The temporary hospital built in Glasgow to treat Covid-19 patients could be used to help clear the backlog of thousands of Scots who have had surgeries postponed during the pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The NHS Louisa Jordan was constructed at speed at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in April but has not yet been needed to treat any coronavirus patients.
As the health service draws up plans to restart some services, the First Minister said the temporary hospital is being considered to help with this.
She told MSPs: “I can confirm that as part of the remobilisation plans we are looking at whether and to what extent we could use the NHS Louisa Jordan to do some elective treatment.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman will keep MSPs updated on this, she added.
Her comments came after Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said there is a backlog of “at least 80,000” Scots waiting for surgery.
Leonard told the First Minister: “Many are waiting anxiously, many are waiting in pain.
“So we will need to use every available resource to get people booked in for procedures.”
He raised the prospect of using the temporary hospital for this at First Minister’s Questions, saying: “One resource not yet used but readily available is the £43m NHS Louisa Jordan.
“Can the First Minister today update us on her plans for the NHS Louisa Jordan?
“Will the lease be extended and if so what role does she see it playing in easing pressure as the National Health Service begins to restart in the weeks ahead?”
Sturgeon said she is “absolutely delighted and relieved” the temporary hospital has not been required.
She said if it had been needed that would have meant Scotland’s existing hospitals had been “overwhelmed” by coronavirus, and “undoubtedly” many more people would have died from the disease.
“We should all be very thankful for the fact it hasn’t had to be used so far,” she said.
Sturgeon pledged to ensure the NHS Louisa Jordan is “there for as long as we may need it”.
She stressed “careful” decisions are needed about whether the temporary facility can be used for elective treatments, noting additional capacity in the health service may be needed if there is a resurgence of the virus.
Sturgeon told MSPs: “We have to make sure we are protecting some capacity to deal with any surge in the virus while getting the NHS back to normal.
“But the NHS Louisa Jordan is part of our considerations and the Health Secretary will keep Parliament updated.”