THE NHS in Scotland will remain on an emergency footing until March 2022, Humza Yousaf has said.

The Health and Social Care Secretary made the assertion in a written answer published on the Scottish Parliament website.

Yousaf was responding to SNP MSP Emma Harper who had asked if the emergency footing would be extended beyond September 30, when it was due to end.

The health service was originally placed on an emergency setting in March 2020, when former Health Secretary Jeane Freeman paused all non-urgent care.

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And now, Yousaf has extended the protocol again stating that it was needed to implement a “measured and consistent” remobilisation of the NHS.

In her question, Harper wrote: “To ask the Scottish Government whether the NHS will continue on the emergency footing that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care previously extended to 30 September 2021.”

Yousaf, who responded on September 29, said: “With the continued increased demands on services across health and social care, we must ensure that the vital services provided by our NHS are protected as we move into a challenging winter period.

“This means we must continue with a measured and consistent approach to remobilising and renewing across our system, learning from the pressures we were subjected to over the last year and maintaining the ability to quickly respond and intervene, where necessary.”

The National:

Yousaf said the emergency footing would be extended to next year

Yousaf added that he was “mindful of the impact of these pressures” on health and care staff, who have been working on the front line battling Covid for an extended period of time.

He continued: “It is clear that as we move into the winter period, we need to continue to balance the capacity of the NHS to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic against increasing demands of emergency, urgent and planned care and delayed discharges.

“With this in mind, I have decided that the NHS will remain on an emergency footing until at least 31 March 2022.”

It comes as Yousaf yesterday acknowledged the “extremely challenging circumstances” NHS staff are facing, following concerns about staffing levels at the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

It follows a report at the weekend which said workers had warned of under-staffing 339 times at the Glasgow hospital since 2019.

The Sunday Post newspaper said there had been 55 “near miss” incidents where there was a potential for patients to be harmed as a result of staff shortfalls.

Yousaf, who was asked about the shortages in Holyrood on Tuesday, said staff numbers in Scotland’s NHS were at a record high, with the workforce growing by 20% under the SNP Government.

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He said: “Nevertheless, I fully acknowledge the extremely challenging circumstances within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and, of course, across the NHS right across the country.

“A range of further interventions are now actively being taken forward and deployed within the service to support existing capacity.

“This includes provision of additional targets and flexibility, streamlining recruitment processes and bringing forward planned recruitment.”

He said the health board was currently bringing more than 600 new nurses on board.