SNP leadership hopeful Humza Yousaf comes under fire over NHS record

SNP leadership candidate and would-be Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf has come under fire for his stewardship of the NHS – with Scottish Tories revealing “shocking” new figures showing one patient waited two and half days for treatment in accident and emergency.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross claimed under Mr Yousaf’s tenure as Health Secretary the service had “lurched further and further into crisis”.

Mr Yousaf is seen by some as the favourite to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and Scottish first minister, as rival candidate Kate Forbes lost supporters after saying she would not have voted for same-sex marriage.

But Mr Ross said he had been a “useless Health Secretary”, adding that “Humza Yousaf has made the crisis in Scotland’s health service much worse”.

Douglas Ross
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Humza Yousaf has been ‘useless’ in his current position (PA)

Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, he demanded: “First Minister, why should a Health Secretary who has failed our NHS now get to fail the whole of Scotland?”

The Tory launched his attack after details his party received via a Freedom of Information request showed a patient in the NHS Borders region waitied 49 hours for treatment in A&E, while someone in Lanarkshire waited 54 hours.

The Scottish Government’s target is for people in accident and emergency to be seen and either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

Mr Ross went on to tell MSPs a patient in the NHS Ayrshire area had waited 60 hours.

“That is two and a half days in accident and emergency,” the Conservative said. “Doesn’t this confirm that Humza Yousaf isn’t even up to the job he has got at the moment.”

Outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon faced questions on the performance of Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)
Outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon faced questions on the performance of Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

He challenged Ms Sturgeon, who announced last week she is stepping down after more than eight years as First Minister, asking: “Why would anybody risk Scotland’s future by giving a man with Humza Yousaf’s record more power?

The Tory leader continued: “Humza Yousaf is the worst health secretary since devolution, but it looks like he is going to fail upwards.

“In any other line of work Humza Yousaf would have been sacked, not promoted.

“Forget being SNP leader, why is he even still in government?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “In relation to individual cases it is always unacceptable if someone waits too long for treatment in the National Health Service.”

She accepted the health service was facing “significant challenges”, adding that these were “more significant than at any point in history of the NHS”.

But the First Minister stated: “We are supporting our NHS with record funding, record staffing and the wider support it needs to address these challenges.”

She also said about Mr Yousaf that he was “the only health secretary anywhere in the UK that has managed to avoid a single day of strikes in the National Health Service over this period”.

Ms Sturgeon stressed it is for members of her party to “elect a new leader of the SNP and effectively a new first minister for Scotland”.

But she stated: “Douglas Ross is sounding pretty scared of Humza Yousaf.”

Looking back at her time in office, Ms Sturgeon added: “In the eight years I have been First Minister the people of Scotland have had no fewer than eight opportunities to cast their verdict on me, my party and my government.

“In every single one of these eight opportunities the people of Scotland have rejected the Conservatives and put their trust in me, my party and my government.

“And I have every confidence that whoever succeeds me as a leader of the SNP will continue that record of success.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (PA)

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also took aim at the Health Secretary in his clash with the First Minister, saying he had “failed” and the NHS recovery plan drawn up by Mr Yousaf was “more about spin than substance”.

“As a result, patient outcomes are getting worse, staff are burnt out and the NHS is going backwards,” Mr Sarwar said.

The Labour leader insisted: “On every single measure, this Health Secretary is failing to get the NHS back on track.

“In fact, this is the worst it has ever been.

“So does the First Minister really believe that the man responsible for failing Scotland’s NHS should be responsible for our country?”

Ms Sturgeon stressed again the decision on who the new leader would be was “one for my party”.

But she sought to defend the Health Secretary’s record, saying: “Since Humza Yousaf became Health Secretary – and this is what Anas Sarwar fails to mention – there have been, I think, three further waves of a global pandemic that have affected health services all across the UK, Europe and the world, that’s not something that can just be ignored.”

Mr Yousaf said afterwards it was “quite telling actually” that both the Scottish Conservative leader and his Labour counterpart had attacked him

The Health Secretary said: “It’s quite telling that my opponents want to attack me, want to discredit me quite personally and not focus on any of the other candidates. I think that tells you everything you need to know.”