Scotland’s health service is facing an “exceptionally difficult winter”, with a high possibility of a further Covid wave, according to Humza Yousaf.
The health secretary issued the warning after he admitted this week that A&E waiting times in the country are “not acceptable”, after figures hit a new record low.
Official statistics indicate that just 63.5% of patients were seen and subsequently admitted or discharged within four hours in the week up to September 11.
The Scottish Government’s target is for 95% of attendants to be seen within the time.
Yousaf has ruled out scrapping the target, despite it having not been met since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday, the health secretary acknowledged the challenges facing the NHS in Scotland in the coming months.
“We are anticipating a really difficult winter, an exceptionally difficult winter,” he said.
“We expect that we might get a resurgence of flu, which we haven’t seen in the last couple of years.
“There’s a high possibility, we suspect of course, of another Covid wave.”
He added: “Our focus, without giving away the detail of that parliamentary statement, unsurprisingly will be on how we increase and expand the workforce to deal with those really difficult pressures.
“But, also how we invest in that social care because we need to get those delayed discharges, as many of them out of the system as possible, back into their homes and into their communities so that we can deal with those capacity issues in our hospitals.”
Yousaf stated that he will set out the Scottish Government’s winter plan for the health service at Holyrood in the next two weeks.
“I’ve been up front about the fact that our recovery of the NHS isn’t going to take weeks or months, it’s going to take years,” he said.
“So, the plan that I will put to Parliament hopefully in the next fortnight, subject to agreement by Parliamentary bureau, that will lay out what action we will take over the course of a really difficult winter.
“And we’ll have to continue to expand the workforce, increase the workforce, as we’re doing.
“We’ll have to continue to invest in social care and I believe that will have an impact.”