Humza Yousaf has been accused of “duping” the Scottish Parliament on his promise to deliver 300 care home beds for NHS patients after only a few dozen people were helped by the scheme each week.
The First Minister – then health secretary – announced an £8m fund in January for health and social care partnerships to procure additional interim beds, with the funding allowing boards to pay 25% over the normal care home rate.
It aimed to provide around 300 spaces for hospital patients experiencing delayed discharge, which means they are clinically ready to leave hospital but can’t because other necessary care is not available.
Figures seen by STV News revealed that between Yousaf’s announcement and April 3, just 42 people per week on average were taking up interim care placements under the scheme.
During the winter, Scotland’s hospitals became close to full capacity.
At the same time, there were more than 1,700 people in the hospital experiencing delayed discharge.
Former LibDem leader Willie Rennie, whose party obtained the figures and delivered analysis alongside the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre, said Yousaf “failed” to deliver the “very limited” go he set.
He told STV News: “Announcing this money was clearly designed to save Humza Yousaf from an awkward media round, not solve the problem of patients trapped in hospital.
“We needed a major government intervention to drive down delayed discharges, but his stunt has fallen flat.
“I have spoken with consultants who thought they weren’t placing any more in interim beds than before the announcement.
“The policy was already insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem, but the then Health Secretary didn’t even meet the very limited goal he set out.”
Asked about the low number of beds provided per week, the Scottish Government said the numbers over the course of the three months policy, which finished at the end of March, added up to nearly 500 people – exceeding Yousaf’s original goal of 300.
But Rennie – the MSP for North East Fife – insisted the original figure was intended to be the number of beds delivered, not the total number of people.
“Humza Yousaf told Parliament at least four times that this policy involved securing 300 additional beds,” he said.
“To now claim that the target was about the total number of patients supported over three months is ridiculous.
“The government is in a tangle.
“It suggests that either Humza Yousaf duped parliament when he made the announcement or the government is changing the purpose of the funding after the fact.
“Government by press release is no substitute for investing in social care to deliver the long-term capacity that our system needs.”
At the time of the announcement, Yousaf did refer to “beds”, saying: “The additional funding is intended to meet the increased costs of utilising these beds for a short period of time.”
He added: “These interim beds may not be a family’s first, or indeed second, choice for their relative. But I hope families agree in the current circumstances this is about making the best possible choice for those in our care.
“This measure will only be in place for a limited period of time to directly support our hospitals to deal with pressures at the front door.
“However, it will enable some people to move from an acute setting to a more appropriate community one, recognising the risk of prolonged stays in hospital.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The £8m announced by the Health Secretary was intended to provide support for around 300 people, and was exceeded with almost 500 people being supported, helping to ensure patients were cared for in a more appropriate setting.”