to get by on goodwill alone but the truth is many of us are at the end of our tethers,” she said.

“Even if we wanted to work more hours, the law means we can only do so many and you have to ask how much one person can do.

“Senior nurses are having to come away from the ward, work their way through call lists and even hire trained agency nurses to fill shifts for healthcare assistants at double the cost just to get the bodies in – we can’t go on like this.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised on Monday to patients who have faced delays for treatment and while the health secretary echoed Ms Sturgeon’s sentiments, she had previously fallen short of addressing staff concerns directly.

© DC Thomson
Nicola Sturgeon (left) apologised to NHS patients on Monday

“I would apologise to staff if they feel that things could have been done better and we always learn lessons from winter – we would expect local managers to do the same,” Ms Robison said during an event in Dundee yesterday.

“After every winter, there is a very full analysis of what went well and where there are lessons to be learned, and I would expect every senior management team in every health board to be doing that.”

Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar insisted the apology must be followed up by “real action”.

“After a decade of SNP mismanagement, our NHS is deep in a workforce crisis with the health secretary offering no solution,” he said.

“A real apology would be backed up by real action but the SNP government has nothing but warm words for our under-resourced and under-staffed health service.”

North-east MSP Bill Bowman said: “Shona Robison will have witnessed how ill-prepared her own local health board were for a hard winter of flu and fractures.

“Winter is the toughest time for the NHS in terms of getting people seen to on time, but an apology will not matter much to these nurses.”

Ms Robison thanked staff for “working so hard over the past few weeks in particular” and filling extra shifts.

She added that she “understands the frustration” agency workers pose to nurses and other staff and insisted the health service is working to “dramatically reduce” the number used.