Scottish NHS employment goals are unlikely to be met, according to Audit Scotland

work in a hospital

The Covid recovery plan for Scotland's NHS jobs has "unlikely to be met" targets, according to Audit Scotland.

The public spending watchdog urged ministers to provide health boards with attainable goals and to be "transparent" about hospital backlogs.

More assistance was also demanded for patients who were stranded on lengthy waiting lists.

Despite opposition MSPs calling his record "shambolic," Health Secretary Humza Yousaf predicted that it would take years for the NHS to recover.

With some health boards delaying non-urgent procedures due to the pandemic, the Scottish government's plan was created to alter the way services are provided and reduce the patient backlog.

It provided ambitious hiring goals, such as the need to hire 800 new general practitioners by 2027.

Audit Scotland, however, claimed that this goal was "not on track" and endangered the recovery of primary hospital care.

The GP workforce only increased by 113 people between 2017 and 2022, according to the report.

Goals to hire 1,000 more mental health professionals were described as "at risk" due to cuts of £65 million from primary care and £35 million from mental health services.

stephen boyle
NHS staff are still under "severe pressure," according to auditor general Stephen Boyle.

The government's NHS recovery plan, according to Scotland's Auditor General Stephen Boyle, lacked the "detailed actions" necessary to accurately gauge progress.

This, according to him, included "robust modeling" to analyze capacity and demand.

Since the plan's publication 18 months ago, according to Mr. Boyle, the treatment backlog has gotten worse.

"NHS staff continue to be under intense pressure, and the Scottish government is faced with difficult decisions," he said.

Although money is limited, recovery investments are necessary. As a result, ministers must determine which NHS goals can actually be accomplished. They also need to be more open about the development they're making. ".

In addition, the Auditor General urged ministers to make it clear to the public what those pressures on the NHS meant for the standard of service they can anticipate, including the waiting times that skyrocketed over the winter.

Aandamp;E department, Glasgow Royal infirmary
Scotland's emergency rooms experienced record-breaking wait times this winter.

According to the annual report on the state of Scotland's health system, the backlog in patient care is still growing, more people are being added to waiting lists than are being taken off of them, and operations are currently 25 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

It also revealed that health boards would need to save more than £620 million to break even in 2022–23.

In the upcoming fiscal year, only three hospitals—NHS Forth Valley, NHS Shetland, and NHS Western Isles—are expected to achieve financial balance.

The network of National Treatment Centres (NTC), which was planned to offer an additional 40,000 procedures by the end of 2026, was also mentioned as experiencing delays.

These goals are no longer as likely to be met, according to Audit Scotland. .

St John's Hospital
It was originally anticipated that the new treatment center at St. John's Hospital in Livingston would open in 2025, but that date has been pushed back to 2027.

According to estimates, the NTC in Livingston will cost £184 million instead of the original estimate of £70.9 million, as was revealed this week by BBC Scotland.

According to the Audit Scotland report, the three NTCs in NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley, and NHS Highland that were scheduled to open last year are now anticipated to do so this year.

Others, however, were not expected to open until late 2027 or early 2028, it was added.

The "challenges and successes" of the Covid recovery were reiterated in the report, according to Humza Yousaf, who responded to it.

We have never concealed the scope of the task, and recovery will take years rather than just a few weeks or months, he continued.

"That recovery, as outlined in our £1 billion plan, is supported by record investment and has produced real success, including the Covid-19 vaccination drive and a notable decrease in the number of two-year outpatient waits," the author said.

"We are determined to build on this, and we will update you on our progress once a year, making sure that the details are as accurate as possible. " .

Opposition politicians, however, denounced and criticized the decision of the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, to run for the SNP leadership.

This report is notable for how unfavorably Audit Scotland evaluates the government's Covid recovery plan. .

Health boards were not consulted when it was first published in 2021, despite the fact that they were faced with the challenge of clearing the backlog.

According to the report, fulfilling commitments to scale up planned operations by more than 10% above pre-Covid levels does not appear to be feasible. .

A number of National Treatment Centers, a crucial component of increasing capacity, are behind schedule and hospitals are still forced to prioritize urgent cases over routine care.

According to the Auditor General, the government needs to start telling patients how long they will have to wait. .

According to the watchdog, the recovery plan's main flaw is the dearth of reliable demand and capacity data and modeling.

As a result, it is challenging to determine whether initiatives are successful and where more focused efforts are required.

Of course, Scotland is not an outlier; these pressures are felt all over the globe.

It's difficult to create a health service that will be viable in the future. .

Stephen Boyle, however, asserts that the government also needs to engage the populace in an honest discussion about what the NHS can actually deliver. This is in addition to the growing number of frontline medical professionals.

Dr. Sandesh Gulhane, the health spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the "scathing report" revealed the scope of the problem the service was facing under Mr. Yousaf.

The GP continued, "Not only is his flimsy NHS recovery plan inadequate, but there is a blatant lack of transparency about his approach, which is typical of the SNP.

As a result, the enormous treatment backlogs are not being reduced, leaving suffering patients and my worn-out coworkers on the front lines in the dark. ".

The report, according to Labour's spokesperson on health Jackie Baillie, "highlighted astronomical wait times and numerous missed targets.".

"This report exposes the shambolic state of our NHS and the universal need to support the heroic frontline staff working day and night to keep it afloat," she continued.

The fact that Mr. Yousaf is looking for a promotion rather than resigning from his current position will offend the thousands of Scots who have lost loved ones while Mr. Yousaf oversaw the NHS. ".

NHS funding graphic

Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "Today's report makes for a damning verdict of the unsuccessful NHS recovery plan and Humza Yousaf's tenure as health secretary.

"Record wait times are increasing, the health system is struggling in every area, and now we have learned that the staff needed to relieve the strain won't show up. ".

The NHS staffing "crisis" was evaluated favorably by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

"We need effective workforce planning that is based on population need, implementation of Scotland's safe staffing legislation, and fair pay that truly reflects the safety-critical role that nursing staff play," said Colin Poolman, director of the RCN. ".

Additionally, he urged the government's new Nursing Taskforce to prioritize a retention program to stop the "exodus of nursing staff" from the field.

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