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To ask the Scottish Executive whether it can give an assurance that plans are in place to ensure that there is no repeat during the coming Christmas and new year period of the situation experienced in accident and emergency units over the last Christmas and new year period. (S1O-379)
Every winter places additional demands on the NHS and I pay tribute to the NHS staff who respond to those peaks in demand year in, year out. We require all parts of the NHS in Scotland to prepare plans for the coming months. Officials are currently visiting all health boards and trusts to ensure that adequate local arrangements are in place.
Members will wish to note that agreement has been reached with staff in the NHS on pay for the millennium period, which will ensure that our health services are able to operate effectively throughout the Christmas and new year period.
Will the minister comment on the current admission problems in Scottish hospitals? Will he tell us why some hospitals are already operating a non-admissions policy for elective surgery? Why, for example, in the past two weeks, has Edinburgh royal infirmary been on red alert and unable to accept any admissions because no beds are available? If that is happening in September, what will be the state of affairs come the so-called peak period of Christmas and new year?
The NHS has to deal with admissions day in, day out, year in, year out, and there will be times of peak demand. In every NHS service—be it acute services or psychiatric services—there are contingency plans that can be put in place. As I have said, officials are speaking to all health boards and trusts, including the ones to which Mrs Ullrich referred. They will check the existing situation and the plans for the coming months to ensure that contingency plans will allow hospitals to cope with the peak period over Christmas and