The Scottish Government is coming under fire over its promised NHS recovery plan as the Liberal Democrats claimed the Covid pandemic meant almost 230,000 scheduled operations had not taken place.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton insisted the NHS needed a recovery plan not just from coronavirus, but “from 14 years of SNP rule”.
The Scottish Conservatives, meanwhile, insisted that the NHS recovery plan “should have been one of the SNP Government’s top priorities” in the first 100 days since the election.
Saturday, August 14, marks 100 days since Nicola Sturgeon’s party was re-elected to power at Holyrood.
In the manifesto for that election, the SNP promised the NHS recovery plan would include a 10% increase in inpatient, day-case and outpatient activity within the health service, to help address delays caused by Covid.
‘Our health service doesn’t just need a post-Covid recovery plan, it needs a recovery plan from 14 years of SNP rule.’Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP
Liberal Democrat analysis found that over the period March 2020 to June 2021, 232,255 scheduled operations had taken place.
The party said that over the past three years an average of 459,114 operations had taken place over the same period – some 226,859 more than the most recent total.
Meanwhile, NHS figures showed accident and emergency waiting times throughout June were the second-worst since records began, with 20,466 people waiting for longer than the four-hour target time over the course of the month.
Cole-Hamilton said: “The forthcoming recovery plan needs to acknowledge that our health service doesn’t just need a post-Covid recovery plan, it needs a recovery plan from 14 years of SNP rule.”
Liberal Democrats want the recovery plan to set out how the NHS will meet targets it repeatedly missed prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cole-Hamilton added: “That means giving the NHS the support and resources to meet targets for A&E treatment, cancer waits and mental health that were routinely missed for years even before the pandemic.
“Waits were already long, staff were already under pressure and milestones in the flagship waiting times improvement plan were already being missed.”
‘The delay to publishing an NHS Recovery Plan is inexcusable. That should have been one of the SNP Government’s top priorities.’Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative MSP
Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “There’s an enormous gap between what the SNP say and what they do. They can talk a good game but they just don’t deliver. This looks like another set of broken promises in the making.”
The MSP added that these “failures will have damaging knock-on consequences for our NHS and people across the country”.
And she said: “The delay to publishing an NHS Recovery Plan is inexcusable. That should have been one of the SNP Government’s top priorities.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are delivering record funding of more than £16bn in 2021-22 to support NHS Scotland and its heroic staff through the most challenging period in history.
“After careful and extensive consultation we are currently finalising our NHS recovery plan which will set out plans to increase inpatient, daycase and outpatient activity, and we are also taking forward our £320m National Treatment Centre programme to support recovery.
“Throughout the pandemic we have continued to prioritise cancer treatment and the national cancer recovery plan, backed by £114.5m, will support equitable access to care for patients.”
She added: “The number of planned operations carried out in June was also up 9.6% and we have a range of measures in place to address delayed discharges, including the recruitment of more staff.
“Scotland has had the best performing core A&E departments in the whole of the UK for more than six years and we have allocated boards £12m of additional funding to reduce waiting times and boost staffing levels as they manage challenges including high attendances and staffing pressures.”