People are being told that they should “think twice” before calling for an ambulance as the NHS are facing an “extraordinary difficult winter.”
As the UK is set to enter it’s second Covid winter the Scottish Health Secretary said that people must consider if it is “absolutely critical” for them to call an ambulance.
Scotland has seen a surge in cases which has resulted more than 1,000 people being hospitalised, which has already place strain on the NHS before the winter months hit.
Last week the average time it took for an ambulance in Scotland was six hours, with the waiting times in A&E stretching to four hours.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was asked if people should “think twice” before calling for ambulance, he said, “Yes is the short answer to that.”
Yousaf told BBC Radio Scotland, “I don’t doubt that people do that because they are in distressing situations, I think most people only call when they are in that extreme distress.”
Yousaf warned, that “we are in for an extraordinarily difficult winter.
“We know that the flu season could be extremely challenging, we know that people that are presenting, whether it is presenting to the ambulance service or GPs or A&E they are presenting more sick because they haven’t presented for the last 18 months.
“Looking at the data the last time we had 1,000 patients in hospital with Covid was December 2020, our A&E presentations now, when we have the same number of Covid patients, is 40% higher.”
He the Good Morning Scotland programme, “I can’t get away from the fact that we are in an extremely challenging winter and that is why we’re investing as much as we possibly can.”
However, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton slammed the decision as he is encouraging people “not to seek treatment.”
He added, “Humza Yousaf is proving a reckless Health Secretary. Encouraging people not to seek treatment is a huge gamble.
“Winter pressures come around every year. It is the job of Health Secretary to ensure that the NHS has the resources it needs to cope with demand.”
Conservative public health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said, “It is astonishing to hear the SNP’s Health Secretary try to discourage people from calling for an ambulance.
“Humza Yousaf is making people feel guilty about dialing 999 and seeking urgent help.
“This sort of reckless messaging could put lives at risk.
“When people suffer conditions like heart attacks or strokes, they might think twice about calling an ambulance, which could lead to unnecessary deaths.”
The Tory MSP added, “The Health Secretary should be guaranteeing that he will improve waiting times, not telling people to stop phoning for an ambulance.”