Humza Yousaf said the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Scotland’s hospitals will result in the Scottish NHS facing an “extraordinarily difficult winter”. As a result, Scotland’s Health Secretary said Scots should consider whether it is “absolutely critical” for them to call for an ambulance.
But this morning, the Scottish Tories branded the comments as “reckless” claiming could put lives at risk.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane, Scottish Conservative public health spokesman, said: “It is astonishing to hear the SNP’s Health Secretary try to discourage people from calling for an ambulance.
“Humza Yousaf is making people feel guilty about dialling 999 and seeking urgent help.
“This sort of reckless messaging could put lives at risk.
“When people suffer conditions like heart attacks or strokes, they might think twice about calling an ambulance, which could lead to unnecessary deaths.”
The Tory MSP added: “The Health Secretary should be guaranteeing that he will improve waiting times, not telling people to stop phoning for an ambulance.
“On Humza Yousaf’s watch, our ambulance service has reached breaking point and our NHS is in crisis.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Humza Yousaf is proving a reckless Health Secretary. Encouraging people not to seek treatment is a huge gamble.
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Mr Yousaf told BBC Radio Scotland Good Morning Scotland Programme: “We are in for an extraordinarily difficult winter.
“We know that the flu season could be extremely challenging, we know that people that are presenting – whether it is presenting to the ambulance service or GPs or A&E – they are presenting more sick because they haven’t presented for the last 18 months.
“Looking at the data the last time we had 1,000 patients in hospital with Covid was December 2020, our A&E presentations now, when we have the same number of Covid patients, is 40 percent higher.”
The SNP led Scottish Government minister pledged any additional cash that could be found would be spent trying to ease the pressure on the health service, the Health Secretary conceded it “will be a challenging autumn and winter”.
The Scottish Government has already outlined a £1billion NHS recovery plan, to help the service in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Yousaf also stressed the ambulance service was being given an “extra £20million injection” to help boost staff numbers
“We are beginning to see more and more ambulance staff recruited,” he said.
“That recruitment is happening now, so we are helping to staff up the ambulance service.”
When asked directly if people should “think twice” before calling for an ambulance, Mr Yousaf said: “Yes is the short answer to that.”
He stated: “I don’t doubt that people do that because they are in distressing situations, I think most people only call when they are in that extreme distress.”
Mr Yousaf said people who were “picking up the phone to call 999 to call an ambulance” should consider if this is “absolutely critical” – although he stressed if it was they should “of course make that call and the ambulance service will get to you as quickly as they possibly can”.