Nicola Sturgeon accused of ‘going into hiding’ while Scotland’s NHS faces crisis

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Nicola Sturgeon accused of ‘going into hiding’ while Scotland’s NHS faces crisis - Andy Buchanan
Nicola Sturgeon accused of ‘going into hiding’ while Scotland’s NHS faces crisis - Andy Buchanan

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “going into hiding” while Scotland’s NHS faces the gravest crisis in its history.

Opponents claimed that the nationalist administration at Holyrood had put up a “wall of silence” over recent days, with ministers refusing several media invitations to publicly address a growing emergency.

Paramedics on Sunday called for temporary field hospitals to be set up in major Scottish cities, as questions mounted over why the NHS Louisa Jordan in Glasgow, which had the capacity for more than 1,000 beds, was allowed to close in July without being replaced.

However, a prominent public health expert warned that the NHS would struggle to find the staff to run any new facilities, even if it was possible to set them up.

The SNP administration has formally requested around 200 soldiers from the British Army be deployed to drive ambulances and run coronavirus testing centres, which would free up NHS staff for other duties.

Union chiefs have claimed soldiers would be needed to drive ambulances until at least next spring.

However, there were warnings on Sunday that this would do little to ease what the Scottish Government acknowledged was the most serious situation the ambulance service had faced since 1947.

Watch: Scotland's First Minister pushes case for independence

Lack of capacity

A lack of capacity at A&E departments has meant ambulances have been forced to queue for hours at hospitals to drop off patients, leaving response times to spiral.

Last week, Gerard Brown, a 65-year-old, was found dead at his Glasgow home after it took 40 hours for paramedics to arrive after a 999 call.

However, Ms Sturgeon, her ministers and officials have turned down a flurry of media requests to address the situation.

Martin Geissler, the host of BBC Scotland’s flagship current affairs programme, The Sunday Show, revealed that both Humza Yousaf, the health secretary, and Jason Leitch, the national clinical director, had refused to appear on the programme.

Ministers also snubbed an invitation to discuss the NHS crisis on Good Morning Scotland, on BBC Radio Scotland, on Friday.

‘Wall of silence’

Stephen Kerr, chief whip for the Scottish Tories, said: “As the mistakes mount up each day, this scandalous SNP Government have put up another wall of silence.

“At a time when the NHS and Scottish Ambulance Service are at breaking point, Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers have gone into hiding in the hope things will suddenly get better.

“People are needlessly dying because of the SNP’s failings yet they can’t even bring themselves to address the public on what is being done to alleviate the situation.”

Pressure was growing on Sunday night for new field hospitals to be set up so that ambulances have somewhere to drop off patients who are not critically ill.

Extra ambulances ‘won’t make a blind bit of difference’

Jamie McNamee, Unite convenor at the Scottish Ambulance Service, said even 100 extra ambulances in Glasgow “won’t make a blind bit of difference” because they would all end up queued outside the city's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“We need a field hospital to enable us to hand over patients to clinicians to free up mobile resources because people are dying due to delays, quite literally,” he told The Sunday Post.

Watch: Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland will recommend vaccines for over 12s

Sandesh Gulhane, a practising GP who is also health spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said the number of patients he had seen had roughly doubled last week, with demand “unsustainable”.

Medics have reported patients arriving with far more serious conditions than normal as they had not been treated during the pandemic.

Dr Gulhane added: “The huge crisis facing A&E departments has now skyrocketed off the scale which is why there needs to be extra capacity available like field hospitals."

However, Gillian Evans, the head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, told the BBC: “When we start to think about field hospitals and so on, it will be staffing that will be the biggest constraint.

“You can put the infrastructure in but if you haven’t got the staff to look after the patients in them, that’s your problem.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was "false" to claim that ministers had been avoiding scrutiny, but failed to provide any examples of them taking part in live interviews since last Wednesday.

He added: “Because of the global pandemic and its multiple knock-on effects, the Ambulance Service is under the most pressure it has ever been since the inception of the NHS in 1947.

“As the First Minister has set out, we are already giving urgent consideration to temporary admission wards to ease bottlenecks between ambulances and our hospitals – and we are investing an extra £20 million to fund almost 300 new Ambulance Service staff."

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