Scotland’s hospitals almost ‘completely full’ with bed occupancy exceeding 95%, warns Sturgeon

Scotland’s hospitals are “almost completely full”, the First Minister has warned as she outlined measures to ease NHS pressures.

In a news briefing alongside Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the deputy Chief Medical Officer, Graham Ellis, Nicola Sturgeon admitted it had been “without any doubt the most difficult winter ever” for the health service and its staff.

It comes as Dr Lailah Peel, deputy chair of BMA Scotland, warned that hospitals were “not safe” for patients amid increasing pressures.

Ms Sturgeon (pictured) said hospitals across Scotland surpassed 95% capacity on January 4, compared to pre-pandemic levels of 87%.

She said: “The reality is hospitals right now are currently almost full. Last Wednesday, hospital bed occupancy across Scotland exceeded 95%.

“Now for context, at the same stage in 2020, before the pandemic struck, occupancy was around 87%”.

Ms Sturgeon said “extraordinary levels of winter flu” and rising Strep A cases were to blame, alongside delayed discharges – where a patient is ready to leave hospital but cannot because the necessary care package or accommodation is not available.

An estimated 1,700 people are still in hospital but are ready for discharge, she said.

To alleviate pressures, Ms Sturgeon said “immediate extra funding” will be provided to health and social care partnerships to support the booking of additional care home beds for patients to be discharged to while they await an appropriate care package.

Additional staff for the NHS 24 service is also set to increase in the coming weeks after workforce numbers were increased prior to the festive period to reduce the need for hospital visits.

The Scottish Government is also working with health boards to assess initiatives such as extending GP opening hours to Saturdays, as announced by NHS Lanarkshire last week.

Ms Sturgeon said: “While NHS staff continue to deliver excellent care – truly excellent care – for thousands of patients each and every day, in some key areas, the system in not currently providing patients with the speed of treatment that we want to see.”

Mr Yousaf is expected to update the Scottish Parliament on the new measures in a statement on Tuesday.

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie accused the First Minister of spending “more time making excuses” than addressing the health concerns.

She said: “Faced with the most difficult winter in NHS history, the SNP are deflecting blame and rehashing the same old promises they have been making for years.

“These changes will barely scratch the surface of this deadly crisis and fail to grapple with the major structural problems clinicians are raising.

“Instead of quietly side-lining her own Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon needs to sack Humza Yousaf and appoint someone up to the job.

“We can’t keep teetering on the brink of disaster – we need action now to support health and social care workers, drive down waiting lists, invest in social care, and tackle delayed discharge for good.”

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