Scottish Government announce £8 million plan to help the NHS deal with 'extraordinary pressures'

An extra £8million worth of funding has been made available to the NHS in Scotland. Credit: PA Images

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has announced an extra £8 million of funding to help the NHS deal with the "extraordinary pressures" it is facing this winter.

The additional funding will provide about 300 beds in care homes for hospitals to discharge patients to.

He announced the action in the midst of the "single most challenging winter that the NHS in Scotland has ever faced".

Pledging that the Scottish Government would work to "utilise every bed possible", Mr Yousaf said that spaces in care homes were now being used as an "extremist, time-limited measure" to help free up hospital beds.

It comes as the latest figures showed record numbers of patients having to spend more than 12 hours in accident and emergency, while delayed discharge also reached its highest ever level.

Mr Yousaf told MSPs at Holyrood that the NHS was facing a "perfect storm of intense pressures which are leading to extreme difficulty, disruption and delays right across the service".

The week ending 1 January saw more than 1,200 patients in hospital with coronavirus - up 15% from the previous week and double the number from four weeks ago, Mr Yousaf said.

Flu admissions were "around three times higher than emergency admissions due to Covid", he added, along with rising cases of Strep A.

Meanwhile, he said, there were currently more than 1,700 people in hospital "who do not need to be there for clinical reasons, and whose interests are not best served by being there".

Work has now been done to identify additional spaces in care homes so that patients can be "discharged from hospital in a timely and safe fashion".

He told MSPs the funding was being made available to procure these beds, saying: "This is an extremist, time-limited measure, that is required to help us with the current capacity issues that we face."

With hospitals currently operated at about 95% of capacity, the Health Secretary said: "The additional funding is intended to meet the increased costs of utilising these beds for a short period of time."

The care homes beds are an "additional tool" that will provide "additional flexibility to maximise capacity within our hospitals," he added.

The Health Secretary said: "These interim beds may not be a family's first, or indeed second, choice for their relative. But I hope families agree in the current circumstances this is about making the best possible choice for those in our care.

"This measure will only be in place for a limited period of time to directly support our hospitals to deal with pressures at the front door.

"However, it will enable some people to move from an acute setting to a more appropriate community one, recognising the risk of prolonged stays in hospital."

He also pledged work to "bolster" capacity within NHS24, saying staff in the service had received almost  100,000 calls over the two four-day breaks of the festive period - with this said to be "the highest festive period demand for over a decade".

The advice service is aiming to recruit about 200 new staff before the end of March, including new call handlers and clinical supervisors.

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