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Yousaf vows ‘no shortage of effort’ to mitigate winter challenges facing NHS

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf addressed the winter pressures facing the NHS (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf addressed the winter pressures facing the NHS (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Humza Yousaf has promised “no shortage of effort” to mitigate the significant challenges facing Scotland’s NHS this winter.

The Health Secretary admitted the health service faces an “incredibly difficult winter” as it tries to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country still has the highest rate of the virus in the UK and is grappling with soaring waiting times in emergency departments.

Latest statistics from Public Health Scotland show an improvement in accident and emergency waiting times after the worst figures on record the previous week.

In the week ending September 18, 66.2% of patients in accident and emergency departments were seen and then admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour target.

That is up from the 63.5% record low recorded the previous week.

Mr Yousaf said the issues are likely to be exacerbated by the winter pressures on the NHS.

Speaking at a visit to Douglas Medical Centre in Dundee on Wednesday, he told the PA news agency that the Scottish Government will do everything it can to “provide the best possible healthcare” over winter.

“But I have always said that I will be upfront about the significant challenges, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t say to people that it’s going to be a difficult winter for our health service,” he said.

“There will be no shortage of effort to try to mitigate those pressures but it will still be a difficult winter.”

His comments come after NHS chief executive Caroline Lamb told Holyrood’s Health Committee on Tuesday that the sector will not be “complacent” in tackling the challenges.

Mr Yousaf added: “I think it will be the most challenging winter we’ve faced as a country for quite a long time and I suspect that will be true of the NHS too.”

The Health Secretary is set to update the Scottish Parliament on measures to mitigate the pressures next week.

He said: “But even with those actions, I still suspect it will be an incredibly, incredibly difficult winter.”

It is expected the cost-of-living crisis will exacerbate the challenges, with the Asthma and Lung UK charity warning asthmatics have seen their condition worsen due to reducing their food or energy consumption.