HEALTH: Conservatives outline “real” winter recovery plan for NHS

By Bill Heaney

The Scottish Conservatives have today unveiled a “real” winter recovery plan for Scotland’s NHS, which continues to lurch from crisis to crisis under Humza Yousaf.

The policy paper – drafted by Sandesh Gulhane, right,  and his shadow health team – is published days after the (latest) worst-ever A&E waiting times were recorded on the failed SNP health secretary’s watch.

Just 61.9% of patients were seen within the SNP’s four-hour target time across Scotland, with the figure dipping to only 36.8% at the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Delayed discharge is also at its highest-ever level, with close to 1,900 beds taken up by patients who are well enough to return home but can’t because no social care package is in place for them.

Shadow health secretary and practising GP Dr Gulhane insists “it doesn’t have to be like this” and has revealed a series of policies that could improve the situation for patients and staff right now.

Health services are of concern to everyone in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.

These include:

  • Introducing new crisis maximum waiting times. This would set a floor that patients could expect to wait for treatment during winter and would be backed up by sanctions on health boards who breach these targets.
  • Running ‘Super Saturdays’ to make better use of facilities and clear backlogs. Health boards would choose a single type of treatment or operation to be exclusively carried out that day.
  • Set up a winter network of mobile testing and drive-through facilities. This would set up Covid testing-style units for CT scans, blood tests and Electrocardiograms (ECGs).
  • Introduce an NHS Care App to allow patients to see live hospital waiting times. This would allow patients to help the NHS manage demand and see where they are in the queue for operations.
  • Introduce a full Electronic Repeat Prescription system. This would effectively copy current prescriptions without the need for it to be signed again.
  • Introduce ‘Prehab’ for those awaiting treatment. That means giving them information and support to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible, so that they are fit enough for treatment to be carried out.
  • Roll out and expand Reach teams across all health boards. This would help elderly individuals to avoid having to return to hospital. 

Dr Gulhane says Scotland’s NHS is facing its worst-ever winter and that the responsibility for the “catastrophic situation” lies firmly with Humza Yousaf, who should be sacked by Nicola Sturgeon.

He added that things have only got “far worse” after Humza Yousaf produced his flimsy recovery plan in August 2021 and that his winter plan revealed in October did nothing to address the challenges facing the health service.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “Our NHS is facing its worst-ever winter and needs a real recovery plan.

“The paper we’ve published today contains a range of innovative yet practical measures that would alleviate some of the huge pressures on our health service right away.

“Despite the best efforts of dedicated frontline staff, things have only got worse since Humza Yousaf produced his flimsy recovery plan for the NHS last year.

“A&E waiting times are the worst on record, as are the levels of delayed discharge, and one in seven Scots is now on a waiting list on the watch of a failed health secretary, who deserves to be sacked.

“It’s suffering patients, and overstretched staff, who are paying the price for his mismanagement – but it doesn’t have to be like this.

“There is an alternative and that is why the Scottish Conservatives have produced these bold and detailed policies that could immediately help our NHS through this incredibly challenging winter.

“From introducing maximum waiting times, to setting up a network of winter drive-through facilities and allowing patients to see live waiting times, all these measures would improve efficiency now.

“The crisis in our NHS is deepening by the day and Humza Yousaf has lost the trust of patients and staff alike. I urge the SNP to adopt the Scottish Conservatives’ plans today to make immediate and tangible improvements.”

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