National Health Service staff could be redeployed to help tackle pressure in the social care system amid increasing workforce absences, the Scottish health secretary said.
It comes after figures from Public Health Scotland showed more than 2300 care home staff were unable to work due to the impact of the virus last week.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said the NHS and social care system were “buckling” under the pressure of the pandemic.
Cabinet minister for health and social care Humza Yousaf said the government had been working with local health and social care partnerships across the country to tackle the crisis.
“Where we can possibly redeploy staff, whether that’s from vaccination teams, where perhaps there is a little bit of capacity there, that is of course, being looked at,” he told STV News.
“But that’s also why we’ve been working closely with local government colleagues as well who, I have to say, are really stepping up. Wherever they can redeploy staff they’ll do that.”
Yousaf said the coronavirus pandemic is the biggest crisis to hit, not just the NHS, but also the social care sector.
Earlier this week, the NHS reported its highest level of staff absences since April 2020.
Public Health Scotland data showed that in the week ending January 11, 7174 NHS staff reported as absent due to Covid, including more than 3500 nurses and midwives and 150 medical and dental staff.
According to the Scottish Social Services Council’s latest data on staff vacancies, one in three (36%) social care services had at least one vacancy at December 31, 2020, which is more than three times the figure across all types of employers.
“Every single workforce has been hit by staff absences due to Omicron,” Yousaf said.
“But I’m hoping the changes we recently announced to self-isolation will now begin to feed through and hopefully we are past the worst of it.
“But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be challenging for the weeks and, frankly, the months to come.”
It comes as IT issues held up Sunday’s daily coronavirus data update.
Scheduled to be published by the Scottish Government every day at 2pm, the figures for positive cases, deaths and vaccinations were unavailable.
An update said Public Health Scotland was unable to provide the data due to IT issues on Sunday morning and that the problem was under investigation.
The figures are not expected to be updated until Monday.