Humza Yousaf believes he retains the trust of staff working for NHS Scotland.
The health secretary is under increasing pressure amid waning faith in the Scottish government’s handling of the NHS and the imminent threat of industrial action.
In addition, A&E’s latest wait time figures released this week were once again the worst on record.
Despite countless challenges, Yousaf told STV News that he suspects the current level of anger is a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s not to say there weren’t challenges before, but nothing on the scale of what we’ve seen with the global pandemic,” he said.
“There are challenges in our NHS, I fully accept that. There is no other system in the world that provides free, compassionate care at the point of use.
“Of course, I get correspondence from people who feel their care could have been better: they waited too long for an ambulance.
“But I also understand the other side of that. I get people writing to tell me how exceptional the care they have received for themselves or a family member is, so I think our staff is doing a brilliant job.
“What I would say to people is ‘look at what we’ve put on the table in terms of an NHS Agenda for Change pay offer for staff – it’s gone way beyond what the UK government , the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Government have set”. table.”
Yousaf was speaking after a ScotPulse poll commissioned by STV News found that almost half of adults (49%) are worried about getting sick this winter and 66% say the level of care is getting worse.
Trust in the Scottish government’s management of the health service is also falling, with 44% saying they have little or no trust.
Some 55% of those surveyed said they would consider accessing private healthcare if they could afford it.
Asked if he still had the confidence of NHS staff, Yousaf said: “Yes, I think so and that is shown by the fact that, in Scotland, staff don’t go on strike, neither nurses nor ambulance drivers. but in other parts of Scotland”. the UK will go on strike at the end of this month.
“(The strike action) is not off the table…they are still considering it, but I think the confidence is there.
“My relationship with the unions is very good. Don’t get me wrong, they defy me. They will challenge hard, but that conversation is constructive.”
After the interview with STV News, BMA Scotland announced that young doctors in Scotland planned to vote for strike action.
The Royal College of Nursing is also voting its members on an improved wage offer from the Scottish government, with the prospect of nurses’ strikes looming if the offer is rejected.
Yousaf said: “They want us to put our money where our mouth is and that is why we have offered this significant salary deal, so I think you can rest assured because we are putting that record-breaking salary deal on the table.
“I can’t sugarcoat it, you know this winter is going to be incredibly difficult.
“I would go as far as to say it is possibly the toughest winter our NHS will face, but I promise you that we will continue to invest in and use the workforce and we will continue to invest in the NHS and social care.”
Yousaf was speaking after figures released earlier this week showed the number of hospital beds filled by people ready for discharge had hit a new record.
An average of 1,898 beds were occupied by people ready to leave the hospital each day in October, the highest level recorded since current guidelines were introduced in July 2016.
It’s also a 4% increase from September, where the daily average was 1,832, according to the latest Public Health Scotland (PHS) statistics released on Tuesday.
In addition, PHS figures show that the number of patients seen within expected waiting times in Scotland’s emergency departments has reached a new low.
Only 61.9% of the people who went to the emergency room in the week up to November 27 were treated and subsequently admitted or discharged within four hours.
The Scottish government aims for 95% of people to be seen within the four hour time limit.
Scottish Conservatives have called for the resignation of the health secretary.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane, the shadow health and social care secretary, said: “The NHS is caving in under pressure and front-line staff are under intolerable strain due to terrible planning and mismanagement of the workforce. of the PNS.
“We already know that more people than ever are paying to go private as a result, but for many others that is not an option.
“The responsibility stops with Humza Yousaf. He should resign immediately, or Nicola Sturgeon should fire him for his endless string of failures.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labor health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “This is a damning allegation by the SNP administration of our NHS.
“No wonder people are concerned when we have the worst health secretary since devolution handling the biggest crisis in our NHS.
“Staff work tirelessly to do what is right for patients, but services are stretched thin and do not trust Humza Yousaf to act.
“If the SNP does not act, more lives will be lost. This winter we can only hope that we don’t get sick.”
STV News is running special reports on the state of Scotland’s NHS on Wednesday and Thursday. The reports will air on STV News at Six and will be available to view on STV Player. The STV News website and social channels will also have comprehensive coverage.