THE Scottish Government will provide £8 million to allow health boards to buy 300 additional care home beds to tackle the backlog of delayed discharges.

On Monday, the First Minister confirmed that Scotland’s hospitals are “almost completely full” and surpassed 95% capacity.

As part of the Scottish Government’s plan to tackle the crisis, which is seeing waiting times soar and hospitals at breaking point, the cash is intended to block buy beds in care homes across Scotland to provide “interim care” to patients while they are waiting for care packages to be put in place.

And now, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has confirmed that the £8m has been allocated as part of the plan to alleviate pressure on the NHS. The cash will allow boards to pay 25% over and above the National Care Home rate for 300 beds, on top of the 600 interim care beds already in operation.

READ MORE: Independence debate: Live updates as Holyrood returns

Basic rates for care home beds for a week can range between £720 and £830, with the additional 25%, this would equate to around £1000 at the higher rate.

With the government hoping to buy out 300 beds, this could keep the additional capacity open for around six months (26 weeks). 

Additionally, Yousaf said that NHS24 will recruit 200 new employees before the end of March, on top of the 40 call operators, call handlers, and supervisors recruited in the run-up to Christmas 2021.

In his statement to Holyrood on Tuesday, Yousaf told MSPs: “I've worked with partners across the care home sector to identify additional interim spaces within care homes to help provide additional pathways for people to be discharged from hospital in a timely and safe fashion.

“To support health and social care partnerships and secure the extra provision we're making funding of £8 million available so beds can be purchased an additional 25% above the national care home contract rate.

“We will work closely with partners across the NHS and health and social care partnerships and local authorities, to ensure the appropriate use of funds and evidence of the impact this funding has.

The National: The Scottish Government has allocated £8m to buy out 300 care home beds to tackle backlog of patients not discharged from hospitalThe Scottish Government has allocated £8m to buy out 300 care home beds to tackle backlog of patients not discharged from hospital

“This is an extremis time-limited measure that is required to help us with the current capacity issues that we face. The additional funding is intended to meet the increased costs of utilising these beds for a short period of time.”

The latest figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) showed the average number of beds being used by people who were awaiting a care package to leave hospital was 1950 in November 2022.

It is now the highest figure since the current guidance came into place in July 2016 – up by 3% from October when the daily average was 1898.

Yousaf later said that the £8m allocation has been taken from the health and social care portfolio, and that decisions will have to be made on what cuts will be made where. 

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, Tory health spokesperson, said that the NHS is “on its knees”.

READ MORE: Scottish Government remains 'willing to engage with UK' on referendum

He accused Yousaf of “hastily” cobbling together a statement as the crisis worsened and criticised the Scottish Parliament holding a debate on independence on the same day. Earlier, a motion by Gulhane attempting to have the debate removed from the parliamentary timetable was not agreed, as was a similar move by Labour.

Gulhane told MSPs: “This is a national emergency, people are dying unnecessarily. 

“Our heroic NHS staff are overwhelmed and are burning out. 

“The crisis in our NHS should be a priority for this parliament because it is a priority for the people of Scotland, and they wouldn't be appalled today. 

The National: Gulhane said the NHS was 'on its knees' and that Yousaf had been warnedGulhane said the NHS was 'on its knees' and that Yousaf had been warned

“I simply cannot fathom why the Cabinet Secretary did not plan for in his words, ‘the worst ever winter NHS faces’”.

The Tory MSP added that the crisis was “predictable” and that his warnings “fell on deaf ears”. 

Yousaf pointed out that the issues faced by NHS Scotland are not unique, and that other health services across the UK are dealing with the same problems. 

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, also said that the crisis was “predicted” by clinicians, and claimed fewer patients are being seen in A&E now than before the pandemic.

READ MORE: MSPs to get below-inflation pay rise – here's what they'll earn now

“What is unprecedented is that the Health Secretary has been warned about this crisis by clinicians for well over a year and he's failed to listen and to act on solutions.

“What is unprecedented is that this government has failed to end delayed discharge, something they promised to do in 2015, and eight years on, it's at record high levels.”

Baillie then accused the FM of dodging the debate and sending her "spare", in an apparent reference to Prince Harry. Yousaf replied that Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar wasn't in the chamber either.