Covid-19 Update

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd March 2020.

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Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

Before I answer the member’s questions, I want to highlight the point of the approach to containing and delaying. The point of containing is self-evident; the point of delaying is to spread the peak of the coronavirus.

If we do not delay and things run their normal course, the peak will follow a curve—I cannot find the exact word, but the member can see it from my gesture—which would place significant demand on our health service. If we can delay the process, we will flatten that peak so as to enable the NHS to manage it. That will prolong the time during which we are managing the disease, but it will allow the emergence of additional anti-viral treatments and a potential vaccine further down the line should the scientific research bring one. That is the point of delaying.

As the national clinical director said this morning on the radio, not every case will appear at the one time, nor will they appear in the one place at the one time.

As this scales up, what current business-as-usual NHS work would it be possible to pause in order to create more space? I am meeting COSLA tomorrow, and the chief officers of our integration joint boards are already engaged in this. What more can we do in order to create greater impact on the delays in care for those who are clinically ready to leave hospitals but are not yet leaving? What does that tell us about the additional capacity that we might need. All that work is under way. At this point, it is too early to give any definitive answer, but Miles Briggs has my absolute assurance that, as I have done up until now, I will make sure that he and other party spokespeople on health, and others, are kept fully informed as we undertake our work.

We do not need to call back staff yet. Plans are being worked up for how we might reach out to those members of staff who are retired or have taken a break in their career for personal or family reasons and so on, in order to understand what they would need, if they were willing to come back—such as part-time work, more flexible hours and so on. We also need to build into any return scheme time for people to upskill again, so that they are confident in the clinical environment. All that work is under way to put those plans in place.