Nicola Sturgeon faced criticism of the SNP plan to tackle a crisis in Scottish NHS services as, during First Minister Questions, it was revealed that the number of Scots waiting more than two years for treatment had increased 16-fold in the last year. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross reported that 10,613 patients in Scotland had been left facing an excessive wait for NHS treatment, especially concerning given that the same statistic stood at just 648 patients the year prior. Mr Ross suggested the outlook for Scottish NHS services was “getting worse” under the SNP leadership despite promises of investment and pledges to improve the nation’s healthcare. Addressing Ms Sturgeon, he said: “The answer the First Minister couldn’t, or wouldn’t give is 10,613 people in Scotland who have been waiting more than two years for treatment in our NHS.”
He continued: “The First Minister was speaking about tentative improvements, that is a 16-fold increase in a year.
“This isn’t the NHS recovery per Government promise, things are getting worse, far worse, not better, First Minister.
“We are hearing of heart patients being given appointments two years down the line, reports today state people are receiving appointments for dates in July 2024.
“First Minister, is that acceptable?”
The Scottish Conservative Leader referenced the case of Carol Cunningham, who reached out to SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to express her frustration with treatment delays.
Writing on Twitter, Ms Cunningham said: “I have received this appointment letter – note the date. Yes, July 3, 2024, more than 2 years from now.
“Is this the best the SNHS can do for patients?”
The frustrated patient explained to the Scottish Daily Express that her original appointment had already been cancelled due to covid so, having now been delayed an additional two years, Ms Cunningham could be waiting for the appointment for four years.
In response to the argument of Mr Ross, the First Minister replied: “In terms of the particular case cited in the media today, no, I don’t think that’s acceptable and I know a review of that particular appointment, which is a follow-up outpatient appointment not a first outpatient appointment, is being undertaken and contact with the patient will be made.”
Ms Sturgeon continued: “It is the case that waiting times, generally and those waiting an unacceptably long time for treatment, have increased over the past year.”
The First Minister was quick to dismiss SNP blame as she added: “I’m afraid that is the impact of a global pandemic.
“We have, over the past year, seen further waves of covid, that has had a big impact on the number of treatments that can be done in our national health service.”
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She continued: “Infection control measures have had to be tightened up and, of course, there’s a number of staff who have themselves had covid and been off sick.
“That is an impact that countries across the UK, countries across Europe, and the world are finding themselves at the moment.
That is why we are investing so heavily, we have record numbers of staff working in our national health service, up considerably just in the last year and up by nearly 30,000 since this Government took office.”
The First Minister bashed the criticisms of the Scottish Tories as she asserted the nation was starting to see “tentative” improvements in the recovery of the NHS following the difficulties of serving patient needs during the coronavirus pandemic.