HUMZA Yousaf has rejected calls for the army to be drafted in to boost capacity in Scottish hospitals, arguing the armed forces are not a “panacea”.

The Health Secretary also rejected claims that the Scottish Government had done “no resilience planning” ahead of winter.

Previously, Scottish Labour argued that military assistance was needed to ensure emergency departments and ambulance services don’t “buckle under pressure”.

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Figures showed that 1925 Scots spent 12 hours or more waiting at A&E in the week leading up to Christmas, prompting demands from the opposition to draft in troops to relieve the pressure.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, said that the SNP were “solely responsible” for the “worst NHS winter crisis in living memory”.

However, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are also dealing with long waiting times and increasing pressures on the health service.

On Friday, figures showed a record number of ambulances were left to queue at A&E departments in England, with 44% delayed by 30 minutes or more, the highest proportion on record. More than a quarter (26%) were delayed by more than an hour.

The National: Baillie urged the Scottish Government to draft in the army to boost NHS staffing levelsBaillie urged the Scottish Government to draft in the army to boost NHS staffing levels

Responding to opposition calls for the army to be drafted in, Yousaf told the BBC: “The army is not the panacea to this now, if a local health board requests us to request MACA support [Military Aid to Civil Authorities], then obviously we would look at that.

“But the point is, and one of my clinicians made this point to me, actually, just recently that the vast majority of army nurses and doctors are working in wards right now.

“The reservists are working in wards up and down the country already. So there's not this magic pool of nurses and doctors that we can just kind of count to bring in and to assist.”

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He added that “the biggest issue we're still facing is that high level of delayed discharge”

Yousaf added: “It’s not that we don't have some interim beds available.

“So what we're doing and working on is trying to get every single one of those filled at local level where we can, so drafting in the army, I don't think it's going to help keep it under review. That's not the panacea.”

Dr Lailah Peel, deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, was asked by the broadcaster if she would welcome the Scottish Government drafting in the armed forces.

The National: Armed services personnel were drafted in to help with the Covid-19 pandemicArmed services personnel were drafted in to help with the Covid-19 pandemic

She said: “I think to some extent any extra help we can get in A&E will be welcomed.

“That's why consultants across hospitals in Scotland have been asking for major incidents to be called to try and get the resources that you need to deal with the acute brush, but the big thing that we need to fix like I said, is looking at the back door of the hospital because that's where these problems stem from.”

Earlier in the interview, Yousaf was asked why the Scottish Government hasn’t planned ahead for the NHS winter crisis, to which the Health Secretary said he disagreed with the “premise of the question”.

He said: “Last year, for example, we invested in increasing staffing levels, not just last winter, but making sure that funding was recurring so it could help with this winter as well.

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"That’s why I stood up in October and gave a range of actions with some additional funding on what we do to try and to support our colleagues this winter in the NHS. But to be frank with you there is not a silver bullet.”

Asked if the government planned enough, Yousaf replied: “Yes we planned for this winter as soon as the last winter was over.”

Dr Peel was asked if patients were dying as a direct result of this crisis, to which she replied “absolutely”.

“There's no shadow of a doubt that that is happening,” she added.

“Every healthcare worker in Scotland right now will be able to tell you a story about a patient that has suffered because of the crisis that at the moment whether that be stuck in hospitals, because we've got to remember that although the issues that are happening in a&e are very acutely that's not where the biggest problem lies.”

Dr Peel added that the issue is the amount of patients who aren’t being discharged quickly enough, due to issues with social care, the rise in waiting times and some patients picking up infections which lead them to stay in hospital longer.

It comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refused to say whether or not he has private healthcare.