Health secretary Humza Yousaf has announced a further £10m to help Scotland’s struggling accident and emergency departments.
With the NHS continuing to feel the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic, Yousaf said the additional cash aims to “ease pressures” in emergency departments and “minimise delays”.
It comes in the wake of waiting time performances in A&E reaching a new record low, with figures published last week showing just 70.9% of patients were seen within the target time of four hours.
Meanwhile, in some areas, patients are being told not to go to A&E unless their condition is “life threatening”.
With new waiting times figures to be published on Tuesday, Yousaf announced the further funding for NHS boards.
The money comes on top of the £300m already pledged to help the NHS cope over the winter period – which ministers have warned will be the most challenging ever for the health service.
The additional cash is to be used by health boards to ensure patients in A&E can get the “right care as quickly as possible”, with physiotherapists and occupational therapists to be deployed in emergency rooms to triage and treat patients who would otherwise wait to see nursing staff.
The money will also allow extra staff to be on duty on peak public holidays, while more allied health professionals and social care workers will be put on hospital rotas.
A further measure will see hospital pharmacies and diagnostic services, such as scanning and ultra sound departments, operating over extended opening hours to help speed up referrals.
Yousaf said: “As part of the NHS Recovery Plan, we have invested £27m towards the redesign of urgent care to ensure people receive the right care, at the right place.
“This will add to that work so our hospitals and A&E departments are not overstretched, if some patients can be safely and effectively treated elsewhere.”
He continued: “Alongside the additional £10m investment recently announced to prevent delayed discharge and avoid hospital stays, this extra winter funding aims to ease pressures in A&E departments and minimise delays that patients are currently experiencing when they need urgent care.
“Placing physiotherapists and occupational therapists in A&E will stop unnecessary hospital admissions so that, for example, patients with musculoskeletal conditions, chest infections, or those who have suffered a fall, can receive the right care quickly and advice on exercises to support recovery at home and in the community.
“This is not only good news for our NHS, but also better for the public in giving treatment in the right place, so emergency care is available when it’s really needed.”
But Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the new funding was “further evidence of SNP-generated chaos within our NHS”.
Dr Gulhane, an MSP who still works as a GP, added: “While any additional funding is welcomed, redeploying resources from one area of the NHS to plug gaps in another smacks of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“With lengthy backlogs, especially within physiotherapy, Humza Yousaf must confirm that his latest plan will not impact those already waiting to see physios or occupational therapists.
“Once again Humza Yousaf and the SNP Government are doing too little, too late, to address problems that should have been foreseen months ago.”