Local MSP David Stewart, Labour asked the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon about the preparedness of NHS Scotland to cope with demand over the Christmas Period.
At First Ministers questions on Thursday, 20th of December David Stewart asked:
” what assessment the Scottish Government has made of the capacity of NHS 24 to deal with demand over the Christmas period.”
Nicola Sturgeon replied that
“All health boards, including NHS 24, submit winter plans to the Government, which are stringently reviewed to ensure that each board has the capacity and the contingency measures in place to deal with the increased pressures that winter and the festive period bring. NHS 24 submitted its final winter plan on 31 October. It was assessed and signed off on 16 November.”
David Stewart reminded the FM and the Chamber about last year when there was unprecedented pressure on A&E and NHS 24.
“Will the First Minister reassure Parliament that vulnerable people will not have to wait hours for a response from NHS 24. Can they rely on a festive gift of timely support? They deserve nothing less.”
Nicola Sturgeon said:
“I agree with that. It is important to note that NHS 24 continues to provide a highly effective and safe triage system. It answered almost 1.6 million calls in 2017-18. It is also important to stress that about 70 per cent of those calls are handled by NHS 24 without any requirement for a call back to the patient. Where a call back is required, clinical priority very much determines the timeframe in which that call back takes place.
“We recognise that the demands on all health boards, particularly NHS 24, increase over the winter and the festive period. That is why we are ensuring that higher numbers of staff are working in NHS 24 over the peak festive period this year than were working last year; for example, 458 call handlers and nurses will be working on boxing day this year, compared to 397 last year and 373 the year before. We will continue to work with NHS 24 to ensure that it provides the service that people demand and expect.”
Afterwards David Stewart said:
“Last year people will remember how hospitals and clinics were stretched to the limit due to soaring flu rates.
“This year patients need assurances that they will get the best advice as early as possible and not be left hanging on for a call from experts who are at the front line of our out-of-hours health service.
“Those who appear to have less serious symptoms could progress to more serious illnesses if they are forced to wait for a long time.”
Further information: Be Health-Wise This Winter
You can view the whole session here