This summer has seen a “perfect storm” for the NHS in Scotland amid high demand and a “knackered” workforce, the health secretary has said.
Humza Yousaf said health boards were having to make difficult decisions around the types of treatment they could offer.
Yousaf appeared at Holyrood’s Health Committee on Tuesday morning, where he answered questions from MSPs.
Scottish Labour MSP Paul O’Kane asked about hospitals which had recently declared “code black” – meaning they had reached full capacity – and fatigue among staff.
Yousaf said the NHS was still “in the midst” of the pandemic and he was working to maximise capacity in the system.
Health boards were having to take “tough decisions” around non-urgent surgery, he added, with a number deciding to pause these operations.
He said: “This summer has seen a perfect storm – with higher rates of transmission because we’ve eased restrictions, we’ve had schools returning as well.
“Understandably so staff are taking annual leave because they, to be quite frank with you, are knackered because of the last 18 months.
“Because community transmission is high, therefore that has an impact on those in the NHS that are having to self-isolate themselves.
“So that is a perfect storm as the NHS recovers.”
He said NHS staffing was already at record levels but the Scottish Government was looking to increase these further.
Part of that, he said, would be “ethical international recruitment” as set out in the Government’s recent NHS recovery plan.
Yousaf was also asked about the plan for vaccine passports, which was announced last week.
Ministers hope the vaccine certification scheme for nightclubs and large events will increase uptake of the jab.
The number of doses administered last weekend was higher than the preceding weekend, the health secretary said.
Yousaf said: “It’s too early to say absolutely, definitively, the causation, but if we continue to see that trend then, of course, any rise in vaccination helps society as a whole.”
On Saturday, September 4, the number of first doses administered in Scotland stood at 4750.
On Saturday, August 28, the number stood at 3117.