The Scottish Government is to spend an extra £300 million to help the NHS and care services cope with what is set to be an “extremely challenging” winter.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf says this is the “most significant” funding package the government has made since devolution, warning the pressure currently facing Scotland’s NHS is only going to get worse.
It is hoped this money will free up more hospital beds by tackling the growing problem of “bed blocking”, and will recruit more staff in health and social care.
Hundreds more to be recruited
The entire £300m package will be spent within the 2021/22 financial year to specifically tackle the challenges of the upcoming winter while still dealing with coronavirus patients.
Part of the package will include recruiting an extra 1,000 health and social care workers and 200 nurses from overseas by the end of March.
The NHS is under more pressure than at any other point in the pandemic, and frankly it is likely to get worse.
– Humza Yousaf
Mr Yousaf also pleaded with those who had recently retired from the sector to return to work, and says students are being encouraged to tackle up support work as well.
The £300m package includes:
- £40m to get bed-blocking patients out of hospitals and into care homes or with a care-at-home package
- £60m to increase care-at-home capacity
- £48m to increase social care staff pay to £10.02 an hour
- £20m to get more social work assessments carried out
- £28m on primary care
- £4.5m on recruiting 200 international nurses by March 2022
- £4m on staff wellbeing.
He adds these measures should also result in an increase in the availability of face-to-face GP appointments, although he also stressed phone and video consultations will continue to used.
‘Unprecedented winter’ ahead for NHS
Speaking at Holyrood, the health secretary said: “The NHS is under more pressure than at any other point in the pandemic, and frankly it is likely to get worse.
“Social services are also dealing with the same level of pressure and demand is extremely high.
“It is important to be upfront and honest – this winter is likely to be the most challenging we ever face.
“Discharging patients to a community setting to create additional hospital bed capacity will be vital in managing the winter pressure.”
Measures are only a ‘sticking plaster’
Scottish Labour dubbed the funding a “sticking plaster”.
Jackie Baillie MSP, the party’s health spokeswoman, said: “We need action now to get services back on track, not more promises of jam tomorrow.
“And the planned raise in pay for social care staff is simply insufficient.
“As long as working on the checkout at a supermarket pays more than working as a carer, we will continue to have a staffing crisis.
“That’s why we need a £15 an hour for Scotland’s social carers.”
Sue Webber MSP, Conservative shadow public health minister, added: “This is too little too late from Humza Yousaf.
“We had been calling for a winter plan for our NHS for weeks and once again he has been too slow to act.
“The need for urgent action is now, not weeks down the line as winter rapidly approaches.
“Our NHS cannot afford more delays and inaction from Humza Yousaf, otherwise he will preside over a disastrous winter on the frontline of our health service.
“It is time for him to show the leadership required to ease the pressure on our heroic staff and ensure patients will be able to access the services they need as quickly as possible.”