Humza Yousaf faces FMQs as watchdog warns NHS can't meet growing demand

It will be the first chance MSPs have to quiz the First Minister since a new health secretary was appointed.

Humza Yousaf is to face FMQs after Scotland’s public spending watchdog warned the NHS is unable to meet growing demand.

It will be the first chance MSPs have to quiz the First Minister after the parliament’s recess and since a new health secretary was appointed following the resignation of Michael Matheson.

A report from Audit Scotland on Thursday said a “clear vision is required to move from recovery to reform” within the health service, with “significant service transformation” necessary to “ensure the future sustainability of the NHS”.

The watchdog warned that as things stand, “operational performance and workforce capacity challenges are having a direct impact on patient safety and experience”.

The report made clear: “The NHS in Scotland is still struggling to provide healthcare in a timely way. Most waiting times standards are not being met.”

It said “only three out of eight key waiting times standards have been met at a national level in any quarter in the last five years”.

The Scottish Government allocated £17.9bn for health spending in 2022-23 – 39% of its total budget – but the report told how “general inflationary pressures, increasing utility prices and higher than expected pay deals” are putting financial pressure on the NHS.

“Boards faced significant cost pressures in 2022/23 and these pressures are likely to continue,” it said.

With nursing vacancies having risen from 3,024 in 2018 to 5,447 in 2023, the report told how spending on agency nurses increased by 79% in 2022-23 to £169.7m.

Health boards also spent £278m on nursing bank staff last year, which was 12% more than the previous year and 50% higher than the total in 2018-19.

Meanwhile the NHS maintenance backlog now exceeds £1.1bn, with the report saying this is “almost double” the total available capital budget for 2022-23.

Neil Gray was appointed Scotland’s new health secretary after Matheson resigned earlier in the month.

Matheson resigned as pressure mounted after he racked up an £11,000 data bill on his official iPad.

The £11,000 charge was initially billed to the public purse but Matheson later paid for it following the backlash.

The then health secretary had originally insisted the charges had been run up while he was using it for constituency work during the break.

In his statement, he said he had not received the findings of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) investigation yet.

But he said he was standing down because he did not want the scandal to become a distraction for the Scottish Government.

The mini-reshuffle also appointed a new drugs and alcohol minister following the resignation of Elena Whitham earlier in the week, with Christina McKelvie taking on the post.

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