Firstly, can I give my deep thanks to all of the health and social care staff who continue to care for our loved ones through the unprecedented challenges that the pandemic has presented, and now these exceptionally challenging winter pressures.
It cannot be denied that this is the most challenging winter the NHS in Scotland has faced, and that these immediate pressures will continue for the coming weeks.
As a direct response to this the SNP Scottish Government have provided additional winter supports to Health and Social Care Partnerships who will share £8 million funding to procure 300 additional care home beds to alleviate pressures caused by delayed discharge. The funding will allow boards to pay 25% over and above the National Care Home rate for beds; and is in addition to around 600 interim care beds already in operation across the country.
With Covid remaining to be a pressure on the health system, recent flu admissions have been three times higher than emergency admissions due to Covid, and there have been rising cases of Step A and other respiratory viruses – and this is why the Scottish Government are encouraging a whole-system approach to addressing the current pressures.
Accordingly, the Scottish Government have issued guidance to all Health Boards making it clear that they can take necessary steps to protect critical and life-saving care; ensuring that NHS Boards have the ability to respond flexibly to local circumstances and to deploy local solutions. I understand that this includes clear guidance on the expectations for assessment, discharge practice and care home oversight arrangements, with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf noting that local Health Boards are best placed to judge what reasonable measures should be taken in each board area.
Bottom line, emergency care will always be there for those who need it, but for many people, the best advice and support might be available on the NHS Inform website or the NHS 24 App, or by calling NHS 24, and I would encourage people to make use of these services when they can, as many are already doing.