College welcomes health service winter funding package

The Scottish Government announced a £300m funding package to help the health services get through the "extremely challenging" winter ahead.

The plan includes the hiring of extra support workers, cash for care at home services and a pay rise for care staff.

The College welcomes the funding plan to help the health service in Scotland get through what is expected to be a difficult winter period, as front line healthcare professionals continue to deal with the direct and indirect impact of COVID-19 including a backlog of essential treatments and procedures in all specialties, as well as elective activity. In addition, it is anticipated that the winter flu season will likely add to COVID-19 related pressures on the health service.

However, the funding plan is only for the short term, and the College believes that serious consideration must be given to the need to have a robust workforce strategy, which would help support medical workforce numbers. This must also include a plan on investment in the workforce.

Furthermore, while the College notes the requirement to address the “patient backlog” in the NHS, this cannot be safely achieved – longer term - by an overextended and exhausted medical workforce. It is essential that the Scottish Government considers this, and provides healthcare services with the funding and resources they need – including additional staff – to help reduce the patient backlog during this challenging period.

Professor Andrew Elder, president of the College, said:

The health and social care services in Scotland are under unprecedented levels of pressure, precipitated by COVID-19, but set against a background of growing pre-pandemic challenges, and now about to be amplified by our winter.

Our health service cannot operate without fully funded and functional social services. This funding will help provide the crucial social care services that will enable more people to avoid unnecessary admission to hospital, as well as for people to have a safe and speedy return to their own home from hospital.

We therefore welcome this announcement but caution that if we are to avoid our winters becoming year long events, continued intense effort is needed to increase the numbers of doctors, nurses, allied health and social care professionals working in hospital and community settings in Scotland.