We published our NHS recovery plan on 25 August. It outlines our ambitions for increasing NHS capacity by at least 10 per cent as quickly as possible in order to address the backlog and meet the on-going healthcare needs of people throughout the country. It is, of course, backed by £1 billion of additional Scottish Government investment.
For this year alone, we have made more than £80 million available to specifically support health boards to target the backlog of treatment and care. However, we need to remember that the pandemic is not over and that Covid-19 and other pressures will impact on the NHS for some time to come. Health boards’ elective activity is being monitored through daily and weekly returns to the Scottish Government, and support is being provided where it is required.
We have ambulances queuing out the door of accident and emergency departments and record waiting times, all of which is putting patients’ lives at risk. In my region, when constituents have reported a stroke or a heart attack, in one example, an ambulance—
In one example, an ambulance was called at 2.30 pm and came at 4.45 am the next morning. I contacted the cabinet secretary about that and I am still waiting for a response. It has been more than a month. I therefore ask the cabinet secretary how he will help patients like my constituents get the help and support they need from the paramedics who are desperate to deliver it.
First, I thank the Scottish Ambulance Service for the incredible work that it is doing when it is facing such significant pressures. The pandemic pressures have built up the demand that Pam Gosal and all of us are seeing in the constituencies and regions that we represent.
We have given the ambulance service specifically an additional £20 million. That has already been invested and we are now starting to see recruitment. Last week, there was additional recruitment of 60-odd paramedics and ambulance staff into the north and north-east of the country, and we will back that with £1 billion of additional investment, which will help to increase our capacity.
However, when it comes to providing that additional £1 billion to aid our recovery—which is, by the way, £400 million more than the Conservatives were looking to spend—we will not hammer the lowest paid in order to pay for it. We will make sure that that recovery and the additional investment that we bring forward do not hit those who have already been hit hardest by the pandemic.