SCOTLAND'S Health Secretary has hinted at a possible increase in spending to buy up care home beds in a bid to reduce hospital waiting times.

In recent months, the number of people seen within four hours at A&E in Scotland has stagnated between 60% and 65%, despite a Government target of 95% of patients seen within that time.

The Scottish Government has said the ongoing effects of the pandemic have contributed to the figures, as well as the impact of delayed discharge, where patients are well enough to leave the hospital but are kept in mostly due to the lack of a suitable care package.

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In January, the Scottish Government announced £8 million in funding that would buy up about 300 care home beds for patients in hospital but awaiting care packages.

Speaking during a visit to the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, Michael Matheson hinted at a potential increase in spending on more beds.

“Some of the things that I’m very keen to look at is the potential extra capacity that might be out there within our social care system that we can make better use of, both in the community and also in the residential nursing home setting,” he said.

“I want to look to see whether there [are] ways we can actually use more of that capacity to help to support an increasing number of patients that have been discharged in a much more timely basis.”

Asked if that could mean an increase to the initiative already announced in January, Matheson said: “I want to look to see whether there’s more we can do in helping to increase that level of capacity because that plays a key part in helping to meet our waiting time targets, given the very sustained pressure which they’ve been under for a considerable period of time.”

The Health Secretary went on to urge patients to look at what the best way to engage with the health service would be, echoing a common refrain from the Scottish Government and health boards in recent years.

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His visit came as the Golden Jubilee Hospital announced it had performed a record number of heart transplants in the past year. 

Matheson met specialist doctors and two patients, one who had received a transplant and another on the waiting list. 

Medics at the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service (SNAHFS) at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank carried out 40 of the procedures in 2022-23.

The previous record was 34 in a single year, recorded before the service moved to the Clydebank-based hospital in 1995-96.