Humza Yousaf has asked Scotland’s chief nursing officer to look at whether more flexible working can be introduced to help “completely knackered” health and social care staff.
The health secretary acknowledged the increase pressure on the workforce as a result of the pandemic.
And he pledged that the Scottish Government will continue to invest in wellbeing initiatives to help support them.
It comes after a warning that the NHS is at a “crisis point”, with funding for temporary staff in the last year reaching £423m.
The Scottish Conservatives claimed that it was a “damning indictment” of what they said was the SNP’s “wasteful and inefficient management” of the country’s NHS.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Monday, Yousaf said he had asked Professor Alex McMahon, the country’s chief nursing officer, to look into work patterns for staff.
“The obvious point to make is we were dealing with a pandemic where so many staff were off,” explained Yousaf when asked about the amount of money spent on temporary staff.
“Staff in the NHS were not immune from the effects of Covid, they of course are part of our communities.
“So when community transmission was high, they were having to go off of course so that our NHS wasn’t completely on its knees.
“We had to bring people in from agency, from locum, wherever we could find them.
“But also, of course, we used staff in relation to our incredibly successful vaccination programme.”
Yousaf indicated that there are long-serving nursing staff who are “really struggling” to stay on.
“Recruitment is one side of the story, the other side of the story of course is retention,” he said.
“This is where, again, we’re putting in a lot of effort. But there’s no doubt that given the pressures of the last two years, I’ve spoken to a number of nurses for example.
“Who tell me that having worked 30 years in the NHS, they are really struggling to stay on.
“So, I’ve asked, for example, my chief nursing officer to look at whether or not we can be more flexible right across the board in terms of working patterns and working shifts.
“But, there’s no getting away from it, I can understand entirely where doctors, nurses and everybody who works in health and social care are completely knackered.
“And that’s why we will continue to put in investment into wellbeing and ensure that they have access to some of those wellbeing initiatives.”
The health secretary was also asked about a rise in Covid cases amongst staff in the workforce.
But, he underlined the difference made by high levels of vaccination and natural immunity.
“We’re concerned. We’re not panicked by any stretch of the imagination, but clearly concerned, any rise in cases, a rise in infection levels, does concern us,” he said.
“What I would say is, I think Professor Linda Bauld was saying last week, we’ve got a highly vaccinated population and high levels of natural immunity.
“And both of those things should keep us in good stead, but it’s of course concerning.”